The following is the christening record from the church at St. Ann in Santan, for John McNeil. My husband’s grandmother, Annie Francis McNeil Thompson, said her father’s middle name was Corlett, but I have yet to find a record where he uses that name or the initial C.
John’s parents were married May 22, 1820 also at St. Ann’s and John was the oldest son and the second child of his parents. John’s siblings were: Jane Eleanor McNeil 1821-before 1829, William McNeil 1825-1882 in Cleveland, Ohio; Richard McNeil 1827-after 1852 possibly in Australia; Jane McNeil Caine 1829-after 1850 probably on the Isle of Man; Harriet McNeil Kissack 1833-1916 on the Isle of Man and Ann McNeil Sayle Fayle 1838-1902 on the Isle of Man. According to family stories, John’s father Richard McKneale 1795-1861 was a master linen weaver, as was John’s grandfather, Richard McKneale 1762-1848. If you have ever heard about Irish linens and know how fine they are, and what it takes to make them, then you will know what a master linen weaver was.
I have been able to trace the McNeil/McKneale/Kneale line back to 1705 and they were still on the Isle of Man. I do not have a picture of John’s father, but I do have one of his mother Ann Corlett McKneale, 1797-1872, and it is the following.
From a life sketch that was written by either one of his children or grandchildren, there is not a name with it, we read that: “John went to school on the Isle of Man, and at a very early age became an apprentice to a shoemaker, however, he had a desire to become a sailor, and at the age of fourteen, went to sea as a cabin boy, visiting South and Central America, the West Indies, the British Isles, and other countries. He sailed the seas for eight years and at the age of twenty-two returned to the Isle of Man and took up the shoe making business, as well as giving private music lessons on the side”. John is not on the 1841 census with his parents and siblings, nor can I find him anywhere else on the island, so it is possible he was still at sea. If John was twenty-two as the story says when he returned to the Isle of Man, then that would make it around the year 1845.
I can only imagine the kind of life he led and the things he saw while sailing around the world as a young man, but can you imagine the stories he could tell his future children and grandchildren? Anyway, after coming back to the island, he soon met his future bride, Margaret Cavendish, 1827-1854, and they were married October 9, 1847 in Malew in the sheading of Rushen on the Isle of Man. The following year their only child, John Edward McNeil was born. John Edward McNeil, 1848-1915, lived in Utah, Arizona and Mexico and was a scout for General Blackjack Pershing during the Mexican Revolution. The following is a picture of John Edward McNeil.
From the life sketch I mentioned earlier we read: “John McNeil possessed a deep spiritual nature and gave much thought to religion and the salvation of his soul. It was this spiritual disposition that led to the investigation of the teachings of several churches such as, the Ranter’s, Methodists, and the Church of England, to which he belonged for some time, however he was not satisfied and did not find the comfort he sought in any of these beliefs. One day he met and conversed with a Latter Day Saint Missionary, a Mormon. He became interested at once and began investigating their doctrines, as he had the teachings of the other churches. He was thrilled with the spiritual truths that this new doctrine brought forth. When he spoke of these things to his wife, relatives and friends, he was met with sneers and ridicule. He attended the meetings where the missionaries spoke and took part in the discussions, but thought it best not to join the church until his wife could be induced to at least be tolerant toward this new religion. About this time, Margaret, who was always frail and often unable to go about her work, again became ill, and was taken once more to her mother's home. It was feared she would not recover, however, she did become well enough to return to her own home. One day the Mormon Elders came, and laid theirs hands on her head, promising that if she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and was faithful, she would never again be an invalid and bedfast. The pain left her and she was restored to health. This was a testimony of the power of God, and the efficacy of prayer, which she could not deny. She was baptized April 4, 1851 and a month later on May 6, 1851 John McNeil was baptized.” Why John joined a month later I am not sure, you would think he would have been baptized at the same time as his wife, but those are the dates that have been passed down as to his and Margaret’s dates of baptism.
The following picture of John, was supposed to have been taken when he was around 27 years old, so that puts it about 1850 to 1851 for the year. The next picture is of my father-in-law, Floyd Thompson, age 27 in 1940, and next my brother-in-law, Dan Thompson at the age of 18 in 1968. I have always thought they both looked so much like their grandfather and great-grandfather, John Corlett McNeil.
John and his family had a desire to come to America and join with the Saints in Utah and so worked towards that end. In January of 1852 they left the Isle of Man and went to Liverpool, England where they worked to get the necessary funds to take a ship to America. Finally on April 6, 1853 they left from Liverpool, England on board the ship ‘Camillus’ for America arriving in New Orleans, Louisiana in May, 1853. John worked as a cook aboard this ship, during their travels to America, to help pay for his wife and sons passage. John’s brothers, William and Richard McNeil, according to the family stories were also supposed to be on this ship, but they are not listed as passengers, so they may have been part of the crew. Can you just imagine being at sea for almost two months with a four year old little boy. My grandkids would be going bonkers, cooped up in a tiny place with nowhere to run around. The following is the ship passenger list showing John, Margaret and John Jr. You will notice they are using the spelling of McKneale here, but pretty much by the time they were in Utah, it was McNeil, which the family in America has carried on to this day.
