The lives of William Wallace (also known as “W. W.” or Mac”) and Nellie Mae (Wagner) McDaneld were deeply rooted in Osborne County. Wallace, the oldest of the three children of Ira and Anna (Eastman) McDaneld, was born August 3, 1907, near Bloomington in Tilden Township, Osborne County, Kansas. He was named after the great Scot, William Wallace. The family moved to Victor Township in 1908 and in 1909 moved to a dairy farm which Wallace’s father named “Lone Pine Dairy Farm;” however, the “pine” may have been a cedar.
The third of eight children in the Frank and Altena (Bradshaw) Wagner family, Nellie was born on a farm in Victor Township on September 7, 1906. Except for four years spent near Arriba, Colorado, where her father homesteaded, Nellie grew up in Victor Township.
The Victor School and Church of the Brethren were fundamental in their lives. Wallace and Nellie attended Victor Rural School District Number 64 and Covert High School, graduating in 1926 and 1925. Both families attended the Victor Church of the Brethren. Nellie’s father served as the minister and probably influenced Wallace’s decision to be a minister. Wallace’s mother taught Sunday School classes, and Wallace and Nellie were involved in youth programs.
Following graduation, Nellie worked for several area families and in Waldo, Kansas stores. Wallace worked on threshing crews and on the family dairy farm. They married August 15, 1928, in Victor Township. In 1929, they moved to McPherson, Kansas, where Wallace attended the Church of the Brethren college. Poor eye sight kept Nellie from furthering her education. The depression years interrupted Wallace’s education after two years, and Wallace and Nellie returned to Osborne County where Wallace pursued a teaching career which spanned thirty years. Except for a few years when he taught in Decatur and Smith Counties, Wallace taught in the Osborne County rural schools of Victor, Valley View, Potterville and Portis, teaching in Portis from 1939 until 1962.
In the early 1950s the state required upgraded teaching certificates and Wallace returned to McPherson College during summer sessions, receiving his education degree in 1956. It was a family joke that he had been a college junior for twenty-five years.
Wallace was licensed to preach by the Victor church in 1928, and in 1937 accepted a call to minister at the North Solomon Church of the Brethren in Portis. The family was living in Victor Township where Wallace was teaching and traveled to Portis for services. Wallace served the church until 1962. For the next ten years, Wallace served as a substitute pastor in many churches in Osborne and surrounding counties until 1972 when he returned to the Portis church and served there until his death. Nellie was involved in various church activities and played the piano for many years. Wallace and Nellie moved to Portis in 1938 and purchased a house on the hill (Goat Hill, as Wallace named it) in 1943. Their four children–Donald, Arthur, Shirley and Sharon–grew up there. The house was the forerunner of the “food bank”–who might be coming for dinner was anyone’s guess, as transients were sent or simply found their way up the hill. Nellie took great pleasure in preparing the house for private weddings and the guest room was often occupied with visiting church leaders. Wallace became Osborne County Superintendent of Schools in 1962, a position he held until the state abolished the office in 1969. Continuing in government, Wallace became Osborne County Register of Deeds in 1969 and retired from that office in 1981.
The accomplishments Wallace and Nellie enjoyed can be credited to teamwork. They were so attuned that it is impossible to write about one without the other. As Wallace ministered to those who were in need, ill, grieving or in distress, and Nellie was always there lending support. For the classes Wallace taught and Nellie was a self-proclaimed “room mother”. She would fix holiday desserts and treats, load them into a picnic basket and head for the school. With the family grown, Nellie became a “working girl” assisting Wallace in the County Superintendent office. Nellie retired when the office closed, but soon came out of retirement and joined Wallace in the Register of Deeds office. The time in the Register of Deeds office presented an opportunity for Nellie to research and document the history of Osborne County families, schools and churches in Covert and Portis, and helped to compile histories on the towns of Covert and Portis. Nellie was known as the “Bell Lady” for her bell collection. She acquired over four hundred bells and often presented programs for organizations. Wallace had a forty-year collection of sermons which were titled and categorized.
Nellie died December 30, 1985, in the family home at Portis. Wallace passed away a short time later on April 19 1986, in Salina, Kansas. Both are buried in the Osborne Cemetery. Wallace and Nellie were active participants in the school, community and church. Wallace served on the city council and various boards and committees, such as the State Textbook Committee and the local ministerial committee. Nellie was involved in YWCA, Ladies Aid, PTA, and the Portis Christian Women’s Association. They may not have made headlines, but they made an impact on those they met through their active involvement. They were considered trustworthy and they bestowed and received great respect.
After their deaths, the children and grandchildren kept the Portis home as a family gathering place. The family also acquired the North Solomon Church of the Brethren to be used for family gatherings and family church services.