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The public-school system of Boise is a monument to the character and labors of Professor John W. Daniels. There is no nobler profession to which man may devote his energies than that of the teacher. What man prominent in public life does not attribute his success in a considerable measure to the influence of some teacher whose instruction he enjoyed in youth? The thoughts implanted in the young minds grow and develop, and largely shape the destinies of those by whom they have been received. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the training of the young shall be entrusted to those who have a just appreciation of the responsibilities that rest upon them, who realize the value of physical, mental and moral development, who can instruct the children how best to use their powers, and, while promoting intellectual activity, neglect not to sow the seeds of character that will produce high ideals of manhood and womanhood. Such is the mission of the teacher, and such has been the life work of John W. Daniels.
Professor Daniels was born in England, on the 1st of January, 1846, and when five years of age was brought to America by his parents, Thomas and Margaret (Sullivan) Daniels, who crossed the Atlantic with their five children, and located near Boston, Massachusetts. The father had learned the dyer’s trade in England and had become very proficient in that line of work, which he successfully followed during his residence in this country. He departed this life in the sixty-third year of his age, his wife having died ten years previously.
Their son, John W. Daniels, acquired his early education in the public schools, where he was always known as a bright and enthusiastic student. In his young manhood he engaged in school teaching, whereby he acquired the capital which enabled him to pursue his studies in higher institutions of learning. He pursued a literary course in New Hampton, New Hampshire, where his Greek and Latin studies were directed by the celebrated Dr. Andrews. He continued studying and teaching alternately until his graduation in Bates College, of Lewiston, Maine, in 1876. The great persistence which he displayed in the acquirement of his education has marked his business career throughout life. For some time he was engaged in teaching in the Westbrook Seminary and Female College, at Westbrook, Maine, and during that time Mr. Lippincott, now an ex-sheriff of Boise County, was one of his pupils.
In 1876 Professor Daniels was united in marriage to Miss Alice S. Steward, of North Anson, Maine, and in 1881 they came to Boise, where they have since made their home. At that time the public-school system had not been established, there was no good school building in the town, and less than two hundred pupils. When the large and handsome central school building, containing sixteen rooms, was erected, the school board was severely criticized for putting up a structure of such dimensions, but it is now crowded to its utmost capacity, and two other fine brick edifices are included within the school property of Boise. Professor Daniels at once commenced his work of organizing a public-school system, and has been seconded in all his efforts by the school board, who have the utmost confidence in the ability and trustworthiness of their superintendent of public instruction. Thus assisted by a progressive board, he has prosecuted his labors along advanced lines, introducing the best methods of teaching and securing all the modern appliances which aid in the acquirement of an education. His labors are by everyone spoken of in terms of the highest praise, and the schools of Boise rank with the best in the land. A man of scholastic attainments and broad general knowledge. Professor Daniels is also an excellent disciplinarian, an enthusiastic instructor and a gentleman of culture and refinement, never failing to leave the impress of his own individuality upon the minds and characters of his pupils. He is assisted by a most efficient corps of teachers, and the work done in the school is alike creditable to the instructors and the pupils. The latter are furnished with all things necessary for their schoolwork, from the most advanced textbooks down to lead pencils and even pencil sharpeners.
In teachers-institute work Professor Daniels is also very successful, for his methods are practical and appeal at once to the intelligence of those whom he is directing. He has the faculty of imparting clearly and readily to others the knowledge he has acquired and of inspiring other teachers with his own enthusiasm and interest in the work. In 1885, after having advanced the schools of Boise to a high standard of proficiency, he resigned his position, studied law and was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court. He then practiced in Boise with good success for six years, but during this time the schools degenerated, and the board induced him to again resume the superintendency, giving him a salary of two thousand dollars per year. Almost as if by magic the tone of the school was improved, and Boise has now every reason to be proud of her excellent educational system. In April 1899, Professor Daniels was reelected to the superintendency, and his long service is certainly an incontrovertible argument in evidence of his marked ability.
The home of Professor and Mrs. Daniels is the center of a cultured society circle. Mrs. Daniels possesses that grace of manner and cordiality that renders her a charming hostess. She is an excellent pianist and her husband possesses a fine tenor voice, so that music is often a feature of their pleasant “at homes.” Their residence is surrounded by most tasteful and beautiful grounds, and the air of culture and gracious cordiality that pervades the place is most pleasing. The Professor ranks among the most noted educators of the northwest, and the high character of his work shows forth the lofty principles which permeate all that he says or does.