I could not find a picture of the Camillus, but I did find a picture of what a typical packet ship would have looked like that would have brought emigrants from England to America in the 1850’s at this link: http://richardnelson.org/Parent-Frost%20Website/JournalofForsgrenCompanyMaster1.htm
The family left a short time after their arrival in New Orleans and went up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri arriving there in June of 1853. While living here in St. Louis, John’s wife Margaret took sick and died on June 27, 1854. I am not sure what the cause was or if it had something to do with the illness that she had suffered from while she lived on the Isle of Man. I do know that there was a lot of malarial fever and cholera around St. Louis during this time period, so that may have been part of the problem. John and his son John Jr. continued on without their wife and mother, until John met a young woman who had come from England with her family in 1849, they had also joined the church and wanted to go to the Salt Lake Valley. On December 14, 1854 in St. Louis, John married Mary Jane Quinn 1840-1910 and yes she was just 14 almost 15 years old. John and Mary Jane became the parents of eleven children with the first three being born while they still lived in St. Louis. The three born in St. Louis and their names were: Thomas McNeil 1855-1913, William Richard McNeil 1856-1933 and Mary Jane McNeil Kirkham 1858-1892.
John and his family lived there in St. Louis and worked to earn the money needed to outfit themselves to continue their travels on to the Salt Lake Valley. It took until April 1, 1859 before they were finally able to leave for Utah from St. Louis. By the time they arrived at the outfitting post in Council Bluffs, Iowa the wagon company they were to travel with had already left for the Salt Lake Valley. John did not want to wait another year to join the Saints in Utah, so they loaded up their wagon and journeyed across the plains all by themselves. From what I have always heard and from what I have been able to find so far, this is the only known crossing by a single emigrant family.
One of the stories told in the family about this journey is the following. Somewhere in Nebraska or maybe in Wyoming a large group of Indians came charging up over a rise and completely circled the wagon. John on seeing them coming, said to his wife Mary Jane, “Do not act afraid and be very quiet”. The Indians circled and scream war cries at the terrified wife and children and then one of the Indians came right up to the wagon and ask them where the rest of their company was. John apparently unafraid or a very good actor told the Indian they were traveling by themselves. The Indian rode off and then they started circling and screaming war cries again, John set on the wagon seat and remained calm, but whispered back to Mary to get the large wooden bowl and fill it with the sea biscuits he had in his trunk. John’s trunk he had used while a cabin boy was completely filled with sea biscuits, which Mary had thought was a waste of time to bring with them since she apparently did not like them. There were so many Indians, so the story goes that the huge bowl of sea biscuits was passed around until the trunk was empty. The same Indian rode back up to John after the last bowlful was passed around and said, “Crazy white man”, and then they all rode off as quickly as they had come up. I am sure there are other stories that could be told about this trip, I know they were stuck in sand, almost washed away in the Platte River and I am sure there were others, but for now it is time to go on to something else.
John and his family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in August of 1859, first living in the area now known as Woods Cross and then eventually in the area known now as Bountiful. John’s rock home in Bountiful is on the Utah Historical Homes register and the following are a couple of pictures we took of it last year in 2014. The time before that we had stopped by, there was a man outside that we talked to and he was a descendant of John McNeil and Mary Jane Quinn and he said there had always been a McNeil/Quinn living in this home since the day it had been built. We saw no one around this time, but I am assuming there is still a McNeil descendant still living there today.
The rest of John McNeil and Mary Jane Quinn’s eleven children were born there in Bountiful, Davis County, Utah and their names were the following: Robert Corlett McNeil 1860-1916, Joseph Henry McNeil 1862-1921, George Quinn McNeil 1865-1943, Charles Hyrum McNeil 1867-1934, Margaret Jane McNeil Schmidt 1869-1937, Elizabeth Ann McNeil Fuller 1872-1961, David McNeil 1875-1912, and Harriet Jeannette McNeil Bradshaw 1877-1962. The following is a picture of Mary Jane Quinn McNeil taken in Bountiful, but I am not sure what year and one of John McNeil taken in about 1874, so that could be about when Mary Jane’s was taken as well.
On September 12, 1868 at the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, John took as his plural wife, Mary Ann Smith 1853-1944 and yes she was also 15 when she married, who was from England and had come with her parents to Utah in 1862. Mary Ann had been living with her parents in Porterville, Morgan County, Utah and after her marriage to John he brought her to live with his wife Mary Jane and her children. Mary Jane wasn’t really thrilled with John taking a second wife and so John built a dugout in the hill behind their home where Mary Ann lived and raised her children. John now had two wives and eight children and before long there would be even more children added to his family. The following picture was taken after the funeral of Mary Jane Quinn McNeil in Bountiful, Utah in 1910 and is supposed to be of all of her surviving children and a picture of her daughter who had died in 1892, which would have been eleven children all together. However, there are twelve people in this picture, so there are two of them that I am not sure of, possibly Mary Ann’s children. If anyone sees this picture and knows who everyone is in it, I would love to find that information out. John and Mary Jane are the little circles that someone added into the picture.
