Who Was Joseph Mercer Neely?

It’s the hint of mystery, the unknown, that keep those who search for family history on the hunt. Obituaries such as the one below (found in an old scrapbook) give the bare bones to the life that Joseph Mercer Neely lived with his family, but it doesn’t tell about the grief-stricken parents who reared him after his brother was taken by death.

J.M. Neely with Mary Jane and son, Tom Custer Neely, near the beautiful new home.

J.M. Neely with Mary Jane and son, Tom Custer Neely, near the beautiful new home.

The obit doesn’t tell that Joseph’s mother, Sarah Elin, was the first woman to cast a vote in Comanche County after women earned that right! And it certainly does not mention just how Joseph’s wife, Mary Jane Cunningham, must have felt when she left the cabin behind for what must have been a mansion in its day.

The short article never even mentions the fact that there would be a family named Robertson who eventually lived in the old Neely cabin or that one day Mrs. Robertson could no longer take the hot, dark cabin so she cut a wide hole in the wall, trying to gain a bit of light and air.  And, of course, there was no way for the writer to see into the future and know that in 2016, the town of Comanche would have Joseph’s cabin rebuilt and put on display for everyone to see.

The first cabin to be displayed in Heritage Village will be the Neely cabin that eventually become the Robertson cabin. Be sure to notice that Mr. Robertson covered up the "window" that poor Mrs. Robertson desperately needed that day!

The first cabin to be displayed in Heritage Village will be the Neely cabin that eventually become the Robertson cabin. Be sure to notice that Mr. Robertson covered up the “window” that poor Mrs. Robertson desperately needed that day!

No, a life simply cannot be summed up with a few strokes of a pen, but what a great starting place it is for a genealogist when he finds one! The following is dated 1918, and I am sure it is from the Comanche Chief.

“Uncle” Joe Neely Buried Here Monday

Uncle Joe NEELY, for fifty years a resident of Comanche county, and who passed away at his home at Hamlin, Texas, Sunday, July 14th, was buried here Monday at 5 p.m., Rev. HOLLAND conducting the services.

Joseph Mercer Neely

Joseph Mercer Neely

Joseph Mercer NEELY was the son of Fletcher H. and Mrs. Sarah E. NEELY, and was born January 14, 1856, near Newburg, in this county. Growing to manhood under typical pioneer conditions he was married to Mary CUNNINGHAM, daughter of Capt. And Mrs. CUNNINGHAM on March 30, 1875, and for thirty-one they resided in Comanche county, moving to Texico in 1906, later moving to Hamlin where Mr. NEELY passed away after an illness of many months.

He is the second of the four children of Mr. and Mrs. F.H. NEELY to pass away, his brother, R.V. NEELY, having passed away and two sisters, Mrs. J.B. BURTON and Mrs. A.L. MILLS surviving him. Of his children who grew to man and womanhood, all are living save Mrs. Donia DUDLEY. Those living are: Mrs. Una LAKE of Mercers Gap, Mary STEVENS of Dallas, Jewell GREGG of Mineral Wells, Judge PRATER of Hamlin, Lena Belle BAKER of Ballinger, Elizabeth NEELY of Hamlin, Joe NEELY, Jr., of El Paso, and Tom NEELY of Waco.

Mr. NEELY united with the Baptist Church at Newburg in 1874 and lived a consistent member until his death.

Few more useful men have ever lived in Comanche county than Mr. NEELY. As a young man he put forth the efforts of his life to developing the country from a wilderness infested with lawless characters to an inhabitable land of plenty and as the head of a family he devoted his life to the rearing of a generation of men and women such as reflect credit upon their parents, their maker and their country.

If the supreme reward is promised for him who serves best his Creator by living a life of extreme usefulness there can be no doubt but that to that reward Mr. NEELY has gone. For his life was one filled with unselfish usefulness in the development of his country, the spreadings of the teachings of the Master by precept, and unselfish devotion to those for whom he was responsible.

On his life too much good could never be said and in his passing out our country loses one of those men who have been so essentially necessary to the welfare of mankind.

We join the great host of friends in expressing to the sorrowing relatives and dear ones our sincere sympathy.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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