Anna Maria (Younkin) McNeil was born on Sept. 7, 1832 in Somerset County, PA, the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth "Betsy" (Weimer) Younkin.
On March 30, 1858, at the age of 25, she was united in holy matrimony with 32-year-old Neal McNeill (1826-1900). Neal was the son of Irish immigrant Laughlin McNeill and his Somerset County-born wife Sarah "Sally" McClintock of Lower Turkeyfoot Township.
The Younkin and McNeill families were close. Anna Maria's niece Louisa Younkin -- of the family of David Younkin -- wed Neal's brother Edwin and were pioneer settlers of Iowa, and Anna Maria's Younkin cousin Frederick Dumbauld -- son of Elizabeth (Dull) Dumbauld -- married Edwin's sister Jane and migrated to Kansas.
Just two months into newlywed life, Neil migrated westward to Iowa about the first of June 1858 and settled near the town of Onawa, Monona County, not far from the Missouri River and the Nebraska border. Upon arrival, he settled on land in the southwest quarter of Section 16 in Franklin Township. While he had made the high bid for purchase of 160, he only received 154.15 acres, and the House of the General Assembly of Iowa instructed the governor to issue him additional land to complete his acquisition.
There, he constructed the first brick residence in the county. He became one of the largest landowners and "most extensive farmers" in the county.
Anna Maria apparently remained behind in Somerset County where, in 1859, she gave birth to their eldest daughter Harriet. As soon as could be arranged, mother and daughter traveled to Iowa to reunite their young family and make their home for good.
Their seven known children were Harriet McNeill, Emily Jane McNeill, Henry Laughlin McNeill, Mary McNeill, Levi McNeill, John Knable McNeill and Sarah Elizabeth Heath.
The early days of the settlement were exceptionally difficult. The McNeil farm was among many in the locality to be damaged in a fierce hail and wind storm that swept across the county on July 27, 1872, an event chronicled in the book History of Monona County, Iowa.
In 1875, he was defeated in his bid for election as county sheriff, losing to James Walker 627 votes to 325. Three years later, in 1878, the General Assembly of the State of Iowa granted Neal a patent of 154.15 acres of land in the southwest quarter of Section 16, Township 83, Range 45 in Franklin Township, Monona County. Under Neal's management, the farm grew to the point where he was referred to as "one of the largest landowners and most extensive farmers of the county," said the History. "On his place he put up [in 1859] the first brick residence in the county."
The federal census for 1880 shows the McNeills residing on a farm in Franklin Township, with Neal's 25-year-old cousin "C. McClintock" boarding under their roof and providing farm labor.
Neal was involved in an especially sensitive family matter regarding a niece, Etta Belle McNeill, allegedly born out-of-wedlock to his brother Edwin. At one point, the girl resided with Neal and Anna Maria about four or five miles from Edwin's home. Etta later sued Edwin's widow for a rightful inheritance. During the legal proceeding, she gave testimony of how "Uncle Neal" had gone out of his way to support her:
After I left Monona county, my Uncle Neal came to see me every year until I was 21 years old. He came to see me when I was at Canton [South Dakota], and I don't remember that he ever missed a year. I know I looked forward to his visits. He came just once each year, and had no business with me or my mother that would bring him there only just to visit us. He always stayed over night, and on these visits he gave me money. He would give me $5 and $10, and brought me presents and things. I remember only once that he talked about his brother Edwin, and then he told me who my father was; he told me my father's name was Edwin McNeill. At that time I might have been between six and seven years old.
When the History of Monona County was prepared for publication in 1890, Neal signed a statement that he had reviewed the manuscript and made additions and/or corrections that in his judgment were deemed necessary. He received a short profile in the resulting book, produced in Chicago by the National Publishing Company.
Anna Maria succumbed in Onawa on March 31, 1894 at the age of 61.
Neal survived his wife by six years.
By 1900, three of his adult children remained in the household -- 41-year-old Hattie, 35-year-old Mary and 33-year-old Levi. That year, farm laborer William H. Donkin lived in their home and helped with farmwork.
Neal died on Nov. 9, 1900.
~ Daughter Harriet "Hattie" McNeill ~
Daughter Harriet "Hattie" McNeill (1859-1940) was born on Dec. 6, 1859 in Somerset County, PA. She may never have married.
When she was age 21, in 1880, she lived at home with her parents and was employed as a school teacher.
By 1900, with her mother having recently died, 41-year-old Hattie lived at home with her father, sister Mary and brother Levi and was a housekeeper.
She died at age 80 on Jan. 31, 1940.
~ Daughter Emily Jane (McNeill) Oliver ~
Daughter Emily Jane McNeill (1860-1911) was born on Oct. 30, 1860. In 1880, at age 19, she was a school teacher in or around Franklin Township, Monona County.
On Oct. 17, 1883, the 23-year-old Emily was wedded to Calvin Elijah Oliver ( ? - ? ), the son of Addison and Hannah (Town) Oliver. Their nuptials were celebrated in Onawa.
Emily Jane passed away on Dec. 10, 1911 at the age of 51.
~ Son Henry Laughlin "Lock" McNeill ~
Son Henry Laughlin "Lock" McNeill (1862-1937) was born on Sept. 20, 1862 and named for both of his grandfathers.
At the age of 21, on Jan. 24, 1884, Henry married 20-year-old May Heath (1863- ? ). She was the daughter of R.C. and Margarette (Allend) Heath of Laporte, IN. The nuptials took place in Onawa.
He died the day after Christmas 1937.
~ Daughter Mary McNeill ~
Daughter Mary McNeill (1864-1950) was born on Jan. 25, 1864. She is thought to not have married.
When she was age 35, she lived at home with her recently widowed father and an adult sister and brother. Their residence was in Franklin Township, Monona County.
She died at the age of 86 on Aug. 14, 1950.
~ Son Levi McNeill ~
Son Levi McNeill (1866-1944) was born on June 5, 1866.
When Levi was age 33, in 1900, he worked on his father's farm but was not married.
He died at the age of 78 on Aug. 3, 1944.
~ Son John Knable McNeill ~
Son John Knable McNeill (1867-1916) was born on Nov. 18, 1867 and named for a prominent uncle by marriage.
On March 2, 1895, when he was 27 years of age, John was united in wedlock with 21-year-old Emma Stucker (1874- ? ). She was the daughter of Elridge W. and Melinda (Wolf) Stucker of Freemont County, IA. The ceremony was held in Onawa.
He succumbed on July 26, 1916 at the age of 48.
~ Daughter Sarah Elizabeth "Lizzie" (McNeill) Heath ~
Daughter Sarah Elizabeth "Lizzie" McNeill (1869-1955) was born on Feb. 20, 1869.
Elizabeth waited until she was age 30 to get married. On Nov. 28, 1899, she was wedded to Rudolphus Cutler Heath Jr. ( ? - ? ).
Elizabeth died at the age of 86 on March 25, 1955.