This is a tale about a man who could reinvent himself as easily as he changed addresses. Joel McDaniel first surfaced as tiny collateral twig on the Gomoll family tree accompanied by the family’s question – “What ever happened to Doc?”

This story has been shaped as a ballad because some changes in Joel McDaniel’s life – spouses, careers, and locations – recurred with remarkable regularity, much like a musical refrain. Can the men in all these verses be the same man? What you are about to read is based almost entirely on evidence found online. It is an outline waiting to be colored in with additional information gleaned from Missouri courthouses and archives to add nuances and maybe even more verses to “The Ballad of Joel McDaniel.”

To assist the reader in tracking Joel McDaniel’s many relocations across Missouri, a map (below article) shows approximate locations associated with each verse number and sequence letter.


Joel McDaniel got a new wife. 
Joel McDaniel got a new life.

Verse 1

Joel McDaniel was born on 11 January 1871 in Tennessee, possibly in Rhea County. He was the oldest child of Thomas Henry McDaniel and Lucinda Adeline Pendergrast. Her given names were sometimes reversed. Judging from the birthplaces of Joel’s siblings, the family moved to eastern Missouri between 1885 and 1888. Thomas was a farmer, so it is reasonable to assume Joel and his siblings shared in that work.

On 2 July 1892, Joel McDaniel married Jennie Wood in Mine La Motte, Madison County, an old, and  tiny town famous for its lead mine [map location 1]. He had recently turned 21, the legal age for a man to marry without parental permission. Joel’s younger brother, Robert McDaniel, lived in Mine La Motte most of his adult life, a fact that lends some confidence this is the same Joel McDaniel who was born in Tennessee.


Joel McDaniel got a new wife. 
Joel McDaniel got a new life.

Verse 2

Joel McDaniel’s marriage to Jennie did not last long. Less than six years later, she married Charlie Skaggs, a lead miner, on 19 May 1898 in Fredericktown, four miles south of Mine La Motte.

On 30 September 1899 in Ripley County, J.B. McDaniel of Doniphan and Zetta McCauley of Pratt were granted a license to marry. On 7 June 1900, the newlyweds were enumerated in the federal census for Doniphan Township: Joel B. McDaniel, 28, photographer, and Zetta, 23. Living in the same household were Joseph and Martha Abshear and their infant son, Neal. Joseph was also a photographer [map location 2a].

Joel was also enumerated six days earlier – and 350 miles distant – in Liberty Township, St. Francois County, with his parents and younger siblings [map location 2b] –

  • McDaniel, Thomas H., 51, born Tennessee, farmer
  • Lucindia [sic] A., 48, born Illinois
  • Joel G. [sic], 29, born Tennessee, artist, married “0” years (no spouse listed)
  • Robert L., 14, born Tennessee
  • Sarah M., 12, born Missouri

The census taker was instructed to enter the name of “each person whose place of abode on June 1, 1900 was in this family.” If Joel and Zetta married eight or nine months earlier, it is curious why he was enumerated with his birth family.

Joel B. McDaniel’s Barnes Medical School photo, 1905.

In 1905, Joel Barry McDaniels [sic] graduated from Barnes Medical College in St. Louis [map location 2c]. The first directory for the American Medical Association was published in 1906. It shows Joel B. McDaniel was practicing medicine in Campbellton, Missouri [2d].

By June 1907, he was advertising himself as physician and surgeon in the Lexington Intelligencer, the local newspaper for Lexington in Lafayette County, Missouri [2e]. The ads ran regularly for the better part of a year. Examples were found from 8 June 1907 through 11 April 1908 and show he moved his office to various buildings within that community quite often, including Mrs. Collard’s Boarding House. The Lexington paper reported on 21 March 1908, “Dr. J. B. McDaniel left Tuesday morning for a trip to Denver,” and on 11 April 1908, “Dr. J. B. McDaniel left yesterday for Denver, Col. to locate.”

Joel’s second marriage did not last long either. Perhaps it did not even survive medical school. By May 1908, his former wife, Miss Zetta McCauley, age 31, was married to a rancher named James C. Gollehon in Douglas County, Washington. The record indicates it was a second marriage for both.

