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Construction of the Daniel Memorial Bridge was completed in January of 2005 and honors a local family and their service during World War II. On February 13, 2002, the West Virginia Legislature approved the construction of the Daniel Memorial Bridge to replace the old Martha Bridge over the Guyandotte River in the town of Martha, West Virginia. The bridge stands in honor of a local family with eight children, seven of whom served in the United States Navy in the World War II era. A small memorial is located at one edge of the bridge near a church and shares the story of the seven brothers.

  • Old Martha Bridge
  • Charleston Gazette Article about Daniel Memorial Bridge
  • Daniel Memorial Bridge Monument
  • Daniel Memorial Bridge Road Marker
  • Daniel Family and Brothers
  • Legislative Resolution Document for bridge naming
  • Elmer Daniel picture and medals collection
  • Elmer Daniel's Navy Blue Uniform

Martha is a small community in Cabell County that was established during the Civil War in 1862 and was known as the McComas district. Most of the land was owned by Sampson Saunders who emancipated his slaves and supplied them with land in Michigan and funds to start new lives. The town was named after his mother, Martha Saunders. Mr. Saunders willed his land to his family and friends. Part of the land(about 300 acres) known as Rich Bottom eventually passed to the Perry family. This acreage was eventually split in two where one part was bought by John and Pearl Daniel on October 29, 1930 and came to be known as the Daniel Farm.

Martha is also the home of other historical areas such as the Dunesberry Mill and nearby town of Barboursville (where The Battle of Barboursville occurred), the Barboursville Colored School, The Old Toll House, Thornburg House and William McClennan House (links provided below).

The original bridge that spanned the Guyandotte was considered by some to have historical significance due to the company that built it and its rare design elements. It was constructed by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio and was comprised of two Whipple type spans. Cabell County demolished the bridge in 2008. The new concrete bridge was commissioned to be built in 2002 and would be dedicated to the Daniel family who continue to live in the area. During the World War II era, seven of the Daniel Brothers served in the Navy. All of the brothers survived the war despite several battles.

The Daniel Memorial Bridge is an open modern concrete bridge spanning the Guyandotte river and joining Martha Road, McComas Road and Wilson Road. It is crossed many times a day with little thought about its significance except by the family for which it is named.

John and Pearl Daniel were married March 26, 1918 in Graham Virginia. They would eventually buy the Daniel Farm and move to Martha, WV in 1930 after the birth of 7 of the 8 boys. The 8th being born in Barboursville. The boys were named Charles, Elmer, Georgie, Howard (Reece), Virgil, Cecil, Herman, and Dorsey. The family raised chickens and grew produce to sell for income. They raised sugar cane that would be processed into molasses at the nearby mill and John would take the molasses to Bishop, Virginia to be sold in the Coal Company Store there. On January 21, 1976 Pearl was presented with a letter of appreciation from Secretary of The Navy J. William Middendorf II. The letter said “It is a remarkable occurrence to have just one generation of one family give the Navy over 125 years of loyal and Honorable service.” She passed a little over a year later on May 27, 1977. John had passed November 9, 1959 never having known how appreciated his sons would be.

The first born Charles was born February, 1919. He graduated from Barboursville High school in May, 1935. He and his brother Elmer enlisted in the US Navy on October 6, 1937. He was told he did not meet the weight requirement and could not enlist. It is said (passed down through the family) that he went to his Aunt Sadie's and ate loads of bananas in an attempt to gain weight. He was able to enlist one week later. Apparently the bananas did the trick. He and his brother Elmer attended boot camp together at Camp Peary, Virginia. He served on the destroyers USS Blue, USS Dobbin, and USS Chew, the fleet oiler USS Brazos, submarine tenders USS Howard W. Gilmore, USS Brushnell, and the USS Orion. He also served on submarines USS Dolphin, USS Narwhal, USS Nautilus, USS Dace, USS Bashaw, USS Amberjack, USS Piper, USS Spikefish and USS Guavina. His last duty at sea was as Commissioning Crew Member aboard the USS Growler. The USS Growler was the fourth guided nuclear missile submarine in his fleet. He served with his brothers Elmer and George on the USS Blue until the tragic deaths of the 5 Sullivan brothers in 1942 prompting The Sullivan act which prohibited more than one sibling on any ship at one time and thus the brothers were separated. He was serving on the USS Dolphin when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese December 7, 1942. He was on shore leave at the time and just made it back to his submarine. He told the family many stories, one which was quite entertaining about a Captain and his pet dog. He served several years after as a recruiter in Ashland, Kentucky and Beckly, WV. He retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Torpedoman January, 1963 with many medals to his name. He passed October 7, 1974.

