All the Makings of a Western Legend…
Nanitta R. H. Daisy
(b. 1861 Pennsylvania, d. 1903 Chicago)
Edmond is home to the tall tale of “Kentucky Daisy” …
As the story is told…with her pistol tucked in her waistband, and stakes in hand, petite Nanitta Daisy leaped from a moving train to stake her claim just north of Edmond Station on April 22, 1889. Staking her land claim, stories claim that she immediately re-boarded the train before it passed her by. That feat gained her local notoriety, and the tale was reported in local, regional, and national newspapers. The legend grew from its tamer, original accounting on April 25, 1889 by a Dallas Morning News reporter who witnessed the event, into a tall tale embellished by Kentucky Daisy herself and other publications from 1889 to well after her death in 1903.
Many different accounts of the events of April 22, 1889 exist. While newspapers across the region as well as those in California and New York perpetuated her nickname “Kentucky Daisy,” it was not until after her death that her legend began to grow. On October 18, 1903, reporter Fred Barde wrote her obituary. Published by the Daily Oklahoman and written 14 years after the 1889 run, in his article he described, (for the first time), that Daisy secured her claim by jumping from the cowcatcher of the train, tying her petticoat to a nearby bush.
In truth, riding on a cowcatcher would be nearly impossible, due to the extreme heat of the steam engine, not to mention the difficulty of maneuvering in a long skirt and the fact that it was considered an extreme safety violation. Light rails and dirt ballast (track beds) made even a slow engine difficult to control and subject to accidents.
What we can confirm is: Nanitta R.H. Daisy was a sometimes teacher, sometimes newspaper correspondent, and something of an adventurer. Ironically, she was only in this area for a few years, living on her claim intermittently, teaching school in the town of Guthrie and sometimes dabbling in politics. By all accounts, she was something of a reckless bon vivant, interested in the fame common to the era of sensational stories coming out of the westward expansion into Indian/Oklahoma Territory. Daisy worked partly as a correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Gazette and a handful of other publications back East. Her personal life was fraught with substance abuse and a failed marriage. She died an obscure death in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 42.
The original, full size bronze sculpture by Mary Lou Gresham is located in the Farmer’s Market Pavillion.
Miniature “Leaping into History: Kentucky Daisy,” is on loan from the Kiwanis of Edmond, on display at the Edmond History Museum & Museum.
Edmond History Museum & Museum, Research by B. Argo, J. Crowder, L. Warrick