Biography of George Neil
George Neil. A resident of Topeka for a number of years, George Neil is one of the few remaining pioneers of Williamsport Township of Shawnee County. He came to Kansas as a young man before the Civil war, and is one of the survivors of the glorious Second Kansas Regiment and he made a record as a soldier that his descendants may consider with proper pride.
Few Kansans have been more successful in the handling of their business affairs than George Neil. His prosperity has not been for himself alone. He has been public spirited, kindly and considerate of those less fortunate than himself, and is greatly beloved among his old honored comrades and those who with him have shared in the growth and development of Kansas from pioneer times.
George Neil was born November 26, 1842. He was one of eight sons and one daughter. Their parents were Robert and Sarah (Courtney) Neil. His father was a native of the North of Ireland and his mother of an English family. The parents were married at Belfast.
The late Robert Neil’s record also belongs in the story of pioneer things in Kansas. By profession he was a gardener and nurseryman. In early life he came to America. That was in the days of sailing vessels, and he was many weeks in making the voyage. Coming alone, he established a home in one of the eastern states, and then returned to the old country, where he married. He brought his bride to America, and thereafter for about a score of years he lived in Kentucky and followed gardening.
It was in the year 1860 that Robert Neil brought his family to Kansas. He secured a tract of land in Osage County that had been owned under what is known as the Mexican War Grant. In the spring of 1861 he came out to Kansas to make this his permanent home. His principal business in Kansas was that of general farmer and the handling of livestock. He brought with him to Osage County a number of grafts, and developed there one of the first orchards. Fruit was a very scarce article in the early years of Kansas, and the products of the Neil orchard were eagerly sought by the settlers. It is related that pears sold as high as $6.00 to $10.00 a bushel.
Robert Neil was a man of strong personality, of more than the average stature, was originally a Scotch Presbyterian but later in life a Methodist, and was an ardent republican. His death occurred in 1906 when he was eighty-eight years of age.
After his boyhood spent in Kentucky George Neil came to Kansas with his parents at the age of eighteen. A Kentucky district school furnished him his early learning. His muscles were hardened and his eye trained and he was given a wholesome discipline on the home farm. It was not long after he came to Kansas before the stirring issues between the North and South were brought to the test of arms.
When President Lincoln issued his first call for 300,000 men to put down the rebellion, George Neil was one of those who responded and enlisted in Company I of the Second Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. Members of the same company were Frank M. Stahl, Martin L. Foltz, who later became Mr. Neil’s brother-in-law, and Sylvanus Heberling, whose sister married George Neil. From the date of his enlistment until his discharge Mr. Neil participated in every movement of his command. His first bunk mate was killed and the next two were wounded, but Mr. Neil never received a wound nor had a day’s sickness during his entire army career. In fact his record of service was so perfect that he might have received an appointment to the regular army. The Second Kansas Cavalry was a splendid organization of soldiers, and its service has redounded to the credit of the entire state. Mr. Neil was with this regiment until his honorable discharge in June 17, 1865. One of the greatest pleasures enjoyed by Mr. Neil has been in recalling the events of half a century or more ago as he marched and campaigned with the Second Kansas through all its movements between 1861 and 1865. Mr. Neil is an enthusiastic American in all that the term implies, believes in its greatness, is a lover of its past glories and is extremely optimistic as to its future destiny.
Following the war he took up the active business of stock raising and farming which has furnished the chief outlet for his energies ever since. On November 14, 1867, he married Catherine J. Heberling. Five children were born to their union. Lillian died at the age of four years, and the others are: Oscar: Effie, Mrs. George Overmeyer; Daisy Viola; and Laura, Mrs. Edward Lannin.
From the time he cast his first vote to the present Mr. Neil has never wavered in his allegiance to the republican party. His activities in politics have been confined to voting and never to the seeking of office. His best service since the war has been rendered in a business capacity and in carrying forward and keeping up to a high standard the status of Kansas agriculture and stock husbandry. Altogether he has owned upwards of 20,000 acres of Kansas soil and has been interested in about 3,000 acres of Colorado lands. In Williamsport Township alone he owns over 1,200 acres. About twenty years ago Mr. Neil and his family removed to Topeka and they have one of the very comfortable homes of that city. From there he has directed the management of his extensive stock, farming and mining interests.
As a result of many well spent years he has the means and the leisure for travel, and he and his wife have visited nearly every state and territory and have also traveled abroad. As a Kansan Mr. Neil has constantly contributed to its progress and development. Schools, churches, good roads, anything for the good of his township, county, state or country, finds in him an enthusiastic advocate and supporter. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic and is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason.