By Lou Bernard
Jeremiah Daley was a young man from the Romola area, born September 19, 1868 to John A. Daley and his wife. The Daley family was descended from Irish immigrants who settled in the Centre County area and became prominent in agriculture, politics, ironmaking, and other industries.
John Daley, Jerry’s father, was a Civil War veteran who worked with the Department of the Interior. He married Mary Haines on Christmas Day, 1867, and soon after that, their son Jerry was born.
Jerry Daley grew up on the farm in Curtin Township, and later joined government service himself. It was about 1889 when he signed on with the War Department as a government clerk in the division of Records and Pensions.
He’d held that job about four years when the disaster happened. It was June 9, 1893. He and some others had been working in Ford Theater, the same building known for Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
The front part of the building collapsed, killing twenty-two people and injuring sixty-eight others.
John Daley, his father, had been visiting Washington at the time it happened. At first, he was unaware that his son was in the building when it crashed. As the bodies were brought out one at a time, however, he saw his son Jerry carried into the parking lot.
John immediately sent a telegraph to a friend in Howard, R.P. Long. He asked Long to drop by the farm and break the news gently to Mary and the other children. Then he set about making arrangements to bring Jerry home.
Some of the victims of the collapse were buried in Arlington. Jerry’s body was shipped home by train, passing through Lock Haven on the way.
He was buried in the Romola Christian Cemetery, near his home. His obituary in the Clinton Democrat listed him as “One of the brightest and most exemplary young men to be found anywhere.”
Ford Theater, after the disaster, was largely unused; here were some people who believed it to be cursed. It went through periods where it was a simple warehouse, and periods when it was completely empty.
Finally, through a public campaign, it reopened on January 30, 1968 – almost a hundred years after Jerry Daley had been born.
Lou Bernard is the Adult Services Coordinator at Ross Library and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org