Mary Ann soon added to John’s children when the following children were born in Bountiful and they were: Sarah Alice McNeil Mills 1870-1958, Daniel McNeil 1873-1948, Ephraim Smith McNeil 1874-1962, Lillias McNeil Dalton 1876-1961 and Hannah McNeil Goodman 1878-1960. In 1878 John was called to go and settled in Arizona and so he planned on taking his wife Mary Jane and her children since they were older, but Mary Jane refused to go. So John took his five young children and Mary Ann who was pregnant with their sixth child and headed to Arizona in the summer of 1879. John and Mary Ann’s son, Angus Smith McNeil, was born July 6, 1879 and died August 8, 1879 in Kanab, Kane County, Utah and was buried there in Kanab in one of Jacob Hamblin’s plots.
Soon after Angus died the family continued on to Arizona, going over the backbone and crossing at Lee’s Ferry and settled in Walker in Apache County, Arizona where they were living when the 1880 census was taken. By December of 1880 they had moved over into Showlow, Navajo County, Arizona where the rest of John and Mary Ann’s fourteen children were born. The rest of the children were the following: Benjamin McNeil 1880-1956, Althera McNeil Peterson Evans 1883-1912, James Hibbert McNeil 1885-1886, Jesse Smith McNeil 1887-1955, Annie Frances McNeil Thompson 1890-1989 (my husband, Roy’s grandmother), Willie Smith McNeil 1892-1892, Frederick McNeil 1893-1921 and Don Carlos McNeil 1896-1966.
Things were hard for the family there in Arizona and there were Indian problems here too, even though the Apache were starting to be put on reservations, they were still wreaking havoc here and there. John continued his trade as a shoemaker, but also was well known for his doctoring abilities and was often called upon by the white’s as well as the Mexican’s and Indians to come and doctor anyone from broken bones to regular every day colds, that back in those days could be fatal if not taken care of quickly. They also raised and sheared sheep, as well as farmed to make a living and to feed his ever growing family. John was known up in Utah as well as in Arizona and Mexico for his musical abilities too and was leading the music or helping make musical productions to entertain those in the areas where he lived. I believe the following picture of John and Mary Ann may have been taken in Arizona before they went to Mexico, but I am not sure on the date of it. We have an original of this picture hanging in our living room in an old oval frame.
John had gone back up to Utah, quite a few times to visit his wife and children there, but would always come back to Arizona as soon as he could. In 1896 when John was 73 years old, his last child was born and soon after John was called to go and settle down in the Mormon Colonies in Old Mexico. Again with Mary Ann and most of their children in tow, they packed up their belongings and headed towards Mexico and a new life down there. The older boys herded the sheep which numbered over 100, John drove a wagon with their goods and John’s oldest son by his first wife, John Edward McNeil, who had already moved to Mexico with his wife and children, had come up to help his father and he drove another wagon with the family possessions. Mary Ann, my husband’s great-grandmother, kept a journal of their travels to Mexico and their time there, and it is a wonder any of them survived. Food was scarce, Indians would run off the sheep and steal anything that wasn’t tied down and they were always hungry she said many times throughout her journal.
The following picture I have always loved, is one of my husband’s grandmother, Annie Frances McNeil Thompson, standing, with her mother Mary Ann Smith McNeil who is setting. I am not sure on the date of this one but I believe it could have been around the time of John’s death in 1909.
The family settled in Colonia Morelos in Sonora, Mexico. John continued his doctoring, raising sheep and farming to support his family. John’s health had been failing and he could not do too much and so had to rely on his wife Mary Ann and his children, John suffered a stroke and on August 20, 1909 he passed away at the age of 86 and was buried there in Colonia Morelos the following day. Shortly after Mary Ann and some of her children moved up into Douglas, Arizona where she worked at all kinds of jobs to support herself and her family. By 1920 Mary Ann and some of her children, moved back up to Showlow where she lived out the remainder of her days, dying there in 1944 at the age of 91 years. The following pictures were taken at her funeral, of her surviving sons and daughters.
There are so many more stories that could be told about John and his family and I have lots of old pictures of this family as well, but I am already running behind getting this story out for the week that I need to bring things to a close.
John Corlett McNeil, cabin boy, shoemaker, doctor, musical director and husband to three wives and 26 children and too many grandchildren to count, without missing someone. His daughter Annie Frances had 8 children and 39 grandchildren, if I counted correctly, so you can just imagine how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren there were all together for John.
John was a stalwart in the new faith he had chosen to the very end and went where he was called to go without hesitation, may we as his descendants show just as much faith and perseverance.