Lee County Biography

James Nealis
Reynolds Township

James Nealis, a capable, prosperous farmer, who is the proprietor of a well improved farm in Reynolds Twp, was born in the County of Donegal, Ireland, May 12, 1836. His father, George Nealis, was a native of the same county, as was also his grandfather, James Nealis. The latter came to this country in 1836 with other members of the family, and spent the remainder of his days in Pennsylvania. His six children, four sons and two daughters, all became citizens of the U.S.

The father of our subject spent the first part of his life in the land of his birth, and was there married to Nancy Coyle, whose native place was likewise in County Donegal. In 1836 Mr.a nd Mrs. Nealis emigrated to this country, where they hoped to have better opportunities to rear and educate their children than were afforded by their own country. They located in the wilderness in what is now Hampshire County W.Va. where Mr. nealis bough a tract of land partly covered with timber, ten miles east of Romney. He devoted his energies to clearing his land and tilling the soil, and in due time had developed a good farm, on which he makes his home. He has had the misfortune to lose his beloved wife and companion, who crossed the waters with him to aid him in building up a home in a strange land. She was the mother of nine children that grew to maturity.

When the family came to America, James Nealis was but an infant, and has no recollection of other than his adopted home. he began very early to assist his father in the farm work, and continued to live with his parents until his twenty-second year, when he came to Illinois to take advantage of the many facilities offered by its rich soil to a practical, energetic farmer. He began life here by working on a farm at $15 a month. he was very industrious and prudent, saved his earnings, and at the end of two years was enabled to buy forty acresof wild land in Willow Creek Township, the price being $16 an acre. He actively entered upon its improvements, and lived on the place six years, then sold and bought the farm that he now owns and occupies. This comprises two hundred acres of well improved land, amply provided with good buildings, pleasantly located on section 35, Reynolds Township.

A part of our subject's prosperity is attributable to the valuable assistance he has received from his good wife, whom he secured in the person of Mrs. Mary A. (Davison) Miller, to whom he was wedded December 25, 1870. They have one son, James M. Mrs. Nealis was born in Kingston, Providence of Quebec, Canada, a daughter of Abraham adn Mary Davison. She was reared in her native country, and was first married after coming to Lee County to Abram Miller, who was also born in Canada. After coming here he purchased a farm near Compton, where he resided for a time after marriage. He then removed to Twin Grove, where he bought a farm, which Mrs. Nealis still owns. He resided there until his death in 1868, which deprived his community of a useful and worthy citizen. Mrs. Nealis reared three children by her first marriage; Josephine, who married Charles Griffin, and died near Sheffield, Iowa, in December, 1886; Oliver, who married Stella Wiley; and Joseph who married Minnie Miller. Both sons reside on the Twin Grove farm.

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