Friday, November 8, 2013

Kerfoot Weightman Daly (1874-1938)

From the November 7, 1938 edition of the Charleroi Mail.

   Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Kerfoot....What was that? A man who's first name is Kerfoot? Yes, indeed it is! There were few men more prominent in early 20th century Charleroi, Pennsylvania than the intriguingly named Kerfoot Weightman Daly, long a leader in civic affairs in this Washington County borough. As a well-known banker in Charleroi, Daly was also named to various positions of the public trust, serving as a Presidential Elector in 1916 and later as a delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1924. The life of this intriguingly named Pennsylvanian came to end in a tragic automobile accident in November 1938, and although he is little remembered today, the following biography will hopefully restore some measure of prominence to Mr. Daly, seventy five years after his passing.
   A lifelong native of the Keystone State, Kerfoot W. Daly was born on April 24, 1874 in Gibsonton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, the last of five children born to Thomas Lafayette and Caroline Wilson Daly. A successful businessman in Gibsonton, Thomas L. Daly (1839-1922) was a past manager of the Gibsonton whiskey distillery (known as the Gibsonton Mills) and late in life was a founder and president of the First National Bank of Charleroi, serving in the latter position until his death. As the son of such a distinguished figure, Kerfoot Daly was afforded a fine education and began his "preliminary" studies under the tutelage of a governess, this according to the 20th Century History of Washington and Washington County, PA., and Representative Citizens. As a young man he was a student at the Trinity Hall Military Academy in the city of Washington and later attended the Park Institute in Pittsburgh. 
   In 1898 Daly relocated to Charleroi, where he became engaged as a clerk in the Bank of Charleroi, serving under his father Thomas, who was then the bank president. Kerfoot Daly married in Pittsburgh on June 6, 1900 to Mary Elizabeth Thompson, with whom he would have one daughter, Mary Violet Daly McFarland (1904-2002). Shortly after his marriage Daly was named as cashier of the Bank of Charleroi and subsequently served in this capacity for two decades. During his lengthy tenure as bank cashier Daly rose to further prominence in other areas of local business, including a period as treasurer of the West Side Street Railway Company in Charleroi and was a director of the Monongahela Trust Company. In addition to the above posts, Daly was also a longtime member of the Charleroi Chamber of Commerce and the Washington County, Pennsylvania Banker's Association. 

Kerfoot W. Daly in his younger days, pictured in the "Banks and Bankers of the Keystone State", 1905.

    As a distinguished citizen in Charleroi, Kerfoot Daly was sought after to serve in a number of areas not related to banking, including being the chairman of the Liberty Loan Drive in Washington County, as well as the War Savings Stamps campaign during the First World War. Active in Republican party circles in his native county, Daly represented Washington County on the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee for sixteen years and in 1916 was selected as a Republican Presidential elector for Pennsylvania's 24th congressional district, casting his ballot for candidates Charles Evans Hughes and Charles W. Fairbanks. Although he was a leading figure in Republican party in Washington County, the Charleroi Mail noted that Daly "was never a candidate for public office," noting that he "thrust aside many times pressure to be the party's candidate for several high offices."  In 1924 Daly served as part of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland that nominated Calvin Coolidge for the Presidency.

From the July 7, 1916 edition of the Charleroi Mail.

   In 1922 Thomas L. Daly died and upon his death Kerfoot W. Daly succeeded to the position of President of the National Bank of Charleroi, serving until his death in 1938. While the position of bank president gained him additional notoriety in his home state, Daly continued to advance in other non-financial areas, being a member of numerous fraternal organizations, including the following: the Charleroi Lodge #615 of Free and Accepted Masons, a past exalted ruler of the Charleroi Elks Lodge, the Duquesne Club, and the Nemacolin and Manongehla Country Clubs. Along with his being a prominent club man in Charlerloi, Daly is remarked by sources of the time as being an avid sportsman and hunter, and it was the latter activity that would inadvertently lead to his death.
   In early November 1938 Daly and his friend, Dr. John McNaughton (a Charleroi dentist) embarked on a hunting trip to West Virginia, driving there in Daly's sedan. On November 5, 1938 the pair began the drive back to Charerloi and it was on the return trip home that tragedy struck. As the Charleroi Mail noted in its November 7th edition, Daly and Naughton were traveling down Route 50 on Cheat Mountain (in the Allegheny Mountain range) near the settlement of Red House when they came upon a stretch of curved road. The Mail later related that:
"The car moved into a long steeply banked curve with a deep ditch on the driver's side. At this point it is believed that the driver's door, which opened from the front, suddenly unlatched and that Mr. Daly reached to close it. When he did the car went into the ditch, the opened door caught against the hillside and pulled him out of the seat. Impact was such that it pulled the front and rear doors, attached to the center post, from the machine. These evidently hurled him under the car in the small clearance."
  During the course of the accident Dr. McNaughton was thrown from the vehicle but was uninjured. A hunting dog also in the vehicle was killed, and a report of the accident later noted that Daly "died a moment or so after the crash of a fractured skull and hemorrhage" caused by being crushed between the car and mountainside. Reports of the accident reached Charleroi a few days after the accident and the outpouring of grief was immediate. The Charleroi Mail lamented the untimely passing of Charerloi's "foremost citizen" and devoted the front page of its November 7th edition to Daly's numerous contributions to the community, as well as testifying to his integrity of character. Amongst the many attributes given to Daly in the wake of his passing, the following excerpt from the Charleroi Mail details how great of a loss Daly's death was to the Charleroi community:
"He will be missed, not only in his home town but in the county and state, as well as for his activities carried him beyond the borders of this community, activities which took him into the worthwhile things of life, which made him a real leader, one of the commanding figures of this district. In fact to say that he was a leading citizen is inadequate in expressing the real position he held.......His work took him beyond the confines of his banking institution however. In both civic and business affairs, his motto was to do all things well, that no stone should be left unturned in his zeal to better the conditions for his fellow men. He stood for the right, and fought for the principles he believed might aid his family and community." 
  Daly's funeral took place at his home in Charleroi and he was later interred at the Monongahela Cemetery in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, located a few miles from his home. He was survived by his wife Mary Elizabeth and his daughter Mary Violet Daly MacFarland, who died in February 2002 at age 97.


From the Charleroi Mail, November 8, 1938.

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