The second born Elmer was born June 24, 1920. He graduated Barboursville High School in May, 1937. He enlisted in the Navy with his brother Charles in October, 1937 attending boot camp together. He then served on the destroyer USS Blue as Damage Control Personnel. He also served on the USS Dobbin, and the repair ship USS Vulcan. He became a certified diver second class and was commended for extraordinary hazardous diving while repairing the steam tanker USS Gulfprince. He was also commended for excellent performance of duty while aboard the USS Vulcan for repairs and reconstruction of the destroyer escort USS Kearny, which was torpedoed by an enemy submarine in number one fire room on October 17, 1941. He also received commendations for repairs on the French cruiser Jeanne D'arc, outstanding performance of duty in the record time installation of additional anti-aircraft guns aboard USS Kearney and the torpedo boat USS Ericsson. He also completed and received commendations for numerous other US fleet repairs. He also received several medals during his service. He would send home $50.00 every month to his mother while in the navy to which his mother said that was all that kept the farm going several times. He met his wife to be(a friend staying over with his cousin) while visiting his Aunt and Uncles house on shore leave. They had a son and daughter. He was discharged from the Navy October 6, 1945 Chief Petty Officer Damage Control. He joined the Naval reserves in 1958 where did several tours of duty. He told of one story of going ashore in Italy to buy souvenirs. He bought his daughter a rattan pocketbook with a red leather lid. Carrying it as a shopping bag down the streets of Trieste, the children would point and laugh at the silly American serviceman carrying a pocketbook. He passed on May 20, 2000.

The third son was Georgie, born September 26, 1921. He enlisted in the US Navy February, 1939. He served on USS Blue with his brothers Charles and Elmer until the Sullivan act, oiler USS Cuyama and the carrier escort USS Altahama. While in the Navy he would send things home C.O.D. Which his mother and father had a difficult time paying for. Good thing Elmer was sending home the $50.00 stipend. He was discharged as Boatswain's Mate Third Class in November, 1946. He became a coal miner and finally succumbed to one of his many bouts of illness January 26, 2004. It is said as a young boy he was an excellent gardener. His Uncle said he was the best gardener he had ever seen and he continued to tend his garden until the final years of his life.

The fourth son was Howard Reece born November 19, 1922 and went by his middle name. He did not finish school but had a very mechanical mind and could fix just about anything. He enlisted in the Navy on December 3, 1940. He served fittingly as an Electrician's mate on the oilier USS Cuyama, destroyer USS Blue and destroyer escort USS Reynolds. He received many commendations and medals including an Operation Star for Participation with the logistic support force in the Okinawa Gunto Operation, an Engagement Star for having served on board during anti-submarine and special operations, participation in the Marshall Island Operation, and stars for participation in the third fleet operations against Japan. He was discharged in January, 1947 as Chief Electrician's Mate. He used his training as an electrician to eventually become a supervisor Electrician for Union Carbide where he retired in 1985. He passed December 9, 1989.

