Much of the life of Edward Dailey of Bedford, Pennsylvania remains to be discovered, but enough information exists to sketch a portion of his adult life. No record of his birth has been found, but one unverified record lists the year to be 1768. The earliest record of Edward lists him on the 1789 property tax rolls in Bedford Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. During this period, Bedford County stood near the edge of the settled frontier, so it is unlikely that Edward was born in the immediate area. Based upon migration patterns, it is more likely he was born somewhere east or south of Bedford. Many of the original settlers in the region were descended from a group of immigrants known as the Scotch Irish. On his wife’s side, they included the Davidson, Thompson, and McElvain families. The Dailey surname is probably also of Scotch Irish.
The variety of spellings of his last name in public records (Dailey, Daily, Daly, Dayley, etc.) indicates Edward probably could not read or write. An early Bedford County history reports Edward in 1798 with 150 acres, a log house, and log barn. Possibly significant, the property was adjacent to one owned by Samuel Davidson, his father-in-law. There is no record of Edward’s occupation, but his father-in-law owned a tanyard and two of Edward’s sons became tanners. Based upon the increasing number of horses and cows that were recorded on the tax roles, Edward’s fortunes seem to have improved until 1806 and then went into decline. He continued to appear on the tax roles in the township until around 1811 when ownership of his property apparently was transferred to his oldest son, Samuel. In August and September, 1814 notices by Edward appeared in a local paper reported that “stray sheep came to the plantation of the subscriber.” He may have continued to live on the property despite his tax problems. A month later in October, 1814, there is another notice in the same paper listing an auction of all the personal property of Edward: horses, cows, sheep, hogs, corn, household goods, etc. The notice indicates the seller is Edward Dailey, not the estate of Edward Dailey. By 1816, the property taxes for the “Dailey Place” are being paid by the estate of Edward’s father-in-law, Samuel Davidson. The property is eventually sold in 1818 as part of the estate.
Within the Bedford community, Edward’s standing also rose during the 1790s and then fell. The Pennsylvania military archives record that Edward served in the Bedford County militia in 1792, 1793, and 1796. In 1796, he was elected to the rank of captain by his comrades. But starting in 1797, Bedford County court records indicate a series of legal problems for Edward. He and another man acting as supervisors of highways were charged with “neglect of duty.” In 1804, a case was brought by the Commonwealth against Edward Dailey involving “Assault and Battery of Mathias Zimmers.”
The history of Edward’s family follows a similar pattern. He married Eleanor Davidson, the daughter of Samuel Davidson, a prosperous community leader in Bedford. Based upon the birth of their first child and the age of the mother, the probable date of their marriage must have been around 1787. Between around 1788 and 1802, the couple had five children who lived to adulthood: Samuel, Mary, John, Magery, and William Thompson. Census records indicate a total of six children in the household, so a child must have died during childhood or the family may have taken in an extra child. Unexpectedly, the 1810 census for Bedford Township records Eleanor Dailey (Elenor Dayley) as the head of household with the six children. There is no record of a divorce. By the 1820 census, Eleanor had moved her family to Fairfield County in central Ohio. Still later, in 1821, she married a widower, John Parrot in Fairfield County, Ohio.
Summarizing what we know of Edward Dailey: While still a young man, he secured a farm and married into a well-to-do family in Bedford, Pennsylvania. Between 1789 and 1810, he prospered and was a respected citizen in the frontier town. But around 1810, his fortunes declined on all fronts. He was separated from his wife and she, in turn, had moved to Ohio. By 1814, Edward had lost his property to back taxes and had had two adverse encounters with the local courts. One wonders whether there was some, catastrophic event at the heart of all his problems? The last record of Edward in 1814 indicates he was still alive, but all his possessions were up for sale. At this point, his trail disappears.
26 February 2003
2707 E. Howe Road
DeWitt, MI 48820