Among those best known to and among the early settlers of Jacksonville, and long time prominent, was Jonathan Neely. He came here in 1834. For many years it was easy to guess that, if Col. James Dunlap was in any public business, Jonathan Neely would not be far away. As he was a tall man, of large frame - without fleshiness - it was not hard to see him.
Mr. Neely died June 21, 1884.
Mr. Neely had his birth in Huntington county, where he was born July 1, 1811, consequently being 73 years of age at the time of his death.
The Journal said of him then: "He was public spirited in every sense of the word and when any enterprise which was for the public good was started Mr. Neely was always among the first to give it his hearty support."
Mr. Neely was long a member of the Central Presbyterian church, supposably coming into it from the "Old School" Presbyterian church, by which name the Central was known before 1870.
Mr. Neely married Miss Cooldridge of Kentucky, a sister of Mrs. William Branson, mother of Hon. N. W. Branson, a prominent citizen of Petersburg.
The Neely's were parents of several children, but one of whom grew to maturity, Miss Letchie. She was a fine young lady, a graduate of the Young Ladies' Athenaeum. She died at about twenty-five years of age.
Mrs. Neely came here about 1840, and died April 3, 1895; being about seventy-five years of age. She and the Bransons were members of the Central Presbyterian Church. Both were ladies of high character and dignity.
It is hard to say how many enterprises Mr. Neely had to do with, here. Among the earliest was as a sub-contractor under Dunlap and January (T.T.) On the first railroad of the state, the "Northern Cross". He acted as the first conductor on that line, the present extension of which is known as the Wabash Railway system. It was the first railroad, north of the Ohio and West of Pennsylvania. It was opened from Meredosia to Jacksonville in 1839.
Mr. Neely was in the flour milling business, at the Morgan Mills, in 1845 with Dunlap and Holland, and in 1853 in the Planing mill of Massey, King, Neely and Co., just north of the Wabash on Sandy street, along about 1857 to 1860.
He was a deputy sheriff, sheriff in 1850, town trustee, and alderman three times; once in the council of which his brother-in-law, Mr. Branson was mayor.
In 1857 the Neely's lived on West State street, in the "Ellis house" (Chas. McDonald's), and last in the house, opposite the Dunlap House, now occupied by Mrs. Byron Gailey. He owned for a while, but did not occupy, the house at 846 West State street, which he sold to William S. Hook, who was succeeded by Miss Fannie Hook, who sold to Mr. H. B. Rankin, who sold to Mr. W. R. Huckeby, the present owner.
Mr. Neely was a Republican, and was employed in the South, about the time Vicksburg was occupied by the Union troops. This was along with Col. Dunlap, Quarter Master of the 13th Army Corps, it is likely.
Mr. Neely was a pleasant, unostentatious friend, with eyes which could flash when he was aroused in a good cause. And he could stand by his views.