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Fayette County, Iowa
Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910
Author: G. Blessin
B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
Vol. I, Biographical Sketches
CHARLES GILBERT NEFF
Of the firm of Neff Brothers, proprietors of the West Union Electric Light and Power Plant, Charles G. Neff, one of Fayette county’s native sons, was born at the town of Auburn on March 26, 1859. His father was Abner G.M. Neff, whose birth occurred at Connellsville, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, October 13, 1829, and his mother, Anna Hobson, a native of the same place, was born October 26th of the same year in which her husband first saw the light of day. These parents were married in Connellsville, November 27, 1851, and in 1857 came to Fayette county, Iowa, where Mr. Neff worked at the shoemaker’s trade until the breaking out of the late Civil war. Then he enlisted in Company F, Ninth Iowa Infantry, with which he served until fatally wounded at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 9, 1862, dying two days later. Mrs. Neff, who is still a widow, has reached the ripe old age of eighty-one years and for some time past has lived with a married daughter in Birmingham, Alabama.
John Dewitt Neff, the oldest of the family of Abner and Anna Neff, was born January 4, 1853, at Connellsville, Pennsylvania, grew to maturity in Fayette county, Iowa, and for a number of years followed the drug business at different places. He served some time as deputy county recorder and later was elected clerk, in which position he was serving his first term when his death occurred, on the 10th day of July, 1884, at West Union, Iowa. As a local minister of the Methodist Episcopal church he took a very active part in religious work and his life measured up to a high standard of Christian manhood and citizenship. By his marriage, June 17, 1878, with Mary C. Hare, of Summerfield, Ohio, he had two children, Homer M. and Minnie H. Mary Elizabeth, the second of the family, was born at Connellsville, Pennsylvania, August 21, 1854, married, on September 24, 1877, Rev. S.P. Marsh, then of Summerfield, Ohio, now of Birmingham, Alabama, where she and her husband now reside. Homer Marsh Neff, the third in order of birth, is also a native of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, where he first saw the light of day on the 6th of March, 1856. In early life he studied architecture and civil engineering, in both of which professions he acquired great proficiency, and his studious habits led him to make investigations in various other lines of thought. He served as official surveyor of Fayette county, was city engineer of West Union for some years and held the position of county clerk for two terms, proving a very capable and courteous official. He stood high in the esteem of the public, ranked among the representative citizens of the county and will be remembered as one of the leading men of his day in the city of West Union. He died, unmarried, on the 5th day of January, 1902.
Charles Gilbert Neff, whose birth is noted in a preceding paragraph, is the fourth child of Abner G.M. and Anna (Hobson) Neff and one of the two representatives of the family now living in the county of Fayette. He was reared to manhood in West Union, received a good education in the city schools, and began life for himself as a druggist, which line of business he followed for some years with his brother, John D. Neff. While thus engaged he was located at different places, and at one time filled the responsible position of pharmacist for the Iowa Hospital for the Insane at Independence.
Severing his connection with that institution at the end of one year, he took charge of a large drug store at Rock Rapids, Iowa, but after a limited period was obliged to relinquish the business on account of ill health and return to his home in West Union. Later he was associated with the drug trade in his native city and continued the same until June, 1885, when he severed his connection to accept the position of deputy county clerk, which he held for a period of fourteen years and in which he demonstrated ability of a high order and gained the confidence of the public irrespective of party ties.
Resigning the above position in 1899, Mr. Neff, in partnership with his brother, Homer M. Neff, purchased, in October of that year, from the founder, C.F. Freehauf, the West Union Electric Light and Power Plant, the franchise for which had been issued on the 20th of March preceding for a period of twenty years, subsequently, July, 1908, renewed for ten years to C.G. and J.H. Neff, the present proprietors. After the death of Homer Neff, his brother, J.H., became the subject’s partner, the firm thus constituted continuing as before under the name of the Neff Brothers, by which it is still known.
The West Union Light and Power Company was installed at a cost of eight thousand dollars, but with additions and improvements since made it now represents a capital considerable in excess of that amount. Nothing has been spared to make it answer the purposes for which intended and the plant at this time is a model of its kind, being equipped with the latest and most approved electrical appliances and, with a capacity of something over four thousand lights, affords the city ample illumination. Under the efficient management of the present proprietors, both experienced business men and familiar with every phase of electric lighting, the establishment has become a necessity to the city and is rapidly increasing in value. In addition to the proprietors, who devote all of their attention to the plant, the services of two other men are required, all selected with reference to efficiency and skill in their respective departments.
Mr. Neff is not only a wide-awake business man of progressive ideas, but he also manifests a lively interest in everything pertaining to the growth and advancement of his city and community. As a member of the city council for thirteen consecutive years, he had much to do in promoting important municipal legislation and to him the public is indebted for many of the utilities which the city now enjoys. A Republican in politics, he wields a potent influence for his party in local and state affairs and in the various nominating conventions his opinions and counsel always carry weight and command respect. For a number of years he has been a leading member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, having passed all the chairs in the subordinate lodge and encampment, besides taking an influential part in the Rebekah lodge, to which his wife also belongs.
On November 24, 1880, Mr. Neff and Lillie A. Dorland, daughter of Cornelius A. and Mary A. Dorland, were united in marriage, the Dorlands being one of the old and well known families of West Union and for many years actively identified with the county and municipal affairs. Cornelius A. Dorland served as sheriff in an early day and was long a peace officer in West Union, his eminent fitness for the various positions with which he was honored being recognized by the public. He had a son and a daughter who grew to maturity, the former, Charles M. Dorland, having married Eva Neveler, by whom he had five children; the latter became the wife of Mr. Neff. The father died October 26, 1902, the son on May 29th, of the following year; the mother, who is still living, is making her home with the subject of this sketch. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Neff has been blessed with two children, Harry A., born September 26, 1882, is a telegraph operator and station agent at West Branch on the Rock Island & Pacific railroad; he married Ella Wickham, of Clermont, this state, and is the father of two sons, Paul and Edward Allen. Florence Marie, the second of the subject’s family, a young lady still under the parental roof, is her mother’s efficient assistant in the management of the household and a favorite in the social circle in which she moves. Mrs. Neff is well known and greatly esteemed in the city of her residence, being active in its social and religious life and a leading worker in the Methodist Episcopal church, with which she has long been identified. At present she is secretary of the Ladies Aid Society, member of the official board of the same and is also prominent in the work of the Daughters of Rebekah lodge, of West Union.
~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Doris A. Smith
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