John Wilson McNeely‘s elder brother, William Bell McNeely, was born about 1804 in Rowan County. Their father was Samuel McNeely; their mother, Nancy Van Pool. The first known record of William’s life is John Van Pool‘s will, dated 13 October 1825 and probated in Rowan County at August term, 1827. The document named John’s sons David, Jacob, and John Van Pool; his daughters Nancy [McNeely], Margaret [McNeely] and Maria Van Pool; son-in-law Samuel McNeely; grandson Elihu N. Pool; and granddaughters Eliza Pool and Margaret T. Pool. Samuel McNeely was named executor, and witnesses were John McNeely Sr. and Jr. and William B. McNeely. (“Senior” and “junior” did not necessarily mean father and son in that era. Rather, as “II” can today, a “junior” could simply be a younger relative with the same name. Margaret Van Pool married Samuel McNeely’s brother John McNeely, who was named after his father. However, John McNeely the elder died in 1801, so could not have been the Sr. here. If Samuel’s brother John himself had a son John, he would have been rather young to have been a legal witness in 1825. Long story short, I don’t know which John McNeely in the will is Margaret’s husband, or who the other one is. William B., of course, was Samuel’s son and may simply have been close at hand.)
Five years later, on 1 Aug 1832, William B. McNeely married Elizabeth McNeely in Rowan County. Undoubtedly cousins, their exact relationship is not known. Within just a few years, the family would leave North Carolina forever, headed west to Missouri to claim a land grant.
On 24 Jan 1837, William Bell McNeely of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, deposited a certificate with the registrar of the Jackson, Missouri, land grant office. He registered a parcel described as the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 25 in township 33, north, of Range 12, east and measuring 40 acres.
On 17 September, 1839, William B. McNeely married Elizabeth McPherson in Cape Girardeau County. William’s son Samuel was then about 4 years old, and it does not appear that William and his second wife had any children together.
On 10 Dec 1841, William McNeely made his final payment on the purchase of the parcel, which was located in Perry County, and took title. He had not finished moving though. In 1850, the censustaker of Saint Francois County, Missouri, counted among that county’s residents farmer William McNealy, 46, wife Elizabeth, 46, and Samuel E., 15. William claimed real estate valued at $300. Ten years later, after the formation of a new county, the family is listed in the Middlebrook postal district of Iron County: North Carolina-born farmer William B. McNeely, 56, wife Elizabeth, 56, and 7 year-old Catherine Green. William claimed $2000 in real estate and $500 personal property. Next door, son Samuel E. McNeely, 26, and his young family — wife Emily, 20, and daughter Elizabeth, 5 mos. — appear. Samuel reported $50 personal property.
William was too old to serve during the Civil War, and I have found no record that Samuel did either. William did, however, sign a loyalty oath in 1864.
In the 1870 census of Ironton, Iron County, Missouri, in Township 32, Range 3 East: Wm. B. McNeely, 66, farmer, appears with wife Elizabeth. William claimed $2500 real estate; $200, personal property.
Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, William’s brother John W. McNeely edged toward death. John’s demise in mid-summer of 1871 makes clear the totality of William’s break with his home state. John’s administrator, Joshua Miller, initially named his heirs as his widow, “Acenith McNeely a sister reported to be in Missouri and a Brother name not known and residence not known.” A little information trickled in, and Miller’s next report identified “Wm. B. McNeely, age 65, residing in Missouri Post Office unknown.” Though William had been in Iron County at least twenty years by then, Miller never found him (or Acenith), and the estate was settled without him.
Sometime between 1870 and 1880, William was again widowed. He appears in the census of Liberty, Iron County, in the household of his son, farmer S. McNeely, 45, with wife E., and children Ellen, Thomas, Owen, Margarett, Nancy, Charles, and George D. Samuel’s daughter Elizabeth — El. Huff — and her children William, 2, and Sam, 6 months, also lived in the house.
By 1900, Samuel McNeely was an elderly hired man living and working in Shoal Creek, Bond County, Illinois, some 125 miles northeast of Iron County. Samuel’s children, by this time, have moved west to Arizona and California. His father is not with him in Illinois and does not appear in the Missouri census. Most likely, he did not live to see the new century.