Among the early settlers who came to Kansas in the fall of 1870 is J.H. Neal, who lived during the winter of that year on the Solomon river near Solomon City, in the spring time of 1871, moving to Cloud county and homesteading the farm where Charles Pilcher now lives. During the grasshopper year he was forced to return to Ohio in order to make a living for his family. He worked in the Champion shops at Springfield until the autumn of 1878, when he again returned to Kansas, remaining two years, returning the second time to Springfield. In the meantime he decided that with the drouth and grasshoppers there was no better place than Kansas, and accordingly returned in 1886. In 1875 he traded his homestead for the place where he now lives, which is one of the best farms in the community. Much of it is wheat land and in 1901, he had eighty-five acres which yielded twenty-two bushels per acre, and the year prior the average was twenty-eight bushels per acre.
Mr. Neal is a native of Ohio, born in 1834 on a farm near Urbana, Champaign county. His father was St. Ledger Neal, a native of Maryland, born near Hagerstown in 18o5, but who came to Ohio when a young man, where he lived until his death in 1865. Mr. Neal's grandfather, Aquilla Neal, was also a native of Maryland. The Neals were of English and Irish descent. Mr. Neal's mother was Clarissa (Pearce) Neal, born and reared in Urbana, Ohio, her father having moved there from Kentucky in 1801. Her brother, Milton, was the first white child born in Urbana, then an Indian village. Mr. Neal's mother died in 1891. He is one of eleven children, ten of whom lived to maturity. Mr. Neal lived on the farm until the age of nineteen years, when he went into a machine shop as an apprentice, working at his trade most of the time until 1886.
He was married in 1863 to Sarah Jane Pitzer, daughter of Jacob and Almeda (Rexford) Pitzer. Her father was born in Kentucky and when two years old came to Ohio with his parents and settled in Brown county, on the Ohio river, where he grew to manhood. He learned the shoemaker's trade, which he followed along with hunting and trapping, for several years, then moved to Indiana and later to Illinois, where he died in 1844. Early in life he lost a limb. The Pitzers were of German origin, Mrs. Neal's grandfather coming from Germany.
Almeda (Rexford) Pitzer was born in Jefferson county, New York. When four years of age she went with her parents to Michigan, and the following spring the war of 1812 began, during which time they were stationed at Fort Huron for protection from the Indians. Peace was made when she was seven years old, which event she remembers distinctly and about this time her father moved to Lower Sandusky, Ohio, where she was reared and married. She was married in 1826 to Jacob Pitzer, who died in 1844. She was again married in 1847 to John D. Armstrong, who died August 21, 1853. Mrs. Armstrong is the mother of twelve children, ten of these by the first marriage and two by the second. Five of them are living. Mrs. Armstrong is living with her daughter, Mrs. Neal, at the age of ninety-five years. She has a sister in Fort Collins, Colorado, who is eighty years of age, and a brother two years her junior, Philander Rexford, whose address is 408 Park avenue, Syracuse, New York. The following was clipped from an October 1, 1901, issue of the Post-Standard, Syracuse, New York:
"Philander Rexford, of 408 Park avenue, this city, was not only alive at the time of Perry's great victory over the British on Lake Erie in 1813, but he lays claim to have been practically an eye witness of the famous naval battle. He was within hearing distance of the guns, and although he is now a man ninety-two years of age, his recollection of the engagement and the events surrounding it seem quite distinct.
"Mr. Rexford was born in Sandy Creek, Jefferson county, New York, September 5. 1809, and in 1811 moved to Detroit, Michigan, with his parents. In the following year the war of 1812 was declared, and subsequently Detroit and the entire Michigan territory was taken by the British. The Rexfords were forced to leave their home with many others of Detroit and found refuge in Fort Huron, at the mouth of the Huron river.
"Detroit at that time. Mr. Rexford says, was but a small village. It was, however, the key to the northwestern part of the United States and its surrender by Hull was a blow to the American army.
"It was while at Fort Huron on Lake Erie that Mr. Rexford heard the booming guns of the battle. He was then a boy of four years and the engagement occurred but a few miles from the fort.
"He says he remembers distinctly the excitement in the fort and the ramarks of the American soldiers as broadside after broadside shook the air: 'There goes another broadside,' they would say, or 'There's a breaker for Barkley's ribs.' Barkley was the British commodore. Many such ejaculations Mr. Rexford remembers and also the scenes of rejoicing at the announcement of the victory. The men and women in the fort went wild with joy and excitement. Guns were fired and drums beaten.
"Hull was immediately forced to retire from Detroit and the refugees were allowed to return. The grandmother of Mr. Rexford had been taken prisoner at the capture of Detroit by Hull, and was forced by the British soldiers and Indians, who composed his force, to walk from the homestead into the city, carrying her six-year-old child. The distance was long and she suffered many hardships.
"Ohio at that time was filled with British soldiers and the scarlet coats were common sights. At the close of the war many of the soldiers in the northern territories were discharged and found their way to England by traveling across the country. Mr. Rexford remembers seeing many of them. In many cases, he says, the American settlers extended courtesy to them, but in many other cases it was hard for Americans to treat them as anything but enemies.
"Mr. Rexford was at Fremont, Ohio, when Major Crawn with one hundred and thirty men in Fort Stevenson, defeated seven hundred Indians and several hundred British and their allies. It was thought by the attacking party that a breach had been made in the walls of the fort and hundreds of men were poured into the trench which surrounded it. While in this trench the Americans opened fire with a gun stationed in a block house so situated that its fire swept the trench. The gun which did the execution was known as 'Betsy,' and is still at the fort.
"Mr. Rexford says that he remembers the remark of an Irishman taken prisoner at the battle. 'Sure,' said Pat, 'I thought it was a hog pen we were attackin', and I found it a hornets' nest.'
"Mr. Rexford visited the coal fields of Pennsylvania, where he made a study of the economical use of that fuel. In 1863 he came to Syracuse, where he was engaged by the salt companies to instruct their firemen in the use of coal, it at that time being a new fuel.
"Since then he has been engaged in the same business, although his present age prevents his engaging as actively in it as formerly. His pet theme is the lessening of the smoke which curls from the chimneys of the city factories.
"Although the brother and sisters have not seen each other for twenty-five years, they correspond regularly. All are well preserved and active, considering their great age and bid fair to live many more years."
To Mr. and Mrs. Neal have been born three children, two of whom are living, viz: Philander Rexford, traveling salesman for the S.F. Baker Medicine Company, of Keokuk, Iowa, and who was formerly a farmer of Lyon township, where he still owns land. He is a very successful salesman and collector. Some ten years ago he was married to Miss Addie Jones, a Glasco girl. They have one child, Paul Rexford, a bright little boy of nine years. Clara, wife of Price Baker, of Glasco, salesman for the Champion Machine Company. They have three daughters, Lois N., Lottie May, and Margaret Maud. Mr. and Mrs. Neal lost a daughter, Olive E., a promising young lady of seventeen years, who died December 3, 1891. She was a graduate of the Glasco schools, and died of spinal meningitis, brought on by overstudy.
Mr. Neal is a Republican and cast his first vote for Salmon P. Chase for governor of Ohio. It was not his fault that he did not serve in the late war as he was examined and rejected three times. Mr. Neal was the first trustee and assisted in laying out the first roads in Lyon township. Mr. and Mrs. Neal are members of the Methodist Episcopal church.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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