The fifth son Virgil born January 9, 1924. He enlisted in the Navy January, 1943 and attended boot camp in Bainbridge, Maryland. He was serving on the heavy cruiser USS Oregon City in the harbor of Cherbourg, France as a member of Drew Unit June 6, 1944. This is a significant day in history as you will know it as The Invasion of Normandy or D-Day. Not much is known about his units activity during this time but he received the World War II Victory Medal, the American Theater and the Good Conduct Medal while serving. After D-Day he was stationed in Falmouth and Exeter, England. One story from the family says he was wanting to go with friends to the beach but could not get permission to go when the friends went to pick him up. Several of the girls in the group went back to see him and when they returned he was with them. He had went AWOL and when the Navy caught him, he was thrown in the Brig. Apparently Virgil hated the Navy. Funny to say later he would be a Police Officer for the city of Kenova before he went to work for the Army Corp of Engineers from which he retired in 1986. He passed April 8, 1997.

The sixth son Cecil was born April 14, 1926. According to the family he was a prankster and was always getting in trouble. He joined the Navy on his 17th birthday April 14, 1943. Never having finished school he acquired his GED while serving. He served on the destroyers USS Mertz, USS Boyd, USS Renshaw and USS Fletcher. The heavy cruiser USS Astoria, and the USS Toledo. The destroyer escort USS Blair and attack transport USS Taladega. He had shore duty all over the world. He would earn the Asiatic Pacific Ribbon with nine stars. A star for participation in a raid on Palan Yap, Ulithi, Woleai, during which the USS Mertz sank a Japanese ship. A star for participating in the initial assult and capture of Saipan and Tinan, Marianas Group, initial assult of Leyte Island Philippines, and occupation of Mindoro under enemy air attack. He also earned a star for operating with Task Force 58 during the Tokyo Raid and the occupation of Iwo Jima. He also received stars for other operations and serving on the USS Mertz assisted in sinking two Japanese submarines and downing several Japanese planes. He participated in several operations involving Japan and its islands. He retired from the Navy and worked for Chevron Oil until retirement from there. He passed November 20, 1999.

The seventh son Herman was born September 25, 1928. It is said he was the smallest of all the boys and was often teased for it and also was quite particular in wanting things done his way. He enlisted in the Navy in August, 1945 which was about 6 weeks before he was to turn 17. It is suspected he lied about his age especially since his official Naval records show his enlistment date as March 6, 1946. He was the last of the brothers to join the Navy bringing the total number to seven during World War II. He worked mostly with computers and helped bring the Navy into the modern computing age while working with Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hooper. He received commendation for performance of duty while stationed in Georgia cited for his advice and planning of programs for the Machine Records Division. He also received the World War II Victory Medal, the American Theater Medal and The National Defense service Medal as well as the Good Conduct Medal. He seemed to be popular with the children of the family and was famous for slipping in and out when on leave unnoticed leaving behind gifts. He retired May 1965 as Chief Machine Accountant. He passed October 29, 1996.

The final son Dorsey was the only son not to serve in the military. He was to young to enlist during World War II and was married with a child when the next conflict would arise. He would later give an interview with the local newspaper who was covering the Daniel Bridge Memorial announcement and spoke fondly of how he received great gifts from his brothers as a kid including a jacket from Singapore. He also talked about his brother Virgil piloting a landing craft on D-Day. The article can be read in the picture of The Charleston Gazette paper below that hangs in the home of Elmer's son. Dorsey was the last to pass September 4, 2012 and the memories went with him. Some still remain though and they are kept alive by all the children and grandchildren. The family still comes together in their memory every couple years and the stories and pictures live on.

Love, Charles. A Brief History of Martha Community, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. 1925. Accessed September 28th 2019.

Historic Martha Bridge, Historic Bridges. March 3rd 2007. Accessed September 28th 2019.

Various Daniel Family journals and interviews. (personal communication and research) Sourced September 28, 2019

Within this post you will find pictures of personal family mementos and keepsakes from the family of Elmer Daniel. All have been been generously donated by the family for this article.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Picture taken by Alicia Merritt

Picture taken by Alicia Merritt

Picture taken by Alicia Merritt

Picture taken by Alicia Merritt

Picture taken by Alicia Merritt

Picture taken by Alicia Merritt

Picture taken by Alicia Merritt