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John Neil

Ireland has not been the least of the European countries to give us citizens of fine characteristics. A large class of these men who have found on the other side of the Atlantic a restriction of their ambitious hopes and desires have immigrated to the west and in a measure have realized the fulfillment of their lifeís pan. One of these was the late John Neil, who at the time of his death, November 18, 1880, was a resident of Petaluma township.

Mr. Neil was born in County Donegal, Ireland, in the year 1805, the son of parents who were also natives of the Emerald Isle, though of Scotch and English descent. Mr. Neilís early years were passed in Scotland, where the family removed when he was four years of age, and in Glasgow he found opportunity to develop an inborn taste for mechanics. While a worker in iron and brass in that city he also gave vent to his inventive ability by bringing forward the first corrugated iron plate, and he was also the inventor of the screw type of ocean propeller. Another product of his brain and hand was a tin boat four feet wide and twelve feet long, which was a model of strength and lightness. After coming to California, which he did in 1850, he still continued his activities in the line in which he was so keenly interested, planning and building a tin boat similar to the one which he had made on the other side of the water, and in this he sailed on the Petaluma river.

In Glasgow, Scotland, John Neil was united in marriage with Miss Catherine Moopy, who was born in the lowlands of Scotland. Six children were born of this marriage, as follows: Francis, John, Washington, Henry, Sarah and Elizabeth. Washington chose as his wife Julia Mack, and they became the parents of nine children, John, Frank, Daniel, Charles, Walter, Alfred, Washington, Sonoma and Sadie. Sarah became the wife of John Bloom, a shipcalker, and two of the children born to them are living, Louisa and Elizabeth. The next daughter, Elizabeth, became the wife of William Gardner and the mother of four children. Some time after the death of his first wife Mr. Neil was married, in Liverpool, England, to Miss Harriet Snape, who was born in that city. Six children were born of this marriage, but of the number only three are now living, Walter W., Harriet W., and Margaret A.

After coming to Sonoma county Mr. Neil purchased land from time to time, owning at the time of his death seven hundred and ninety-two acres. The property is now being maintained by his son Walter W. and two daughters, who have a well-kept dairy of twenty-five cows, one hundred hogs of the Berkshire, Essex and Durock breed, and four horses. The ranch is known as Neilís Island. It lies five miles below Petaluma and is studded with oak trees which the owners carefully preserve. In the early days the father had a sloop, Mary Ann, in which he made trips to San Francisco every two weeks with wood and produce. Mr. Neil attained the age of seventy-five years, and had lived in Sonoma county since March 3, 1853. The wife and mother died in 1867. Walter W. Neil is a Republican in his political views.

Source:
History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011