Miami County, Ohio Genealogical Researchers -- Sponsored by the Computerized Heritage Association


    It is a well attested maxim that the greatness of a state lies not in its machinery of government nor even in its institutions, but in the sterling qualities of its individual citizens and in their capacity for high and unselfish effort, and their devotion to the public good. The goal to which Dr. McNeal hastened during his many years of toil and patient endeavor is that which is attained only by such as have by patriotism and wise counsels improved and extended the privileges and welfare of the common people. Such have gained the right and title to have bright pages of history. As state dairy and food commissioner, Frederick B. McNeal has won a reputation that was not bounded by the confines of Ohio. He stands to-day as one of the leading representatives of the agricultural interests of his state, being successfully engaged in farming and stock raising in Elizabeth township, Miami county.

    He was born in this township, October 31, 1840, and is a son of Daniel and Barbara (Brechbill) McNeal, who came from Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, to Ohio, in 1839. The parents were both natives of Cumberland county, and the father was a son of Daniel McNeal, and he was a son of Daniel McNeal, who came from the north of Ireland to America and was of Scotch-Irish parentage. Five brothers of the name crossed the Atlantic to the new world, one locating in Virginia, another in New Hampshire, while three took up their abode in the Keystone state. The great-grandfather of our subject served as a teamster during a part of the Revolutionary war. His son Daniel was a farmer, and died at the age of thirty- five years. His wife bore the maiden name of Sarah Brougher, and, coming to Ohio, she made her home with her son Daniel until her death, which occurred in 1868, at the age of seventy-two years. Daniel McNeal, the father of the Doctor, died February 23, 1892, at the age of seventy-five years. He married Barbara Brechbill, daughter of Frederick Brechbill, who was of German lineage, his ancestors having been among the early German settlers of Lebanon county, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Barbara McNeal died October 1, 1863, at the age of forty-two years. By her marriage she had eleven children, of whom two died at the age of seventeen years, and one when three years of age. The others all grew to maturity and four are now living. After the death of the mother, Daniel McNeal married Mrs. Ann Kessler, whose maiden was Vore, and who was a native of Union township, Miami county. She still survives her husband. Daniel McNeal, the Doctor's father, spent his entire life, after moving to Ohio, on section 8, Elizabeth township, Miami county, and there his widow still makes her home. They had two children: Henry, who is yet living, and one who died in childhood. Mr. McNeal was a man of considerable prominence, a recognized leader of public thought and action. He held several township offices, for many years filling the position of justice of the peace. He was a Jacksonian Democrat, unflinching and inflexible in support of the principles of the party. He usually attended the county, district and state conventions, often driving to Columbus in his carriage in order to be present at the last named. In his business affairs he prospered, and to his children be gave each a nice property. Of the Cove Springs Christian church he was an active and consistent member, doing much to promote its welfare. Socially he was connected with the Masonic fraternity at New Carlisle, but took no active part in its work. The cause of education found in him a warm friend, and his labors largely resulted to the benefit of the schools of the community. For twenty years he served as land appraiser, he and Isaac Clyne appraising the land in Elizabeth township for forty years. During the civil war he was known as a most earnest supporter of the Union, doing all in his power to secure troops for the field. A man of strong convictions, he was so honest and loyal in what he believed to be right that he won the respect of even those who differed from him, and for many years he ranked among the leading and influential citizens of his adopted county.

    Frederick B. McNeal obtained a common school education. In 1858 he entered the academy at New Carlisle, being graduated on the completion of the four-years course, with the class of 1862, the degree of B.C.L. being then conferred upon him. Previous to this time he had engaged in teaching school for two terms. On the 22d of July, after his graduation, he joined the Union army and by Governor Tod was commissioned a lieutenant in Company B, Ninety- fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, his superior officers being Captain John C. Drury and D. G. McLaughlin. He was instrumental in raising Company B, Ninety-fourth Ohio Infantry, nine of its members being residents of Elizabeth township, while all were sons of Miami county. The Ninety-fourth saw service in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, and Dr. McNeal remained at the front until 1863, when on account of disability he was discharged. Soon after going to the front he was made quartermaster of his regiment, serving on the regimental staff. He did double duty part of the time, acting as commander of the company, for Captain J. C. Drury was killed on the 8th day of October, 1862, at Perryville, Kentucky. The regiment had seen severe service, and Dr. McNeal, who was first lieutenant of Company B, also served at the same time as quartermaster of the regiment. He participated in a number of important engagements.

