Ghost Town Wednesday – Daisy Colony: Oklahoma’s “Amazon Women”

I had seen this “ghost town” mentioned in my recent research for ghost town stories, so I will  loosely place it under that category  because it’s pretty interesting.   Over the years, some people have thought this might be the same group of women who formed Bathsheba (which lasted only a short time – see this blog article), but it does appear to be a different group of women.

I found one reference, actually an article written anonymously.  This person constructed the story of “Daisy Colony” with newspaper articles written about a group of “venturesome” women.  The group was led by a woman referred to as Annetta (or Annette) Daisy.

However, with a little more research I found out that her name was actually Nannita Regina H. Daisey.  Nannita was born in 1855 in Pennsylvania to Irish immigrant parents – however, she was orphaned at a young age and was then taken in and educated at a convent in St. Louis.  After becoming a teacher she moved to Kentucky and later started a career in journalism.  Nannita was also known for her activism in women’s rights issues – gender discrimination was common in that day for women who sought professional careers.

I found references in the Louisville, Kentucky City Directory (1883-1885, 1888 and 1889) as to her address and occupation (click to enlarge):

nannita daisey city dirAccording to the 1889 City Directory, sometime after the 1888 directory was published Miss Daisey left Kentucky and headed to Kansas.  One blog article I ran across, intimated that she was asked to leave for using language not becoming a lady (there appears to be lots of “legend” and lore surrounding Nannita so you might take that with a grain of salt).

According to a New York Times article dated September 30, 1891, she did participate in the April 22, 1889 Oklahoma Land Rush.  However, the article reports that she was killed the day before (not true, plus her name is misreported).

30 Sep 1891 NYT Article

On April 22, 1889, the first Oklahoma land rush began and thousands of people lined up to claim land that day.  Harper’s Weekly recorded the events:

At twelve o’clock on Monday, April 22d, the resident population of Guthrie was nothing; before sundown it was at least ten thousand. In that time streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken toward the formation of a municipal government.

The next article again appeared in the New York Times on April 16, 1892 (this, despite the fact that a little over six months earlier the paper had reported her untimely death!), this time referring to her as “irrepressible Annetta Daisy” (I’ve noticed that the headlines of that day were often sensationalized).  The article headline was:

ANNETTA DAISY’S AMAZONS

VENTURESOME YOUNG WOMEN IN OKLAHOMA

Twelve of Them Are Encamped in a Hiding Place
Within the Borders – Lives Lost in a Runaway –
The Old Soldiers’ Case

16 Apr 1892 NYT Article

The story references a band of women “sooners”.  According to an article in the Oklahoma Gazette on June 4, 2009 by Emily Jerman, the author cited an 1894 story that was also posted in various Oklahoma newspapers:

Of the thirty-six women who, under the leadership of Miss Annette Daisy, made a run into the Cherokee strip when it was opened last September, twenty-two ” are busily engaged in perfecting a home with no man to make or mar,” the Sun reported. “They hauled the lumber themselves for a house of fifteen rooms, which they now occupy, and are prepared to do their own plowing, planting, etc.

It has been said that during that time of land rushes in Oklahoma Territory, women were among some of the most successful at organizing and establishing claims.  Other stories point to Nannita Daisey playing a significant role in assisting other women in establishing their own claims.  The land located in what was called the Cherokee Outlet was one area where women actually were quite successful in obtaining land.  And, that is supposedly where the so-called “Daisy Colony” was located.

Nannita, herself a journalist, has been thought to have written this September 7, 1893 article in the New York Times 16 Sep 1893 NYT Article.  Articles about Nannita Daisey appeared in other newspapers, even the Wanganui Chronicle in New Zealand!

What I discovered as I continued to research the Daisy Colony was that Nannita “Kentucky” Daisey is a revered Oklahoma pioneer, perhaps the most famous of the women land rushers (and thought by many to be the first woman who staked a claim in the Oklahoma Territory).  In fact, it appears she was a national heroine of sorts.  A statue has been erected in Edmond, Oklahoma to honor her.  The legend is that she leapt from a moving train to stake her claim to a 160-acre piece of land to homestead (one such legend has her leaping from the cowcatcher!).

nannita daisey statue edmond sunAccording to more than one source, Nannita married a Scandinavian immigrant U.S. soldier in 1890.  Another article I ran across suggested marriage did not suit Nannita well and she and her husband separated (or he was transferred to another Army post).  Thus, I suppose this could mesh with the newspaper articles written about her from 1891-1894.  Apparently, she was still married but separated, and continued to devote her efforts to assisting women with homestead claims and during that time is when she organized the group of women which became known as the “Daisy Colony”.  The article states that her husband had been transferred to another post in Fort Reno and then later moved to Chicago.  On her way to ask him for a divorce, she died on October 18, 1903 during that trip.  I found a conflicting account saying that her husband did indeed divorce her and remarried and that Nannita died in abject poverty in Chicago in 1903.  I could not find any death records in either Oklahoma or Illinois, so that part of the story is disputed (or just more legend and lore, more fiction than fact perhaps).  Nevertheless, Nannita Regina H. Daisey was quite the woman crusader in her day.

If you want to read more about this Oklahoma heroine, be sure and use “Nannita Daisey” for your search term and not “Annette Davis” — you will get better results.

Discussion Topics:

  • Do you have any relatives or ancestors who participated in and of the Oklahoma Land Rush?

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

SupportDH_sm2
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2013.

 

3 Comments

  1. thanks for another great ghost town article
    don’t think I had anyone in the OK land rush, I had relatives living in OK because they had been removed to OK

    Reply
    • Yea I thought this would be a short and sweet article and then I started digging up more about Nannita and her exploits.

      Reply
  2. Interesting

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Surname Saturday: Kerfoot | Diggin' History - […] Marion Munroe Kerfoot, George Henry Kerfoot and John Samuel Kerfoot participated in the “Oklahoma Run” in 1889 when the…

Leave a Comment