HISTORY OF HOLMES COUNTY -- The First Settlers of Holmes County --- John Neel (1848 - 1921)

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(From the book "Heart and History of Holmes County" by Anna Paget Wells (used by permission of the publisher, Sue Cronkite))  This book is chock full of pictures and what has been used within this web site is only a small about of the book.  It can still be ordered from Sue Cronkite or from the Holmes County Advertiser, 112 E Virginia Avenue, Bonifay FL 32425; phone 850-547-2270; fax 850-547-9200

John Neel, born Aug 5, 1848, was the son of David Neel, born in 1823, in Alabama, and Margaret Morrison Neel, born 1815, in South Carolina.  He was the grandson of John Morrison, born in Scotland about 1760, and was probably named for him.  (John Morrison was also the writer, Anna Padgett's great-great-grandfather.)

In the History of Florida is listed "some leading citizens of Holmes County in 1885" and "some leaders Holmes County contributed to the state."  John Neel's name was first on both lists.  He was delegate to the Constitution Convention of 1885, State Senator, and member of the first State Tax Commission ever appointed.

In addition to his contribution to state leadership, he played an important role in his community.  He was the first postmaster of the Westville Post Office, the L&N Railway station agent, a prosperous merchant, a landowner, a hotel operator, and last but not least, a school teacher.

John Neel married Mozelle Andrews, a daughter to John Andrews, a granddaughter to pioneer Thomas Andrews, and a sister to Sen Charles O Andrews.

John and Mozelle were the parents of the following:

    Belle Neel, married to Madison Brigman;

    Peggy Neel, married to Fred Bullock;

    Mae Neel, married to Morgan Miller;

    Jean Neel, a school teacher and later a state employee, never married;

    Ray Neel, married to Addie Mathis;

    Clyde Neel, accidentally killed in his youth while he and his brother Ray were playing with a loaded pistol.

The John Neel home, built in 1882 of hand-planed and grooved lumber and held together in some places with wooden pegs, stands proudly after a hundred years of use as a Westville landmark in 1982.  (Webmaster's note:  As of 19 November 2000, it is still standing and in excellent condition!)

It was said that John Neel strongly resembled Gov Sidney J Catts, although they were bitter enemies.  His opposition to Catts was well known in the community and results in a humorous election night trick.  Some Catts supporters, supposedly, left a sack filled with 15 cats in John Neel's yard after they learned of the Catts victory.

Ray Neel followed in his father's footsteps and served as state senator for several years.

(This is a picture of John Neel's home.  (Photograph courtesy of the Florida State Archives Photographic Collection))

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This page was last updated on:  17 June 2002 , 08:42 PM