I have attempted to faithfully transcribe the following autobiography from a copy of the original, generously sent to me by Mr. Michael Brannon of Jacksonville, Illinois, a descendent of the collateral King Family (Martha Emma King, the author’s wife). He obtained the copy from his Aunt, Beverly Gover of Virginia, who retains the original book. I have maintained the original syntax and spelling. The book is 46 pages long. There are no page numbers in the original but I have added them within the text below, at the beginning of each new page, for ease when citing specific passages. The book is small in size and the title page does not list a publisher or a publish date. It appears that the book was published approximately 1924.
CHARLES EZRA NEELEY
Dedicated to my Daughter
Mrs. Samuel W. Reyburn
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION
In a rambling and disconnected way I have written this short history of some of the doings of my family, my Grandfathers, my Father and Mother and myself, dating from 1780 to 1924, -- over a period of one hundred and forty-four years, and no one will appreciate the fact more than I do that these notes, biographical and autobiographical, may not be alike interesting to all who read. At the same time if they should inspire my daughter and her children to write, in their declining years, the experience of their lives, by and by, as years roll on some of our descendants may take up the record of the Neeley family with pride.
As I look back over the Yesterdays of my life, I realize that there have been fruitful years and lean years, but that whatever the prospect, whatever the harvest, there has always been a good woman beside me, first my mother and then my wife, to encourage me in my ambitions, to applaud my successes and to give me comfort in my failures. Whatever I have accomplished, whatever success I may have made in my life, I give credit for the same, first to the early teachings of my mother and later to the help and council of a devoted wife, and to the sympathy and kindness of many relatives and friends.
t was from France that the Neeley family came, the first American member of the family having been Benjamin Neeley, born at Toronto, Canada, in 1780 of French parents. Necessity made the French emigrants Indian fighters, while they were by choice fur traders, and the Neeley family was no exception, and in the dangerous pursuit of wild animals, they found themselves constantly on the watch for the wily Indian. There were two children born to Benjamin Neeley, as far as records make it possible to know. The elder was Benjamin, who from his earliest youth learned that the battle was that of the strong against the weak, for there was no settled or well developed government and the everlasting struggle of the while man against the red never ceased.
When Benjamin was about sixteen years of age, living with his parents, the Indians broke into their settlement and killed and carried off a number of settlers. Benjamin, who happened to be visiting friends in another settlement, heard of the raid several hours after it occurred, and he and some of his friends immediately went to the rescue. But when he arrived at his once happy home he found it in ashes and his father, mother and brother among the victims, only the unburied forms of men, women and children and the ashes of their log cabins testifying to the existence of the little contented colony.
I want to ask you what you would have done, under similar circumstances, returning to a home destroyed, with all your loved ones dead.
Benjamin Neeley did just what you would have done under the same provocation -- he swore vengeance against the Red man forever after, right or wrong, and he never forgot.
He continued to live around with his friends, working some, loafing some and hunting and trapping the greater part of the time, until in mature age he married a Miss Valire. Some time after he was married he and some of his friends struck our for new hunting grounds, a merry little cavalcade, with wagons for the women and children and a few horses for the men. Their direction was Southwesterly and they cared not whither they went, so that the trapping and hunting was good. The spirit of adventure inspired them, but they took precautions when they made camp to settle at or near some white settlement or fort or stockade when possible. The country was sparsely settled, and realizing that in unity there is strength, visitors were always gladly welcomed in those days, when the Red man was ever on the alert to injure the white man, whom he regarded as an imposter ¾ which he was ¾ but it seems to have been ordained that this country should be ruled and governed by white men.
We who live in these days, in which there is no longer a frontier, can hardly realize what it meant to our ancestors, Benjamin Neeley, to be ever seeking the frontier, fighting the wilderness in his onward march, and enjoying every step of the way. There is no record of where he enlisted in any army, but he was part of the little army of fighters that blazed
the way for the more fortunate settlers that were to come after.
Finally we find him in Missouri in 1816, with some other friends, and because of his wife’s delicate health and for her safety and comfort, he moved into the old stockade of Fort Kinkead, named in honor of David Kinkead, one of the founders of Cooper County. Fort Kinkead was on the Missouri River, where Boonville in Cooper County now stands. He remained at Fort Kinkead for some time and on December 28, 1816, Solomon Callaway Neeley was born. And this Solomon Callaway Neeley was my father. In due time another child was born, a daughter, who at the age of seventeen married a man named William Rollands and moved over near Grafton, Jersey County, Illinois, where she and her husband remained for the rest of their lives , on a farm, in contrast to the roving that was necessary to her early American ancestors.
I will continue to add pages as time allows