Located in a sparsely settled area west of the Wind River Mountains in western Wyoming, Daniel was and still is a small community serving the local ranching population. The town of Daniel was founded in 1900 by Thomas P. Daniel, in an area that had long been used by Native Americans and later trappers and fur traders, all of whom converged on the area during the annual Green River Rendezvous.
The first Daniel School was a 16 x 24–foot log building erected by local residents in 1905. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before there was reliable transportation, schoolhouses in remote areas such as Daniel were often located on ranches, sometimes in bunkhouses or other repurposed buildings, or else in small one-room log schools that could be moved from place to place depending on where the children were living. As towns began to grow, more substantial permanent school buildings were erected to replace the early log or frame one-room schools. Thus in 1920, despite only modest growth over the town’s first two decades, the citizens of Daniel determined that they needed a new, more substantial building for their twenty to thirty students. They hired A.F. Atwood from Big Piney, Wyoming, to construct the new schoolhouse.
The rectangular, 57 x 29–foot structure was built as a Wyoming “Standard School,” one of only twenty rural schools that had achieved this designation as of 1920. The Standard School program was initiated in 1919 to improve rural school facilities throughout the state. In order to receive the coveted brown and gold “Standard School” shield, schools had to meet certain requirements for facilities and equipment. For example, schools had to have a minimum of twenty square feet of floor space per pupil, a ceiling height of at least ten feet, and window area at least one-fifth of the floor space. Good drinking water, sanitary and separate privies for girls and boys, a central heating system or jacketed stove, and a cloakroom were other physical requirements, along with specific lists of teaching materials. Local Daniel residents held fundraisers to help purchase the required supplies and equipment for the Standard designation.
The wood-framed Daniel School rests on a poured concrete foundation. Its medium-pitched hipped roof is sheathed in standing-seam metal roofing and exterior walls are clad in narrow wood clapboards painted red, with white trim on the windows and doors. An enclosed, gabled front porch, formerly the cloakroom, shelters the entrance. A second gable-roofed extension of the front porch was added to incorporate a ramp for wheelchair access, and a nearly invisible hip-roofed addition was built on the rear of the building. Rising from the ridgeline of the porch roof is a tall, narrow, gable-roofed wooden bell tower with wood louvers, and the bell still in place. On the gable end of the porch extension is a sign reading “1920 DANIEL SCHOOL.” The interior of the building consists of a single large room, with the Standard School plan reflected in its high ceilings and multipaned banks of windows set high in the walls of opposite elevations.
In addition to classes, the Daniel School was used for everything from spelling bees to Christmas pageants and Easter egg hunts. Community dances attended by young and old alike were held almost every weekend in the schoolhouse. In the 1930s, as transportation became more reliable, school districts began the slow and often contentious process of rural school consolidation. By 1939, the Daniel schoolhouse was closed and students were shuttled to Pinedale, twelve miles away. The building sat empty for decades before being turned over to the Daniel Community Center, which has restored the building for community use.
Fraser, Clayton B., Mary M. Humstone and Rheba Massey. “Places of Learning: Historical Context of Schools in Wyoming.” Cheyenne: Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, 2010.
Rosenberg, Robert, “Daniel School,” Sublette County, Wyoming. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1988. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.