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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
William H. Neville

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[This information is from pp. 425-427 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

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William H. Neville, a representative citizen of Middleburg, N. Y., and a man of varied business interests, was born in the house which is now his home on August 6, 1867, son of Jacob and Jane E. (Shafer) Neville. His grandfather, William Neville, was a pioneer settler in Sharon, and died there at an advanced age, leaving a large family.

Jacob Neville, one of the youngest of the children of William, was born in Sharon on August 21, 1827, and died in Middleburg in 1891. He was for many years closely identified with the growth of this town, and was one of the leaders in every worthy enterprise started here. His boyhood days were passed on the farm in Sharon, and early in life he assisted in the family support. His career in mercantile affairs began at the time he went into a store in Sharon Hill as clerk. At twenty-three years of age he came to Middleburg and entered the general merchandise store of the old firm of Becker & Beckman. So valuable did he make himself in the conduct of the business that upon the retirement of Mr. Beckman he became a partner in the concern, which thereupon assumed the name of Becker, Neville & Co. They were the leading merchants of the town, and had a large trade in all the surrounding country. In time Mr. Becker sold his interest in the business to Mr. Hoag, and the firm name became Neville & Hoag. Later Mr. Hoag sold out to Mr. J. L. Engel, and still later a brother of the latter, Mr. A. B. Engel, was admitted to partnership. The business was then continued up to 1889 under the name of Neville, Engel & Co. Upon Mr. Neville's retirement in 1889, the firm became Engel Brothers, and as such has continued in business to the present time.

Among the various enterprises in the accomplishment of which Jacob Neville was an important factor may be mentioned the following: the Middleburg & Schoharie Railroad; the First National Bank and later the bank building; and the Union school-house building, which is one of the finest in the county. He was a large stockholder in the railroad organization, and was a director and the vice-president until his death. He was also a director in the bank as long as he lived. Politically, he was a Democrat, and frequent appeals were made to him to accept public office. From 1885 to 1889, under Mr. Cleveland's administration, he was Postmaster of Middleburg; and, had not his death prevented, his friends would undoubtedly have elected him to the Assembly for the session of 1892-93. He was for many years an Elder in the Lutheran church, and generously assisted the church both by financial and by moral support.

His marriage occurred in January, 1864. His wife was the daughter of William and Maria (Gridley) Shafer, and grand-daughter of Joseph Gridley, who was one of Washington's body-guard. William Shafer was born in Blenheim, and was a lifelong resident there. He owned a number of dwelling-houses and farms, and dealt quite extensively in real estate, besides carrying on general farming. As a business man he was very successful. He died at the age of eighty-two. His wife, who died at the age of sixty-four, was a native of Middleburg. Of the four children born to them three are living, namely: Mrs. Neville, who resides with her son on the farm settled by her ancestors; Margaret, who is the wife of George Brockway, of Chicago; and Nancy. The last named married A. J. Freneyer, of Albany, who for many years managed the Freneyer House in Middleburg.

William H. Neville obtained his education in the public schools of Middleburg and at Albany Academy. Leaving the latter after four years of study there, he entered the post-office, his father then being Postmaster, and for the succeeding four years he had practical charge of the office. Upon the expiration of his father's term he went into the store as clerk, and afterward he went to Albany as clerk in the insurance office of W. C. Rose. Still later he became interested in the Brandow Printing Company, of Albany, but when the plant was burned he returned to Middleburg, where he took charge of his father's affairs until the death of the latter. Shortly after this event the son bought the Middleburg Gazette, of which he continued to be the proprietor for three years. Since selling out in 1895, he has occupied himself with looking after his own and his mother's real estate interests, and in doing some general farming and hop-raising. As he has a large real estate property, including a number of farms, he has little chance to be idle. He also retains an interest in the Brandow Printing Company, which has been reorganized since the fire. Besides this he is a stockholder in the Middleburg & Schoharie Railroad, in the projected road to Catskill, and in the National Bank. He is a director in the Middleburg Telephone Company and treasurer of the high school. For three years he was Village Clerk, and for a number of years he served on the Board of Education. Politically, he is a Democrat, and for two years was a member of the county committee.

Mr. Neville was married on June 22, 1893, to Maud E. Lewis, who was born in Gilboa. She is the daughter of Oscar and Agnes (Strickland) Lewis. Her father is now one of the most prominent stock farmers in Conesville. Mrs. Neville's two brothers, Messrs. Frank and Raymond Lewis, are interested in the stock farm in company with their father. Mrs. Neville graduated from the Normal School, and taught before her marriage in the grammar school in Middleburg. She is the mother of one son, Donald. Mrs. Neville is a member of the Lutheran church, and her husband is an attendant of the Sunday services. Mr. Neville belongs to the Masonic organizations here; to La Bastile Lodge, No. 494, I. O. O. F., and Encampment No. 129; also to the order of Red Men. He has been Chief Patriarch of the encampment for one year.

[Editorial note: This entry was not returned to the author with corrections.]

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