Annie Evalena Stakebake Seayrs Daniels, a schoolteacher and Pima County superintendent of schools, was born in a log cabin on a farm near Windsor, Randolph County, Ind., on Oct. 3, 1869. Her parents were Henry Harrison and Louisa Cropper Stakebake.
Her German grandparents, George and Liza Stechbech, homesteaded a farm in Indiana. When their children reached adulthood, they Anglicized their family name by spelling it Stakebake, as it was pronounced.
They were farmers, lawyers, wagon and furniture manufacturers, teachers and hotel keepers, except for Annie’s father, Henry H. Stakebake, who became a physician. During the Civil War, he contracted pneumonia and lost his voice, which he never fully recovered. While convalescing, he worked for the Hospital Corps as an assistant surgeon, a position he held until the end of the Civil War.
After the war, he earned his medical degree and married Louisa Cropper, a schoolteacher. Annie Evalena was the couple’s second child.
Dr. Stakebake moved his family to Ash Grove, Miss., where he was the only physician within a radius of 80 miles. During an influenza epidemic, he exhausted himself making calls day and night by carriage, on horseback or by ox team, and contracted pneumonia. He died Jan. 22, 1872. Annie’s mother gave birth to her third child and died three months later.
Annie and her brother Edmund lived with their maternal grandparents and their mother’s younger siblings, including a sister named Ophelia, who married Harry Pogue and went to live in Arizona. He was superintendent of the Florence Canal in 1894.
Annie followed her mother’s path and became a schoolteacher. She taught in Indiana rural and city schools, and, in the winter of 1892, decided to take a break and visit her uncle and aunt, Harry and Ophelia Pogue, in Florence.
She later recalled her visit. Ten mule team freighters were hauling supplies from Casa Grande through Florence to the Silver King Mine. Water was scarce and bought by the pail. Local conversations centered on the depredations of the Apache Kid, bandits, ore strikes, court proceedings and the sale of water rights.
Annie joined in community activities. She sang in the church choir and recalled that the church organist was also the hotel bartender. She met Eastern businessmen who were staying as guests of the Pogues while searching for mining properties and water development projects.
English style horseback riding was popular, and Annie and her Aunt Ophelia led many a party in a jump across the Florence Canal. In the spring, she returned to Indiana by way of the Chicago World’s Fair, having spent the most enjoyable winter of her young life.
She had accepted a contract to teach at Morenci in September, but changed her mind and stayed in Indiana. In 1896, she married H.J. Seayrs of New Jersey. He died seven years later leaving her with a daughter, Mary, and the need to support herself. She returned to teaching and attended the Normal School at Terre Haute.
In June 1908, she moved to Tucson for Mary’s health, but her daughter died soon after they arrived.
On July 15 that same year, she married Benjamin F. Daniels, Arizona’s United States marshal, and a former member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, who had been superintendent of the Yuma Territorial Prison and would later become Pima County sheriff.
Annie continued her work with children. She was instrumental in founding the Arizona Children’s Home in 1915, serving as its first president and securing the contract for the care of neglected and dependent children. She helped prepare the way for the founding of the Young Women’s Christian Association in Tucson.
When the call came for teachers to take the place of those enlisted in World War I, Annie re-joined her profession and taught in the Roskruge and Safford schools.
Benjamin Daniels died unexpectedly on April 20, 1923. A year later, Annie was elected Pima County school superintendent, and re-elected in 1926 and 1928. She saw to it that rural schools under her supervision were equipped with modern plumbing, a kitchen with running water and stoves for serving hot lunches.
The county physician and county nurse regularly weighed and measured the children on the first day of every month and recommended proper nutrition. A clinic adjoining the County School Superintendent’s Office was open every day except Sunday, providing medical care, including surgeries for those in need.
In 1928, she served as vice president of the Arizona Educational Association, and on March 30, 1929, the teachers under Annie’s supervision presented her with a life membership in the National Education Association.
Annie died in her sleep on March 23, 1946.
— Jane Eppinga. Photo courtesy of the author.