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William H. Neece

NEECE, William H. — The oldest practicing member of the Macomb bar in point of service and years, William H. Neece, for almost half a century, or since his arrival in 1858, has been a channel through which the law has flowed untainted by any personal feeling and unruffled by any outside influence. Perhaps this tribute to his sincerity and general fitness is the highest that could be paid to this frontiersman, educator, miner, politician and former Congressman. Mr. Neece is a product of the wilds of Illinois, his birth occurring February 26, 1831, in what then was a part of Sangamon, but now Logan County, Ill. His surroundings were those of a rude log cabin, occupied first by his parents, Jesse and Mary D. (Deadman) Neece, who, after arriving in the State in 1830, on April 2, 1831, located two miles south of Colchester, McDonough County, where the mother died in 1837. She was a native of Virginia and her husband of Kentucky. The elder Neece, a man of versatile gifts, was occupied successively with tailoring, medicine and farming, married for his second wife Maria Harding, at present the oldest living inhabitant of McDonough County, and who, March 21, 1906, passed her one hundredth mile-post. Mr. Neece, Sr., died in December, 1869. He was a Democrat in politics, and though not a member of any church, was a high-minded, Christian gentleman.

In his youth William H. Neece attended first a school taught in a round log house, which was later changed to a house of hewn logs. He also was a pupil of D. S. Hampton, who conducted a private school in the village of Macomb. At the age of twenty-one he achieved independence as an employe in a packing house along the Illinois River, also helped to build the old-fashioned keel-boats and to break the prairie sod with ox-teams. For a time he taught school in Walnut Grove Township and Colchester, and in 1853, stirred by the reports of fabulous wealth on the Pacific Coast, undertook the tedious and dangerous journey across the plains with ox-teams. At the end of six months he arrived in the city of Portland, Ore., and there took steamer to San Francisco, going at once to the mines, where he alternated cooking in a restaurant with wielding his pick for gold ore. Returning to McDonough County in June, 1855, he became interested in the land business, and as agent for Baker & Company traveled throughout the South buying up valuable tracts of land.

For a year and a half Mr. Neece studied law in the office of John S. Bailey, and upon being admitted to the bar in 1858, located in Macomb, where he since has practiced continuously. His political services have gone almost parallel with his professional, and he has been a stanch supporter of the Democratic party ever since casting his first Presidential vote. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1869-70, serving on the Committee on Corporations; a Representative in the Twenty-fourth and the Twenty-seventh General Assemblies (1865-67 and 1871-73) , serving among others on the Committees on Judicial Department and Charitable Institutions; a member of the State Senate, 1878-82; and a member of Congress for two terms (1883-87). Mr. Neece's political services were characterized by wise understanding of the needs of the community he was called upon to represent, and by the introduction and promotion of a number of important measures.

At Fandon, McDonough County, May 3, 1857, Mr. Neece was united in marriage to Jeannette Ingles, a native of New York State, and daughter of Tompkins Ingles, who was a cooper by trade, and after coming West from his native State of New York combined farming with his trade for the balance of his active life. He had five children. Mr. and Mrs. Neece are the parents of three children: Jessie T., W. A. and Orson B., of whom W. A. is the sole survivor. Mr. Neece has contributed to the character, purpose and attainment of his adopted city, and his name is written large in the annals of its high-minded, enlightened and progressive upbuilders.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 964-965, extracted 17 Mar 2020 by Norma Hass.

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