JOHN GEORGE NEFF.
This well known business man and agriculturist, residing near Bryan, Williams county, is deserving of special
mention in this volume because of his prominence in the various lines of effort which have brought about the development
of that locality.
Mr. Neff is descended from good old Pennsylvania stock, dating back to the Colonial period, and his family originated
in Germany. His ancestors had their home in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, for many years, but his father, Christopher
Neff, resided in the central part of Westmoreland county, on Little Sewickly creek, where he followed farming and
carried on his trade of shoe making. He was a religious man, noted for his strict integrity, and was honest because
he wished to be honest, and not from fear or policy. In early life he was a Methodist, but later he joined the
Church of Christ, with which he remained in full communion until his death. His wife, whose maiden name was Barbara
Struble, was born in Wittenberg, Germany, about 1804, and came to America about 1818 with her parents, who located
in Pennsylvania. Our subject was the eighth in a family of ten children, as follows: William (deceased), Emanuel
(in Pennsylvania), Israel (deceased), Salathiel (deceased), John George (our subject), Christopher (deceased),
Michael (deceased), Matilda, Mary Ann (deceased), and Amanda ( deceased).
Mr. Neff was born March 15, 1834, at the old homestead in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, and his education
was begun in the common schools of that section. He also attended an academy at Irwin Station; Pennsylvania, and
after teaching school for a time he pursued his studies at Oberlin, Ohio, in the preparatory department. On leaving
that institution he taught school in Montgomery and Darke counties, this State, and in 1856 he returned to Pennsylvania,
where he was married in the same year to Miss Mary Garver, a daughter of Joseph and Jane Garver, of Fayette county,
Pennsylvania. Soon after his marriage he engaged in farming, and for four winters he was also employed in teaching,
but he then removed to West Newton, Pennsylvania, and worked for a short time in a brick yard. Finding a promising
opening in the business, he purchased the plant and conducted it for three years, and then removed to Irwin Station,
where he continued the same line of business some five years. In March, 1868, he located in Bryan, and about a
month afterward he took possession Of his present homestead in the outskirts of the town, the family occupying
a little frame dwelling house on the place. He at once established a brick yard on the estate, and in 1879 he constructed
a plant for the manufacture of tile, both ventures proving successful from the start. The output of brick has ranged
from five hundred thousand to one million annually, while he has averaged forty kilns of tile yearly, valued at
six or seven thousand dollars. The work has given employment to twelve or fifteen people, and after making brick
for some time by hand in the old fashioned way, Mr. Neff introduced steam power and other modern improvements.
In 1888 he sold a one half interest to his oldest son, and in February, 1897, he disposed of his remaining half
to other sons, the firm being now known as Neff Brothers. His farm has increased in extent from sixty to one hundred
and twenty acres through purchases made from time to time, and agricultural work has taken much of his attention.
In 1873 he replaced the old frame residence with a handsome brick structure, and the homestead is now one of the
most attractive in the vicinity. For a time he was interested in breeding trotting horses, two of his colts, sired
by "German Boy," and other noted horses, one, "Membrino Patchen" and "Turk" and "Wilkes,"
sold at prices ranging from one hundred and fifty dollars to three hundred dollars. One, sired by "Vernwood,"
sold at the latter figure, made a record of 2:30 as a three year old. Mr. Neff's sons are also interested in this
business, and they own several Kentucky bred colts of trotting lineage.
Since locating at Bryan. Mr. Neff has become identified with various enterprises, and at times he has dealt extensively
in real estate, several houses in the town having been built by him. He was one of the promoters of the oil industry
during its palmy days, but was shrewd enough to dispose of his interests without loss. As he started in business
life with a capital of two hundred dollars only, he is practically a self made man, and his present high standing
in the business world is due to his own industry and good judgment. While he has accumulated a comfortable fortune
he has lived well, educating his children and giving them a good start in life, and a three thousand dollar life
insurance policy is an evidence of his fore thought. He is a temperance man in principle and practice, and in politics
he is a stanch Democrat, although he has never sought or held office. During the campaign of 1896 he supported
the doctrine of free coinage of silver at 16 to 1.
Mr. and Mrs. Neff have had ten children, of whom the following are living: Benjamin F., a member of the firm of
Neff Brothers; James L., who is engaged in the brick making business at Waterloo, Indiana; Jane, now the wife of
J. A. Fox, of Bryan; Joseph W., of the firm of Neff Brothers; Christopher C., who is engaged in business at Elyria
and Cleveland, Ohio; Anna, who married W. O. Weaver, and resides in Montpelier, Williams county; Belle, the wife
of George B. Hoag, of Cleveland; George, who resides on a farm east of Bryan; and Charles, who is still at home.
The family is identified with the Methodist Church at Bryan, of which Mr. Neff became a member in 1870, having
previously been connected with the Church of God. He is active in religious work, has served as trustee, and at
the time of the erection of the new church edifice he was a member of the building committee. His personal contribution
to this work was six hundred dollars, and his family gave altogether about one thousand dollars, their sympathy
with any cause in which they are interested being always demonstrated by a generous helpfulness.
Mrs. Neff is a daughter of Joseph and Jane Garver, and was born April 2, 1836, in Fayette county, Pennsylvania.
She received her education at the schools of the neighborhood, and remained at home until her marriage. Her father
by occupation was a farmer in Pennsylvania, and was an exhorter in the Dunkard Church. Moving to Wayne county,
Ohio, he and his wife both died there, the parents of ten children four sons and six daughters, viz.: John, David,
Joseph, James, Nancy, Catherine, Belle, Mary (Mrs. Neff), Jane and Sarah. Of these James, who served throughout
the Civil war, is now deceased, and the rest are all living in Ohio except Joseph, who makes his home in Pennsylvania.
To the above Mr. Neff adds the following: "Being raised on a creek I was quite a fisherman and hunter when
a young lad. I was soon able to handle a hoe, and I hoed corn, fed pigs, etc., on the farm. I also worked in a
brick yard two summers, when quite young, in reality learning the trade. I also had a good knowledge of shoemaking,
by watching my father when he was employed at it, and I worked to some extent at that trade. For several summers
I farmed, and I worked at the tanner's trade about eighteen months; had a good knowledge of same, but did not like
it. Accordingly I made up my mind that I would go to school, in order to prepare myself for the profession of teaching.
My father gave me my wages, the same as the other boys, so we kept ourselves in clothes, and what was left over
we gave to him to use till we were of age. On October 21, 1855, I had one hundred and sixty five dollars in gold
saved up, after paying my own way at school from home. So it will be seen that I did not idle away my boyhood days,
and my life has been a busy one all along."
Commemorative Biographical Record of Northwestern, Ohio
Including the counties of
Defiance, Henry, Williams and Fulton
Published by: J. H. Beers and Company
Northwestern, Ohio Biographies
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