In 1899, Art L. Reynolds, native of Ohio, bought the William Kirtley farm in Boone County. He was a handsome, athletically built man, sporting a fashionable moustache. He brought with him his wife, Rose and his three children. Once everything was official, Art erected a large building for the family to practice their craft. The building would certainly have been quite large, large enough for Art to throw his wife and daughter through the air so his sons could catch them. This building was not a barn; it was a gymnasium for aerialists.
The deed was written to Art Reynolds, but in his professional life, he was known as Art DaComa of the “Flying DaComas,” circus trapeze artist, from France. At the time of purchase of their Boone County property, the DaComas were a family of five, though there may have been others in the troupe throughout the years. They were employed by the Ringling Brothers’ Circus, and even the youngest child, Eliza, was part of the act. As is sometimes the case with folks in entertainment, the DaComas (or the Reynolds family) were an unconventional bunch.
Imagine the impression they must have left on their farming neighbors, allowing the females in the family to dress in revealing costumes while they flew through the air above. The males of the family might have been forgiven the athleticism, but not the lack of practical skills. They were decidedly NOT doing farm work, and weeds grew in unused fields. In an agricultural community like Boone County, this family and their activities must have caused quite a bit of curiosity.
The family toured with Ringling Brothers for many years, and later with less well-known circuses and travelling Wild West shows of the day. Though the records were spotty, the industry magazines, like Billboard, carried many mentions of the family; their reputation in the circus community was well established. The family was not of French origin, but it was popular during their time in the circus to have an exotic pedigree. By official records, both Arthur and Rosa were American by birth, as were their parents.
Due to the nature of their work, and the travel it required, the Reynolds/DaComa family did not stay long in Boone County. They may have settled here briefly on a whim, or perhaps because it was a central location with available real estate. Whatever the reason, the Flying DaComas moved on, finally settling down in Florida amongst other circus performers.
Hillary Delaney is a Local History Associate at Boone County Public Library. She is a Boone County native, but has also lived in Richmond, VA, where she attended Virginia Commonweath University to study journalism. Hillary moved back to her hometown of Florence in 2007, with her husband and two children. Her lifelong love of all things historic brought her to her current position at BCPL.