THOMPSON WARE MCNEELY was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, October 5, 1835. His father, Robert T. McNeely, and his mother, Ann Maria (Ware) McNeely, were natives of Kentucky but were married in Jacksonville, Illinois, September 11, 1834. The mother died in Jacksonville, July 25, 1839, and our subject then came to live with relatives in Menard county, where he has resided ever since. His father came to Petersburg in 1842 and engaged in mercantile business, residing there until his death December 17, 1886.
After coming to Menard county, Mr. McNeely spent a number of years on a farm and then entered his father's store as a clerk. After one year at Jubilee College near Peoria, Illinois, he entered Lombard University at Galesburg in 1852, from which he was graduated in June, 1856, with the degree of A. B., and the same college conferred upon him the degree of A. M. in 1859. Mr. McNeely began the study of law in July, 1856, and in the following October he went south and taught school in a private family on a plantation near Woodville, Mississippi, for some months, studying law at the same time. Returning to Petersburg he was admitted to the bar in August, 1857, where he has since then been in the active practice of law. In November, 1858, he entered the law department of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, from which he was graduated in the following March with the degree of LL. B.
In November, 1861, Mr. McNeely was elected as a delegate to the constitutional convention of Illinois from Menard and Cass counties, in which body he served as a member. In 1868 he was elected on the Democratic ticket as a member of congress from the ninth congressional district of Illinois, composed of the counties of Menard, Cass, Mason, Fulton, McDonough, Schuyler, Brown and Pike, and was re-elected from the same district in 1870, serving from March 4, 1869, to March 4, 1873. He was appointed by the Democratic state convention of Illinois and served as a delegate to the Democratic national convention which was held in Baltimore in 1872. In 1878-9 he served as chairman of the state Democratic central committee of Illinois. In 1892 he was elected and served as one of the presidential electors for Illinois, voting for Mr. Cleveland. In 1896 he was again nominated as a presidential elector by the Democratic state convention but was defeated as were all others on the ticket. He has always supported and voted the Democratic ticket, taking as active interest in every campaign.
On November 27, 1872, Mr. McNeely was married to Miss M. H. Dirickson, daughter of Colonel L. L. Dirickson, of Berlin, Maryland. They have one child, Bettie, the wife of Nelson H. Greene, of Tallula, Illinois. In religion Mr. McNeely is an Episcopalian and is an officer in the local church. He is a Mason and has served as master of his lodge; high priest of his chapter; and eminent commander of his commandery. He is a Scottish Rite Mason, and has received the thirty-second degree of that Masonic order. He is also a Knight of Pythias, a Modern Woodman and an Elk.