Verse 3


Joel McDaniel got a new wife. 
Joel McDaniel got a new life.

Joel moved on as well, but evidently not to Denver. In May 1908, the Lexington Intelligencer reported, “Miss Bessie Chinn left for Kansas City last Sunday morning for an extended visit with friends and relatives.” Joel reciprocated, as the same paper reported on 27 June, “Dr. McDaniel of Kansas City visited our town [Lexington] this week, the guest of Miss Bessie Chinn.”

The distance between Lexington and Kansas City is about forty miles – probably too far for regular commuting in 1908. This suggests Joel had moved his medical practice from Lexington to Kansas City. It is likely Joel and Bessie became acquainted while he lived in Lexington – the population of the town was not more than 5,000 at that time.

On Friday evening, 14 August 1908, Dr. Joel B. McDaniel of 1125 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, and Miss Bessie Isabel Chinn of Mayview (eleven miles south of Lexington) were married at the home of Reverend Harry Haldeman in Kansas City. She was 24 years old. He was 37 [map location 3].

From the Lexington Intelligencer, 22 August 1908, p. 6:

The bride was formerly a student of Central College for Women and comes from one of the pioneer southern families of Lafayette. She is a beautiful girl, talented and charming, possessing all the Christian graces which make young womanhood beautiful and endear to her many friends. The groom is well and favorably known in Lexington. He is a native of Nashville, Tenn., but is now located in Kansas City, where he and his bride will reside.

Joel’s third marriage lasted only 49 days. Mrs. Bessie Isabel McDaniel died on Friday, 2 October 1908, at 6:00 A.M. Her death record states the cause was “nervous prostration” – what is now known as a nervous breakdown. An obituary for her added a bit more: “Mrs. McDaniel has been dangerously ill with nervous prostration complicated with nephirtis [sic] for the past ten days.”

Two weeks earlier, Bessie had written down her funeral plan and what she wanted done with her belongings. Joel followed her wishes. Her funeral was performed in Mayview by the pastor who had married the couple only weeks earlier, and she was buried in Higginsville, with her wedding ring on her finger and her gold cross and chain draped across her chest.


Joel McDaniel had no wife.
Joel McDaniel got a new life.

Verse 4

In 1910, the federal census listed Joel B. McDaniel as head of household at 211 East 12th Street in Kansas City  [map location 4]. He was 39 years old, a widower, and a “special physician,” perhaps meaning he was a specialist. It appears Joel and three middle-aged male lodgers shared one part in a rented house, while three others occupied the rest.

In September 1910, Dr. J. B. McDaniel found himself in municipal court facing several counts of violating Kansas City ordinances regarding keeping and boarding babies. Complaints from neighbors of Mrs. Mary Rail led authorities to investigate on August 23. They discovered four infants delivered by Dr. McDaniel and kept for him by Mrs. Rail. The doctor intended to sell the babies – the newspaper called it “baby farming.” He was released on bond. The consequences for his actions are not yet known.

Five months later, on 28 February 1911, a deputy marshal met Dr. McDaniel at the door of his office shortly after noon and arrested him. Joel was one of eleven physicians captured in a sting operation set up by a postal inspector. The doctors were charged with mailing letters that advertised “criminal operations.”

The Kansas City Times reported on that same day:

Among the papers found in Mrs. Hendersen’s possession was a letter from Dr. Joel B. McDaniel….It informed her that the writer could supply a baby girl. Advertising matter from McDaniel also described a maternity hospital which he conducted.

Later that year in December, the Kansas City federal district court found Dr. Joel B. McDaniel guilty of criminal use of the U.S. mail. A Topeka, Kansas, newspaper reported, “Dr. Joel B. McDaniel was found guilty on the same grounds as were charged to Dr. S. M. Clark.”

The judge said this about their crime:

The willingness of some physicians nowadays to aid and abet race suicide is lamentable. Their attitude breeds lax morality and a false attitude towards the rearing of children. It is no disguised fact that in some homes, the heralding of a child is looked upon as a curse. Gladly would some women destroy life in order that their lives might be one round of pleasure and social activity.

Judge Van Valkenburgh sentenced Joel to six months in the Johnson County jail and levied a $500 fine. The state board of health revoked his license to practice medicine for five years.

