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Mathew John McNeilly
Born January 17, 1859


Thrift, energy and determination have constituted the basis of success in the life of Mathew John McNeilly, who owns and operates a valuable farm of two hundred acres located on section 1, Jackson township. One of lowa's native sons, he was born in Dubuque, on the 17th of January, 1859, and is a son of James and Anna (Smith) McNeilly, both natives of Ireland.
The father, who was born in Ballyrooney, County Down, on the 1st of September, 1835, spent the years of his boyhood and youth in the place of his nativity and when a young man of seventeen years came to America, landing in Boston, where he remained for some time. During his residence in that city he was united in marriage to Miss Anna Smith, who was born October 2, 1833, in County Down, Ireland, but was reared in Scotland. The eldest of four children, when but ten years old she was left an orphan, and at the age of eighteen years brought her brother, John M. Smith, to America. By her marriage to Mr. McNeilly she became the mother of three children', namely: Mathew John, of this review; May, the wife of James F. Livingston of Madison township; and W. Frank McNeilly, of Jackson township, mention of whom is made in the following sketch. About 1860, Mr. McNeilly and wife came west, locating in St. Louis, where they resided for a year or two, and then took up their abode in Jackson county, Iowa, where they made their home for about nineteen years. The year 1882 witnessed their arrival in Jones county, settlement being made upon a farm in Jackson township, which is known as the James McNeilly place and is now the property of their son Frank McNeilly. Here Mr. McNeilly was actively engaged in agricultural pursuits throughout the ensuing years until 1896, and during this period became well known throughout the community in which he resided as an enterprising, progressive and successful farmer. In fact his success was of such a nature that in the year mentioned he was able to withdraw from the active duties of life and during the remainder of his life enjoy in well earned rest the fruits of his former toil. He left the farm and removed to Center Junction, where his remaining days were spent.
On the 10th of April, 1901, James McNeilly was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, whose death was a matter of regret not only to the bereaved family but also to a large circle of friends, for she was ever a most loving wife and mother and a true friend and neighbor. For many years his own health had been failing and on the 28th of June, 1908, as the result of a very brief but severe attack of pneumonia, he also, passed to his final rest, his death coming as a shock to his family and his many friends. Early in life he had become a Christian and for many years was identified with the Presbyterian church, serving as an elder therein for ten years and also being an active and helpful worker in the Sabbath-school. His was a most honorable record and with his passing the community lost one of it most valued and representative citizens. Something of the regard entertained for him by his fellowman is indicated in the following paragraph taken from a local newspaper at the time of his demise: "Wherever he is known the name of James McNeilly is synonymous with all that is upright and true. He leaves to his children and their children the legacy of an unimpeachable character and upright life." Of a poetical turn of mind, he was the author of many verses and often wrote poems to commemorate various special events. Following is one written by him in 1904 entitled: "A Thanksgiving Poem."
    Once more the children do assemble
    Around the dear old family hearth,
    And the mother's hand may tremble,
    She still enjoys a hearty laugh.
    And when the table is nicely set,
    And all her children seated down,
    How mother loves to stand a little back
    And all her good things, hand them round.

    How sweet and pleasant is the home,
    No empty chair, but all the dear ones living.
    Some may have gone away to roam,
    But all get round about Thanksgiving.
    Oh! the forests of God's love lie round us
    On every hand they are growing;
    Peace and plenty still abound us
    All grateful hearts should be overflowing.

    God give us a clear and bright conception
    Of the mines that lie beneath our feet,
    That supply all our wants here below
    And make the joys of life complete.
    Our cribs are full of corn,
    Our barns are full of hay,
    And hearts that are full of praise
    Are overflowing this Thanksgiving day.

    Oh! for a heart to praise my God
    For all his mercies he has given.
    Oh! for a tongue his name to laud
    And to pray, that we might be forgiven.
    The gratitude of honest, cheerful hearts,
    Always brings the richest blessings;
    A song with God in all the parts,
    There will be nothing missing.

    Oh, how much we owe to God!
    Debts so great, we ne'er can pay;
    Ungrateful through this world we plod
    While he provides for us, day by day.
    There is a revenue God demands of us;
    How many there are that never pay it-
    Toil through life, with head and hands,
    No foundation, no, they never lay it.


During the first few years of his life Mathew John McNeilly, whose name introduces this review, accompanied his parents on their various removals and was still but a lad when the family took up its abode in Jackson county, Iowa. There he attended the common schools and when not busy with his text-books assisted his father in the work of the home farm, early becoming familiar with the duties that fall to the lot of the agriculturist. He remained there for nineteen years and in 1882 came with his parents to Jones county. He later supplemented his early educational training by a course of study in a business college at Dubuque, Iowa, and then returned home, remaining under the parental roof until the time of his marriage. At that time he started out in the business world on his own account, working for his father for one year and then carrying on agricultural pursuits as a renter for about two years. By that time he had accumulated sufficient means with which to purchase property of his own and he invested in sixty acres of land on section 1, Jackson township, which formed the nucleus of his present fine farm. As the years passed, he was able to add to his original purchase until his farm today consists of two hundred acres of rich soil, all of which is under a high state of cultivation. Although at all times methodical and systematic, he is nevertheless up-to-date and progressive in the conduct of his business affairs. He has made a close study of agriculture and this, combined with the thorough training which he early received under the direction of his father, has made him a successful and prosperous farmer, whose well directed labors are finding their reward in substantial annual harvests. On the 8th of February, 1899, he lost his home by fire, but he has since erected another dwelling which in its neat and attractive appearance stands as a monument to his thrift and industry.
Mr. McNeilly has been twice married. In September, 1884, he was united in marriage to Miss Katharine Aitken, a native of Perthshire, Scotland, who passed away on the 13th of March, 1888, at the early age of twenty-three years. She left one daughter, Alabel, who is now stenographer for the Diamond Creamery Company of Monticello. In 1889, he was again married, his second union being with Mary E. Livingston, who was born in Madison township, Jones county, on the 16th of August, 1858, a daughter of John and Margaret Livingston, natives of Scotland. Her parents both passed away in Madison township. Unto Mr. and Mrs. McNeilly have been born two children, James R. and Margaret Anna.
Mr. McNeilly's religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Presbyterian church at Center junction, in which he is now serving as elder, and in the work of which he is active and helpful. He gives his political allegiance to the republican party and has been very active in the local ranks of the party, although he has never been an aspirant for public office. His interest in community affairs is deep and sincere and his cooperation can always be counted upon to aid in furthering public progress along lines of substantial upbuilding and development. His excellent traits of character inspire personal friendship of unusual strength and all who know him have for him high admiration and esteem.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 474.

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