Henry County >> 1906 Index

Biographical Review of Henry County, Iowa
Chicago: Hobart Publishing Company, 1906.

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Biographies submitted by Polly Eckles.

George W. Neff

It is always of interest to examine into the history of a self-made man and note the methods that he has followed and the business principles that he has practiced in carrying on his life work and winning thereby the success which all men seek. Mr. Neff, starting out for himself at a very early age, has become one of the prosperous residents of Henry county, where for many years he carried on farming, while at the present time he is living retired in Wayland in the enjoyment of well earned ease. He is a native of Ohio, his birth having occurred in Tuscarawas county on the 10th of July, 1855. His father, Jacob Neff, was born in Pennsylvania and married Christina Johnson, a native of Scotland. In their family were four sons and four daughters and the parents died when George W. Neff was but two years of age. The children then went to live in different homes in the neighborhood, and George W. Neff was taken by Jacob D. Yoder with whom he lived until seventeen years of age, when he left Ohio and came to Henry county, Iowa, where he worked for Mr. Yoder's son, Philip, who was extensively engaged in sheep raising.

Mr. Neff took charge of the ranch, which he managed for two and a half years, and later he worked for James Laird on a large farm for eight months. Desiring, however, that his labors should be of more direct benefit to himself, he rented a farm from Philip Yoder and operated it for a year in connection with one of his brothers. At the end of that time he took charge of the stock ranch owned by Daniel Turney, one of the prominent stockmen of eastern Iowa. The place was located near Trenton, and he remained in charge for thirteen months.

It was about that time Mr. Neff was married, winning as a companion and helpmate for life's journey Miss Mattie Sommers, whom he wedded on the 28th of December, 1870. She was born in Holmes county, Ohio, and is a daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (Miller) Sommers, he, a native of Pennsylvania and she, a native of Ohio. After their marriage Mr. Neff rented a portion of the last farm on which he had worked, remaining thereon a year, after which he again operated a leased farm for a year. Subsequently he purchased forty-five acres of land in Washington county, Iowa, which was covered with brush. This he cleared and cultivated, improving it and adding to it until the place comprised one hundred acres, upon which he resided for thirteen years.

In 1886 he traded that property for one hundred acres of land adjoining Wayland on the north and there he built a residence and barn and otherwise improved the property. His attention was devoted to general agricultural pursuits there for about sixteen years, when he sold all of the farm with the exception of about three acres. He thus keeps two town lots and upon the place he has a fine modern residence, containing twelve rooms heated with furnace and supplied with water. It is one of the most attractive and best equipped residences of Wayland and in the home Mr. Neff is now enjoying the comforts and luxuries of life, which have been secured to him through his own well directed labor. Upon this place he also has a large barn thirty by forty feet. There is a well kept lawn surrounding his home, which is tastefully furnished and which is the center of a cultured society circle. In addition to his other property Mr. Neff owns a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Marion township, Washington county, which he keeps well stocked with cattle, horses and hogs, this being operated by two of his sons, Miles and Gola.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Neff have been born ten children: Elizabeth, the wife of Charles Lute, a resident of Jefferson township; Miles P., residing in Wayland; Joseph, who died at the age of two years; Arnold, who was killed by a horse when nine years of age; Maud, the wife of William Barnet, a druggist, of Wayland; Fred, Gola H., Randolph, Lydia, and Martha, all at home. The parents are members of the Mennonite church, and Mr. Neff gives his political support to the republican party, but has never sought or desired office as a reward for party fealty. His life has indeed been a busy one, for from an early age he has earned his own living, often through hard and self-denying labor. As the years have gone by, however, he has prospered and, having acquired a handsome competence, he is now enabled to live retired.