Although the 1912 Kansas City directory lists Joel B. McDaniels as a resident, it did not include him in a listing of physicians. However, he does appear in the 1913 directory’s list of Regular Practitioners who are members of one or more of the four following recognized Medical Associations: Jackson County, Academy of Medicine, Missouri State, American Medical.

Joel B. McDaniels’ residence and practice were at 625 Arlington Avenue in the Mt. Washington area of Kansas City. Notice the “s” on the end of Joel’s surname in these directories. While this could have been a typo, it must be noted that after his tangle with the law in 1911, Joel’s name was ever after nuanced with variations. His notoriety may have inspired him to slightly blur his identity.


Joel McDaniel got a new wife. 
Joel McDaniel got a new life.

Verse 5

On 22 May 1918, Joel married a fourth time. The marriage record filed in Rolla, Phelps County [location 5a], identifies him as J. Barry McDaniels of St. James in Phelps County [5b]. His bride was Katherine Mae Gamol [sic] of Minneapolis. About five years earlier, Katherine “Kitty” Mae (Johnson) Gomoll presumably divorced her first husband, Gustav Gomoll, in Minneapolis. She brought an eight-year-old son, Carl Franklin Gomoll, to her second marriage.

How did Joel come to marry a woman from as far away as Minneapolis? From 1914 to 1917, Minneapolis city directories list G. Barry McDaniels as proprietor and physician/superintendent of the Minnesota Sanitarium at 1416 Chicago Avenue, a facility for patients suffering from tuberculosis. In 1916, the sanitarium relocated to 1926 5th Avenue South; it also served as Joel’s residence.

In 1917, Katherine Gomoll, was divorced and working as a clerk. She and her son were living with her parents at 813 5th Street Southeast. Joel and Kitty’s lives could have intersected in a number of ways in Minneapolis, but it seems she followed him to Missouri in 1918 to be married. Leadership of the Minnesota Sanitarium was passed to William Becker.

No WWI draft registration has been found for Joel, and his marriage to Kitty may have been conveniently timed to help him avoid military service when the third registration for men ages 18 through 45 went into effect on 12 September 1918. Joel was 47 on that date, but he continually said he was younger. He would have been Class IV: exempted due to extreme hardship – married with a dependent spouse and/or children with insufficient income if drafted.

The 1920 federal census shows Joel B. McDaniel, his wife Catherine [sic], and his stepson, Carl, were settled on a mortgaged farm in Union Township, Crawford County, Missouri [map location 5c]. Carl was to be the only child ever to live in Joel’s many households.

Joel was a 49-year-old farmer; Katherine was 36. His parents, Thomas H. and Adline [sic] L. McDaniel, now in their 70s, lived with them. Joel’s extreme career change from physician/surgeon to farmer at the tail end of World War I is puzzling. Perhaps he was still prohibited from practicing medicine in Missouri.

It seems Joel intended to resume his medical career as soon as possible. Quoting from an email from Carl’s daughter-in-law: “Kitty and Doc, as he was called, went back to Minnesota where he was going to set up an office. He left after lunch and didn’t return. Whether there was foul play or not, no one seems to know.” There was no foul play. Family lore often contains a kernel of truth, so this could imply the couple returned to Minnesota after briefly farming in Crawford County. At any rate, Joel abandoned Katherine and Carl sometime after 1920 and returned to Missouri.

In 1922, J. Barry McDaniels advertised his medical practice in Philadelphia, Marion County, Missouri [5d]. Two years later, The Macon Republican published this news: “Two Doctors Leave Callao This Week [5e]. Dr. C. J. Benning and family, and Dr. J. Barry McDaniels, left Thursday in cars for Springfield [5f], via Kansas City, where they will make their home and resume their practice.”

The fact that no family was mentioned for Dr. McDaniels suggests his marriage to Katherine may have already ended.

Around 1925, Joel’s fourth wife, Katherine, and her son, Carl, made their way to tiny Bantry, North Dakota. Cathryn [sic] McDaniels was enumerated in the 1930 census as twice-widowed even though both her former husbands were still living. She was working as a servant in the household of William Bollinger, a divorced 57-year-old farmer. Her son, listed as Carl F. Gomoll, was enumerated in the next household with his wife, Violet, and an infant son, Merle. Katherine married William Bollinger sometime between 1930 and 1940.

