IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

"Our Friends on the Acres"
Mr. & Mrs. Ed McNeil

Another well-known farmer, who has lived on the same farm in this vicinity for over 50 years, is Ed McNeil. He was born March 24, 1881, in a log house on the McNeil property, about five miles south of Postville, and only two weeks ago celebrated his 59th birthday. By living 59 years on the same farm, Mr. McNeil ranks high in the "half-a-century" club, as only a few other residents in the Postville vicinity can better his record.

His father, Daniel McNeil, was born in Ireland, where he spent the early years of his youth. When Daniel was 24 years old, he decided to emigrate to the United States. He left Liverpool on a Palm Sunday and after a slow voyage arrived in this country. For two years he worked as a dry goods salesman in the south, then he came north to visit the John McKinley family. The McKinleys were living on what is today the McNeil propterty. Their parents were still living in Ireland and Mr. McNeil had an enjoyable time talking with the McKinleys about his native land.

In those days wheat was one of the main crops and when Mr. McNeil saw the wheat fields he thought he had come to the garden spot of America. He realized the greater possibilities of northern Iowa, so he purchased the McKinley property in 1872, paying $25 an acre for 160 acres. But he waited another year before settling on his new land. He rented the farm and returned to the south to work one more year selling dry goods.

With his wife he returned the following season and took possession of his new farm, which is today one of the largest farms in this vicinity. They became the parents of seven children: Ed McNeil, the subject of this sketch, and his twin brother, Dan McNeil, Jr., who is now located north of Luana, Elizabeth (Mrs. M.R. Hurley) or Elkader and Mae McNeil of Postville. Three children passed away.

When Ed McNeil was two years old his mother died. His father was married again and two sons and a daughter blessed their union: Rose McNeil of Postville and Dr. James McNeil of Chicago, Ill. The other son, George McNeil, passed away. The McNeils lived for several years in the old log house, then in 1883 a new home was built. Other farm buildings were erected on the large farm property, and the fertile soil produced fine crops under their careful management and hard work.

Ed McNeil and his brothers and sisters attended McKinley school, located just across the road to the west of the farm. "One of our teachers in those early days was Michael L. McKinley," Mr. McNeil stated. "He is judge of the supreme court in Chicago, Ill., today, so you can easily imagine he was an able educator. In addition to being a good teacher, he believed in discipline and many a time I received a good licking. A couple of years ago he retuned to Iowa to give a speech at Clermont's homecoming celebration. When I heard he was scheduled to talk, I decided to attend. When the day came, I went to Clermont and we had quite a visit. I told him that when I was a kid going to school, I told my mother one time that when I grew up I was going to give him a licking. He just laughed, and told me he didn't think I could do it."

In 1902 Mr. McNeil's father and step-mother moved to Postville to live the remaining years of their lives. Mr. McNeil passed away last fall at the age of 94. Mrs. McNeil passed away the year previous. An interesting story was related by Ed. McNeil about his father: "Before my grandfather passed away, he made Dad promise to find his brother, Hugh, who had disappeared in the west. Although Hugh had been gone about 35 years, Dad started out looking for him. He searched three months, finally locating him on a farm near Helena, Montana."

In 1935, when Ed McNeil purchased the property, it consisted of 320 acres. To the original 160 acres, another 160 had been added; 40 acres of land from the Laughlin farm on the east of the McNeil property; 106 acres across the road to the west from Peter Dempsey, and 14 acres of timber, a mile east of the main farm, from the McKinley estate.

On June 17, 1908, Ed McNeil and Christina Steele were married. To their union were born five children: Margaret, who passed away at the age of 17 months, Mary (Mrs. Ed. Finley) of near Volga City, Dan and Joe at home, and Bea McNeil, who now teaches at McKinley school. Mrs. McNeil passed away in 1919, and on November 4, 1924, Mr. McNeil was married to Eleanor McDonald. They became the parents of two children, Jack and Marjorie, both living at home.

As the years have gone by, Mr. McNeil has modernized his farm, making building improvements and keeping the buildings in good repair. About 20 years ago he tore down the log house in which he was born and in its place constructed a granary. The barn on the place is a large one, measuring 145 feet in length and 60 feet in width. Mr. McNeil has about 10 to 12 horses, 100 head of cattle, 200 pigs during the summer and 200 white Leghorn chickens. With his sons, Dan and Joe, they do the farm work, and they do a good job of it as it is easily evident.

Mr. McNeil is prominent in affairs of the community, being president of the Grand Meadow township schools, director of the McKinley school and a farm bureau director of Grand Meadow township.

~Postville Herald, April 10, 1940


'Our Friends on the Acres' index