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John Neelans
Born September 1842

In a history of Jones county mention should be made of John Neelans, one of the prosperous and substantial farmers and highly respected citizens of Clay township, who claims Ireland as the place of his nativity, his birth there occurring in September, 1842. His parents were James and Martha (Warnic) Neelans, natives of Ireland. The father was born in County Derry in 1779, while the mother's birth occurred in 1799. There they were married in 1819 and reared their family of seven children. In 1850, thinking to obtain better opportunities for business advancement in the new world, the father crossed the Atlantic and landed in New York on the I2th of July, that year, and from there made his way to Pennsylvania. His wife, however, who had suffered a severe sunstroke during the journey, lived for only a week after their arrival in Easton, Pennsylvania, leaving her husband and seven children to mourn her loss. James Neelans, who had followed the occupation of farming prior to his coining to the new world, was well along in years at the time of his arrival in America, having already reached the seventy-first milestone on life's journey. The sons, however, most of whom had attained man's estate, obtained employment in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and cared for him and kept the family together for a number of years. Six years after leaving Ireland the father passed away in the Keystone state, his remains being laid to rest in Mauch Chunk, One son, Robert, lost his life in the coal mines while later another son, James, was killed in an explosion in the powder mills of Harford, Pennsylvania. Rachel, the youngest member of the family, became the wife of George Maddock, of Connecticut, and died in 1908, her remains being interred in Thompsonville, that state. Samuel, another son, now makes his home in Connecticut.
John Neelans was a lad of eight years when he accompanied his parents on their removal to the United States and the remaining years of his boyhood and youth were passed in Pennsylvania. When only nine years old he had the misfortune to lose his left leg, and was therefore debarred from many of the activities engaged in by other lads. Something of his determination of spirit, however, was manifest in the fact that when about twenty years of age he stood on his one leg and chopped cord wood until he had earned one hundred and thirty dollars with which to purchase an artificial limb. He started out in business for himself at the age of twenty-two years, with a capital of but one dollar, obtaining employment with the Old Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, and remained with that company continuously for twelve years, a fact which indicates clearly his ability, faithfulness and trustworthiness. At the expiration of that period he came to Iowa, residing in a house belonging to John Dennison. At the end of a year he was so pleased with the country and the opportunities offered in this state that he purchased his present farm of one hundred and seventy-one acres, at first investing in one hundred and twenty acres and latter adding another tract of fifty-one acres. His fields today are under an excellent state of cultivation, for he has made a close study of agriculture, is systematic, methodical and progressive in his methods and manifests a business ability and careful management of his affairs that have gained him a high place among the substantial and prosperous farmers of the township.
It was on the 25th of November, 1869, that Mr. Neelans was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Watkins, who was born in Wales on the 22d of June, 1850, a daughter of John Watkins. Unto this union have been born three children, namely: Lottie J., born on the 4th of November, 1870; John, whose birth occurred on the 20th of January, 1872, and who passed away July 1877; and James, who passed away in infancy. On the 27th of May 1906, Mr. Neelans was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife and the daughter has since taken charge of the home and is keeping house for the father.
In politics he is a stalwart supporter of the democracy, while his religious faith is indicated in his membership in the Presbyterian church, in which he has served as an elder for almost twenty years. A gentleman of excellent morals and high principles, his record has ever measured up to a high standard of honorable manhood and he ranks foremost among the valued and respected citizens of the community. Starting out in the business world empty-handed and physically handicapped, the struggle for success was hard and oftentimes discouraging, and only at the expense of a vast amount of energy, diligence, perseverance and good management has he attained to his present gratifying measure of success, few meriting in greater degree the proud American title of a self-made man.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 648.


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