By 1926, Joel and his parents had moved to the community of Willard in Greene County, Missouri [5g]. His father, Thomas Henry McDaniel, died there on 15 March 1926 from a stroke. The physician who signed the death certificate was his own son, J. B. McDaniels of Willard. Thomas was buried in Wesley Cemetery in Willard.


Joel McDaniel got a new wife. 
Joel McDaniel got a new life.

Verse 6

Joel Barry McDaniels married again on 5 December 1927 in Willard. Bride number five was Miss Anna Bell Cooper. It seems Joel preferred to marry much younger women. His age was recorded in the 1930 census as 52, although he was really 59 – fully 26 or 27 years older than his wife. The census places “Barry McDaniel,” his wife, Anna, and his widowed mother, Adeline, in the village of Willard. He was a physician and owned a home worth $5,000 – probably one of the nicer houses in town.

The 1932 Springfield, Missouri, city directory lists a physician named J. Barry McDaniels. His practice was at 202 ½ West Commercial; his residence was in Willard, essentially a suburb of Springfield.

In 1934, Joel and Anna Bell moved east to Summersville, which straddles the Shannon and Texas county line, where he opened a new medical practice [map location 6a]. He joined the Church of Christ in Summersville on 5 December 1938 and served as mayor of the town for six years. Joel “always stood for civic advancement, and high ideals, both of a moral and spiritual nature.” He was also described as a “great lover of music, active in singings, doing all in his power to advance good singing.”

Joel’s mother, Adeline, had moved to Summersville with them. She died there on 18 October 1939 after she fell at home and broke her hip. She also suffered from senility. Adeline was buried beside her husband in the Willard cemetery.

The 1940 census reports that J. Barry and Anna B. McDaniels owned a house in Summersville that was worth $600. He was listed as 64 years old (actually 69) and a physician. She was 42 years old and served as receptionist in her husband’s private practice. The enumerator indicated Joel was the informant.

Three of Joel’s marriages ended by divorce or abandonment. His third and fifth were ended by death.

Dr. Joel Barry McDaniels died in Summersville of a heart attack on 14 May 1941 at age 70. The obituary lists his survivors as his widow, Anna Bell, a brother in Fredericktown, and two sisters in Los Angeles. One of the sisters was Mrs. Martha Abshier, the photographer’s wife who had lived with Joel and Zetta in 1900 – see Verse 2. The funeral was held in the Summerville high school gymnasium in anticipation of the many people who would attend to pay their last respects. Joel was buried in Willard, “his former home,” following a second funeral service there [map location 6b].


Joel McDaniel had five wives: Jennie, Zetta, Bessie, Kitty, and Anna Belle.
Joel McDaniel lived five lives: farm boy, artist/photographer, student, farmer, physician.


The presence of Joel’s parents, Thomas and Adeline, at several points throughout his life lends confidence to the conclusion that the same man married the five women named in the verses of this ballad. His parents were listed with him in the 1900 census when he was artist Joel B. McDaniel. They were living with him in the 1920 census when he was farmer Joel B. McDaniel, and his mother lived with him in the 1930 census when he was physician Barry McDaniels. And finally, they were named as his parents on the death certificate for Joel Barry McDaniels.

Thus, “The Ballad of Joel McDaniel” ends.

Joel had no children. The ease with which he changed locations, wives, his name, and even occupations is remarkable. Apparently his last fifteen years were his best, as the glowing comments in his obituary stand in stark contrast with what is known of his earlier life.

In death, there are no more changes to his life. He rests eternally, his name chiseled in granite: J. Barry McDaniels, M.D.

Although his birth year is off by five years!


Photo: With a little imagination, the physician in this 1922 vintage photo of a surgeon could be the elusive Dr. Joel McDaniel. (Just add glasses!)

Editor’s Note: This post was first published in the Minnesota Genealogist, vol. 50, no. 2, summer 2019 where it included 54 meticulous primary source citations.

Joel’s Locations by Verse

Joel McDaniel’s locations across the state of Missouri changed as often as his name variations did. Map location numbers correspond to the verse in his ballad.