The Neelds

Compiled with the help of Donald P. Neeld and George C. Smith

Cpt. John R. Neeld.
Hetty Neeld and an unidentified child

Ely Neeld, originally from Philadelphia, was at one point a stagecoach driver who worked the line between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and later St. Louis in the early 1800s. Ely’s family came to the United States from northern Ireland, but the Neelds are originally of Danish descent. Ely married Mary Jane Martin (1818-1873) and they had three sons-George, James and John R. (1824-1896), see below. Although Ely’s grave has not been located, there is a good chance he is buried here with his wife and son.

Ely and Mary Jane’s son Captain John R. Neeld had an adventurous life. John was born and raised in Pittsburgh at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street (the site of a post office) and went into the river business as a young man, serving as a mate on a number of steamers that traversed the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. John also worked on whaling boats. When the Civil War began, John enlisted in the inland navy and was made captain of the dispatch boat De Soto (stationed on the Mississippi River) and later commanded the gunboat Lafayette. He was present at many battles, including Vicksburg. He was, for a time, in charge of the naval supplies in Memphis. The end of the war found him in command of the monitor Manhattan at the mouth of the Red River. A picture of him and his crewmates aboard the ship can be found in the book “The History of our Navy, 1775-1898 Vol. IV” by John R. Spears. After the war, John purchased a tugboat and, for about three to five years, lived in New Orleans where he towed vessels through passes to the city.

John R. Neeld’s home stood on Broadway at Neeld Avenue in Beechview

In 1872, John returned to Pittsburgh when General Grant named him as inspector of steamship hulls in the port of Pittsburgh. He stayed in that position until 1895. John served on the board of the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad.

John and his wife, Hetty Esben (1832-1918), had eight children including Jemima, Maggie, Elizabeth, William (died age 28) and Lewis, see below. The family owned a large segment of land in what is now the Beechview/Banksville area. The home of John and Hetty was located on Broadway at what is now Neeld Avenue (near the Neeld Avenue T-stop). The house, built in the 1840s, was razed around 1957 to make way for apartment buildings.

When the trolley came to town

When John died, his obituary in the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph said he was one of the best-known rivermen in the country and “was a man of very steady habits.” In fact, during his time in office, it was said “the elevator man who runs the elevator in the Federal building never needed to look to see the time of day when Capt. Neeld would appear at the car to be taken to his office.” At his death, all the boats in the Pittsburgh harbor placed their flags at half-mast in his honor.

Lewis Esben Neeld and Eleanor Jane (Smith) Neeld pictured separately and together

John and Hetty’s son Lewis Esben (1869-1955) graduated from Western University (now the University of Pittsburgh) with a degree in electrical engineering. In 1898, Lewis married Eleanor J. Smith (1868-1955), the daughter of George C. Smith. Eleanor and Lewis had four children, including Frank Edward, who died at age 36. Frank was an electrician and loved to play the cornet. Frank married Estella Perry.

According to an email from Tim Schumann, a descendant of the Moore and Neeld families, Margaret E. Moore is the daughter of Mary Neeld Moore and Charles P. Moore. It is possible that all three Moores are buried here as the Moore tombstone is too worn to read the other names. Sarah J Smith, who is buried nearby, is the sister of Mary Neeld Moore. Their brother Reece Neeld, who died in 1862 from wounds he received in the battle of Williamsburg during the Civil War, is reportedly buried here as well, but we can not find his headstone. A marker was installed for him in the Neeld plot in 2010 as part of a boy scout project.

Tim writes: “I have a Pittsburgh Post article indicating that Reece Neeld’s body was brought back to the home of his father, James Neeld, then living in what was Union Twp, Allegheny County. I had thought that he may be buried in St. Clair Cemetery since his mother and 2 sisters are there as well as many other Neelds but could find no tombstone nor information indicating his burial there in St. Clair Cemetery records. Yesterday finally yielded some information concerning Reece’s resting place. The National Archives has a Microfilm Publication entitled “Headstones Provided for Deceased Civil War Veterans” Pub #M1845 indicating that a stone had supposedly been placed in St. Clair Cemetery in 1887.”

Frank Edward Neeld
Below: The official certificate appointing John R Neeld as inspector of steamships.
The home Lewis Esben Neeld family homes on Boustead Road

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