Mary Elizabeth Myrick Daniel: The Oldest of the Three Founders

Founder Mary Elizabeth Myrick Daniel at age 17.

Mary Elizabeth Myrick was the oldest of the three Founders of the Philomathean Society. She, too, was a junior at Wesleyan College during the 1851- 52 school year, but, at 16 years of age when the Society was founded, she was a year older than Mary Ann DuPont and a year and five months older than Martha Bibb Hardaway.

Mary Elizabeth was the only daughter of General Stith Parham Myrick.  The Story of the Myricks by Alice Myrick Bowden recounts that General Myrick married an Elizabeth Peeples May 7, 1834, at the home of his bride’s grandfather, Charles Malone, of Baldwin County, Georgia. The young couple set up their home at the River Place, a plantation along the Oconee River. There, a daughter Mary Elizabeth Myrick, was born on May 18, 1835.

Her mother died in 1836 when Mary Elizabeth was still a child, and in 1844 her father married Elizabeth L. Dawdell, who became a devoted mother to nine-year-old Mary Elizabeth. Two half-brothers composed the rest of Mary Elizabeth’s immediate family.

Her father had a noteworthy military career. In 1844 he was appointed brigadier general of the Georgia Militia. During the War Between the States, he raised and equipped his own outfit, composed of fellow country people and known as the “Myrick Volunteers.” As with many Southern families, he lost much of his property as a result of the war.

As a teen-ager and until her marriage, Mary Elizabeth lived in a large house with columns and steep front steps situated on 16 acres near Milledgeville, Georgia. Known as the Rockwell Mansion, it was built in 1834 in the Greek Revival style and at one time was one of the grandest homes in the city that served as Georgia’s capital from 1803 to 1868. The house had been owned by Governor Samuel Rockwell and also served as the summer home of Governor Hershel V. Johnson. It was from Governor Johnson that Colonel Myrick purchased the house in about 1850 and called it “Midway.” That area of the Milledgeville community is still called Midway.  Despite damage from a fire, the house still sits high on the hill where it once overlooked the open countryside.

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The Myrick house in the year 2000 sits atop a wooded hill near Milledgeville called Midway.

Mary Elizabeth was graduated from Wesleyan College in 1853, receiving in 1863 the customary Master of Arts degree bestowed by the College upon distinguished alumnae 10 years after graduation. As with the other Founders, her initiation date is listed only as “1852.”

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The Myrick house in the year 2000 sits atop a wooded hill near Milledgeville called Midway.

In 1857 she was married at the family home to Henry Kelse Daniel, a Sumter County planter. He was a major during the Civil War. Appropriately, she chose March 4 as her wedding day, the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the Philomathean Society’s founding.

The Daniel family lived near Americus, Georgia. There were six children, although two of them, a boy and a girl, died in childhood. Only two survived their mother’s early death in 1881. They were Myrick Daniel, a son, and Lila Peebles Daniel, who was married in the family home.

Elizabeth Myrick Jones, a granddaughter of the Founder, was initiated into Phi Mu at the 75th anniversary National Convention in 1927 in the very hall at Wesleyan where Philomatheans had met for many years. A grandson, Dr. William O’Daniel Jones (named for a Dr. O’Daniel, not the Daniel family), became a physician in New Orleans.

Granddaughter Elizabeth was for many years a teacher in the Georgia Normal and Industrial College (later Georgia College) in Milledgeville and lived in that city until July 5, 1980, when she died at the age of 98 (99 years to the month after her grandmother Mary Elizabeth’s death). She had inherited the large framed portrait of her grandmother, and she presented it to Phi Mu. This original oil painting now hangs in the Philomathean Room in the Cannonball House in Macon.

Much sadness marked Mary Elizabeth’s life. Not only had she lost her mother at a very early age and had children taken from her by death, but her husband died at a young age in 1870, leaving her widowed at the age of 35 after just 13 years of marriage.

Mary Elizabeth was said to be timid and retiring in nature. She had a sweet face, and dark hair and eyes. She was a Sunday school teacher for many years.

Although still a relatively young woman, she was in frail health for several years. For a short time before her death she lived at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Jones, in Gordon, a few miles from Milledgeville. Death occurred on July 14, 1881, at the age of 46. She is buried beside her husband in the Oak Grove Cemetery at Americus.

Source: Lamb, Annadell. C. The History of Phi Mu: The First 150 Years. The Grace Group, 2002. Print