John Neel was born on April 30, 1844 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Hugh Neel and Mary Ann Neeper. His grandfather was Thomas Neel, who served as a Lieutenant in the Fifth Company of Colonel Watson's Battalion during the American Revolutionary War. According to John's nephew Albert Gore, Thomas "was a powerful man physically. Captain Patrick Marshall of the same battalion having been killed in the Battle of Germantown, Lieut. Neel picked Marshall's body up and carried it on his back for a mile. This was during the heat of the engagement when the bullets were flying fast."
The Neel family moved south to Baltimore County sometime prior to the 1850 census, when John's father Hugh's property was valued at $4,000. Hugh and his eldest son Thomas were working as farmers, while John and his sister Rebecca were attending school.
By 1860, the value of Hugh's real estate had more than doubled to $10,000.
Mary E. Ducker was born on November 27, 1851 in Maryland, the daughter of Henry Howard Ducker and Elizabeth Ann Devries, and a granddaughter of Jeremiah and Julia Ducker (see the blog post from May 2014). In the 1860 census, Mary's father Henry was a farmer, owning $8,000 worth of real estate. Eight-year-old Mary was attending school along with siblings Kate, George, and Bill.
During the Civil War, John Neel enlisted in the Union Army on August 14, 1862, serving originally as a Private in Company B of the Eighth Maryland Infantry Regiment. According to the muster rolls, he was described as five feet, eleven and a half inches tall, with a fair complexion, gray eyes, and dark hair. In June of 1863, John was promoted to Corporal, but soon after was hospitalized in Washington, DC, sick with typhoid fever, from July through October of 1863. He was later promoted to Sergeant in August of 1864, and again on October 15, 1864, to Commissary Sergeant. After the end of the War, John was mustered out of service on May 31, 1865.
Both John Neel and Mary Ducker lost their fathers during the 1860s. John's father Hugh passed away in 1866, when John was twenty-two years old. Henry Ducker passed away on his daughter Mary's eighteenth birthday, in 1869.
In the 1870 census, John was living in Reisterstown with his widowed mother Mary and siblings Rebecca and Joseph. Mary had apparently inherited her husband's real estate, now valued at $17,500, and was keeping house while John and Joseph farmed the land. The family also employed a domestic servant, thirteen-year-old Clara Keagey.
That same census year, Mary's family had moved in with her uncle Jeremiah T. Ducker in Woodensburg. Jeremiah was a retired farmer, while Mary's widowed mother Elizabeth kept house.
John Neel and Mary Ducker were married on June 21, 1877 in Baltimore City.
Over the years, the Neels' household changed little, as the couple had no children. John continued to work as a farmer, with Mary keeping house. Clara Keagey worked for them as a domestic servant at least until the 1910 census.
Late in 1906, John Neel applied for a pension based on his service during the Civil War, claiming "partial inability to earn a support by manual labor" due to his age. He was granted $6 per month, which was increased to $18 in 1912.
John Neel passed away on July 23, 1917 in Reisterstown at the age of 73.
After John's death, Mary applied for a widow's pension, and received $25 per month. In the 1930 census, Mary was living with her two unmarried sisters, Ida and Sarah, at 216 Hanover Road in Reisterstown.
Mary's health took a turn for the worse, and in August of 1935, her niece's husband, Reverend S. H. Culler, wrote to the Bureau of Pensions requesting that her pension be increased:
"I am writing on behalf of Mrs. Neel who is helpless on her bed in Reisterstown, Maryland. She is paralized and I fed her with a spoon during her illness which began in July ... She is getting $40.00 per month pension which I believe is below the amount she should receive because of her utter helplessness and her financial circumstances. She is 84 years of age and in need of necessities and much extra care."Rev. Culler's request was denied in September:
"The $40 per month pension which Mrs. Neel is now receiving is the maximum amount to which she is entitled under any existing pension law. As the records in the case show that her marriage to the veteran on June 21, 1877 was subsequent to the period of the Civil War, she could have no title to the $50 rate ... It is regretted by this Service that under the law, no increase of pension can be made on account of the financial and physical condition of the above named widow."Mary Neel passed away two months later, on November 4, 1935, just weeks shy of her 84th birthday.
John & Mary Neel's signatures:
Ancestry.com (census records & NSSAR application)
- Year: 1850; Census Place: District 1, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M432_280; Page: 232B.
- Year: 1860; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M653_468; Page: 21.
- Year: 1860; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M653_468; Page: 8.
- Year: 1870; Census Place: Reisterstown, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M593_569; Page: 281A.
- Year: 1870; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M593_569; Page: 238A.
- Year: 1880; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 495; Page: 555B.
- Year: 1900; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 606; Page: 10B.
- Year: 1910; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: T624_550; Page: 13A.
- Year: 1930; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 846; Page: 10A.
- "Died." Date: 24 July 1917; Page: 6.
- "Deaths." Date: 5 November 1935; Page: 21.
Maryland Archives (marriage records)
National Archives (pension file)
Cemetery photos © AgateGS