BIOGRAPHY - Thomas McNeish

THOMAS McNEISH, who was one of the most prominent citizens of Roberts, was born in Dumbartonshire, Scotland, March 2, 1848. His parents were Thomas and Jean (Duncan) McNeish. His father was a boot and shoemaker by trade and was an excellent workman. He crossed the Atlantic in 1832, and, after three years spent in Pennsylvania, came to Ford County, where he purchased eighty acres of raw land and made a farm. He and his wife were members of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, and joined the United Brethren in Ford County. They were upright citizens, who had the respect of all. Mr. McNeish was laid to rest in Benton Harbor, Mich., and his wife was buried in Roberts. They had two sons and three daughters: Margaret, wife of Mr. Watt, a retired boot and shoe merchant, of Scotland; Marian, wife of John Mason, of Pennsylvania; and Thomas, of this sketch.

Our subject was twenty-one years of age when he came to Ford County. He followed farming for a number of years, and when Roberts was laid out, purchased a lot in the village and began the manufacture of boots and shoes. He afterward engaged in the harness business. He commenced life for himself empty-handed, and, by his persistent efforts, acquired a comfortable competence. His example is well worthy of emulation.

Mr. McNeish was joined in wedlock with Miss Isabella Burnett, a native of Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Their union was celebrated September 1, 1873, and unto them have been born nine children, three sons and six daughters, of whom three are now deceased: Jeanne carries on the harness and shoe store, with the aid of Frank L. Hanson. She was educated in the graded schools of Benton Harbor, Mich., and of Roberts. With her father, she took a trip to England and Scotland, in June, 1890. They sailed from New York to Glasgow, and went to Cumbernauld, the old homestead of Mr. McNeish. They remained in Europe until the following September, and visited Edinburg, Glasgow, the Trossachs, Dumbarton Castle, Sterling, Perth, Rothesay, Inverness, Ben Nevis, Loch Lomond, Ellen's Isle, Ayr, Greenock, and Paisley. Over many miles of this delightful country they journeyed on foot, feasting on the beautiful Scotch scenery. They also visited the home of Robert Burns, and the great exposition in Edinburg, and spent eight days in the city of London, where they saw the Crystal Palace, Hampton Court Palace, the London Docks, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Cleopatra's Needle, the Sphinxes, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Prince Albert's monument in Hyde Park, which cost £1,000,000. They also visited the Zoological Garden, the British Museum, and Regent's Park. In September they returned from Glasgow as passengers on board the "State of Indiana." On the return trip they encountered a severe storm, but at length reached New York in safety. The other members of the family are Mary, Harris, Agnes, John Wilson, and Ellen Isabella, all of whom are at school, except the latter, who completes the family.

Mr. McNeish was a Democrat and took quite an interest in political affairs. He was one of the honored members of the Town Council in Roberts, and socially, he was a Mason, and a member of the Knights of Labor. He was accidentally killed by a sky rocket, July 4, 1891, and his loss was deplored by all who knew him, for he was not only a valued citizen, but was an entertaining companion and faithful friend. He was one of the kindest and best of husbands and his place in the family circle can never be filled. We here quote the words which were often upon his lips:
"Again, the band of commerce was designed
To associate all the branches of mankind;
And if a boundless plenty be the robe,
Trade is the golden girdle of the globe.
Wise to promote whatever end He means,
God opens fruitful Nature's various scenes;
Each climate needs what other climes produce,
And offers something to the general use;
No land but listens to the common call
And in return receives supply from all.
This general intcrcourse and mutual aid
Cheer what were else a universal shade,
Calls Nature from her ivy-mantled den,
And softens human rock-work into men."

Mrs. McNeish still carries on the business in company with her daughter. She has a pleasant home in Roberts and is one of its most estimable ladies, being held in high regard by all who know her.

Extracted 22 Aug 2019 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Record of Ford County, Illinois, published in 1892, pages 247-248.

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