Thomas Jefferson Neal was born March 29th, 1817 in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio. Thomas was one of eleven children born to Walter Neal, Jr. and Deborah Arnot (my 3x Great-Grandparents). The family moved from Lawrence County to Gallia County, Ohio while he was still a child. His mother died when he was twenty-six years old and his father remarried. His step-mother was Elizabeth (Griffith) Lanthorn. His father and stepmother had three more children.
On 26th of January, 1837 (Thomas was twenty years old) he married Belinda Allison, my 2x maternal Great-Grandmother. Belinda was the daughter of John Allison and Rebecca Carter; my 3x maternal Great-Grandparents. Belinda was born in Walnut Township, Gallia County, Ohio.
Thomas and his wife, Belinda had eleven children, five girls and six boys. All but one of their children lived to adulthood. Belinda died in 1896 and Thomas married a widow named Jemimma (Erwin) Hamilton. Jemimma died in 1908.
The celebration of the 100th birthday for Thomas Neal was a very large affair. I have a picture taken by the Newspaper of people attending and it is a treasure trove of relatives pictured there.
He was interviewed by a reporter and was asked what advice he would give boys: “The first advice I would give a boy is to join church and live right. Next, live sober and don’t use liquor or tobacco in any form…I never drank liquor in my life and I have always voted dry. I expect to live yet to see the country dry”.
Thomas Neal died just days before his 101st birthday;
Mary Elizabeth Gatwood was the daughter of William Gatwood and Elizabeth McCracken, who were my 3x Great-Grandparents. Mary was the fifth child born into the family. There was a total of thirteen children, seven girls and six boys; two of the girls died as infants. She was born March 10, 1815. She spent her early childhood in Wellsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia).
On February 5, 1835, Mary Gatwood married Aaron Aten. Aaron was born in 1808. His parents were William Aten and Jane Anderson. Aaron came from a large family. He was both a farmer and teacher.
In 1838 they lived in Washington county, Ohio. This was the summer that Aaron and other members of his family traveled west to Illinois, looking for a better life. In a letter that he sent back to Mary, he tells her that things are not great, but he feels that the quality of land for farming was very good. There was an abundance of land available and the soil was rich for planting. Crops were selling for a good price. He had not gotten a job as a teacher while there, but he was sure there would be positions as a teacher available in the future. The letter made me think that he must have been very lonely without his family. His brothers were scattered to different areas and there was no easy method of communication for them to know whether they had gone back to Ohio or met with some terrible illness or accident. He tells Mary that he has not heard anything from them or about them and wonders what she could tell him about his brothers. Of course, he also wanted to have word about her and the children. Everything seemed to work out and the Aten’s would relocate to Illinois.
When Aaron and Mary left Ohio in 1840 they had two small children. After their move to Illinois they added eight more children to the family, including one set of twins. Aaron would teach and farm for the rest of his days. He died in 1889. Mary would live until 1907. When she died at ninety-two years old, she had outlived her husband and all but one of her ten children.