    After his return from the war the Doctor engaged in teaching school for some time and then read medicine, completing his course in Bellevue Hospital Medical College, of New York city, in which he was graduated 1867. There was a class of one hundred and forty members, and by reason of his superior scholarship he had the honor of being valedictorian. He began practice in Troy in 1867, and afterwards went to the west, spending three years. In 1871 he returned, and on the 12th of January, of that year, he was married to Miss Martha J. Stafford, of Clark county, Ohio, who was reared in his neighborhood. He continued to practice in New Carlisle until 1876, when he secured a farm in Elizabeth township, and has since given his attention to agricultural pursuits. He located on his present farm in 1885, and has here a valuable tract of land of one hundred and thirty-two acres. In addition to the cultivation of the various cereals best adapted to this climate he is also extensively engaged in breeding and raising Shropshire sheep, and has a registered flock of about seventy-five head. He has exhibited many of his sheep at the fairs in this section of the state, where he has won first prizes. He finds a ready sale for the animals which he raises on account of their superiority, and he is regarded as authority on all matters connected with sheep raising. His farm is very carefully and systematically conducted, and he is a practical and prosperous agriculturist.

    In early manhood, at the outbreak of the civil war, Dr. McNeal renounced the political faith in which he had been reared, and joined the ranks of the Republican party. Until a few years ago he was the member of his family connected with that organization. He has long been one of its most active and earnest supporters, doing all in his power to advance its interests, and to various county, district and state conventions he has served as delegate. In 1891 he was elected state dairy and food commissioner, and served during the administration of William McKinley as governor of Ohio. In 1893 he was re-elected and filled the office for a second term, but a factional fight in his party prevented his nomination for a third term. In 1891 he began the work of securing new legislation to enable him to prosecute his work as a commissioner. He was the first man ever elected to such an office in the United States. In Ohio for six years prior to this time the position had been an appointive one. There had been very little done; no records had been kept and there was no account of any official acts except the drawing of the salary. The commissioner had but desk room in the state house, and his labors were largely nominal, and the office a sinecure. Dr. McNeal, however, set to work to inaugurate a reform. He secured an office and originated a system of bookkeeping, recording all work done. He was instrumental in having the legislature collect fines which were paid into the state treasury, and his records show every case that was investigated by the department. Over sixty-five hundred samples were analyzed by the department chemists, and seventeen hundred and thirty-five cases were prosecuted, from which fifty thousand and eighty dollars in fines were collected and turned over to the state treasury. Bitter contests were waged against the department, backed by mercantile companies with millions back of them. The work of the commission greatly affected the companies manufacturing goods for the grocery trade. The department employed as many as thirty-two men to prosecute the work of food and dairy commissioner. The Doctor's enforcement of the law resulted in damage suits against him amounting, in aggregate, to two hundred and eighty thousand dollars, one being for fifty thousand dollars and another for two hundred thousand dollars, one suit being continued in the courts for twelve months after his retirement from office. One patent medicine company expended over sixty thousand dollars to secure evidence against him, but in none of the damage cases was a judgment rendered against him. In the proceedings against men who were guilty of adulterating their goods, no precedents of law had been established. Nine cases prosecuted were carried to the supreme court, and in every case the construction of the law made by Dr. McNeal was sustained by the court. The Wholesale Grocers' Association levied a tribute on houses from New York to St. Louis to pay for opposing the legislation requested by the department. At first the general assembly was slow to act in these matters, but later the legislature and the people worked together until the end for which Dr. McNeal was striving was accomplished. When it was seen that the law would be enforced, the tendency was to more nearly conform to its requirements and during his official term adulterations were found to decrease to twenty-two per cent. The charge was made that the employees in the commissioner's office had been bribed, and the legislature appointed an investigating committee, the work of which was continued for five weeks under the leadership of the vice-president of the Wholesale Grocers' Association, who afterwards stated that six thousand dollars were paid to the attorneys during the investigation in the hope that they might secure evidence against Dr. McNeal, but though every effort was put forth to convict him, the committee not only exonerated him from all blame, but complimented the people of the state upon his strict enforcement of law. His salary was twice increased by voluntary act of the legislature, and his term was also continued so that he filled the office for nine months longer than had first been agreed upon. He retired February 15, 1897, with the confidence and respect of all, save those who wished to evade the law.

    Since his retirement from office, Dr. McNeal has devoted his attention mainly to his farm, but keeps in touch with the work of his party. He has been solicited to deliver addresses all over the state before farmers' institutes and other public meetings, and he is an instructive and popular speaker. Since 1880 he has been a member of the Grange, has been very active in its work and has been especially prominent in the state grange meetings. For some time he was connected with the County Agricultural Society and the State Agricultural Association, and his labors have been very effective in promoting the farming interests of Ohio.

    The Doctor and his wife are members of the McKendree Methodist Episcopal church, in which he is now serving as trustee. He is also prominent in the work of the Sunday school, and has served as its superintendent. A very prominent Mason, he belongs to New Carlisle lodge and chapter, to the Scottish Rite body of Columbus, and to the consistory of the valley of Cincinnati. He maintains pleasant relations with his old army comrades through his connection with A. H. Coleman Post, G. A. R., of Troy. An enumeration of those men of the present generation who have won honor and public recognition for themselves, and at the same time have honored the state in which they belong, would be incomplete were there failure to make prominent reference to Dr. McNeal. A strong mentality, an invincible courage and a most determined individuality have so entered into his nature as to render him a natural leader of men in every matter of reform to which he devotes is time and attention.

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