Neilan Family of Butler County, OH
Butler County OH

Neilan Family of Butler County, Ohio
Judge John F. Neilan, 1845-1907

More on John F. Neilan in A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County Ohio

Obituary contributed by Audra Berisford - July 25, 2006

The Republican News Hamilton Ohio Wednesday, October 9, 1907

Judge John F. Neilan dies suddenly while sitting with family in the library in his home.

Well known lawyer and jurist no more
Had been in failing health some time
Heart-Stroke resulting from Nausea Fatal-
Arose by his own efforts to places of influence and honor-
Noted for the vigor of his personality-
City shocked by his passing

Judge John Francis Neilan died suddenly about 6:30 0'clock yesterday evening at his residence at 335 Wood Street of heart failure in the 62nd year of his age. While it was generally known that he was and had been in very precarious health for some time his death was very unexpected and came as a shock to the community. Some months ago he was taken ill with a complication of heart and kidney affection and his life was dispaired of.

A specialist was called from Cincinnati in connection with Dr. Dan Millikin of this city but little encouragement could be held out for any permanent recovery.

Although in a very exhausted condition Judge Neilan determined to go to Martinsville and did so, remaining there several weeks. The treatment and the waters had a good effect and upon his return Judge Neilan was considerably improved and was able to resume the practice of his profession.

But his health began to again decline and___ ago he went to Martinsville from whence he returned about a week ago. Yesterday evening he ate supper as usual with his family and with several members of the household he was sitting in his library conversing pleasantly when he was seized with a severe attack of coughing. A physician was hastily called but before his arrival the end had come.

The weakened heart failed to longer respond under the violence of the seizure and surrounded by loved ones the once indomitable spirit took its flight.

Judge Neilan was on the streets for the last time Saturday when he voted at the primary election. About 1:30 o'clock Sunday morning he was seized with a urameic spasm the effects of which were severe. But they passed away, although in his weakened condition Judge Neilan continued to remain at home. Yesterday afternoon he was in good spirits and among his callers was the Rev. Father J.H Hyland. While they were chatting together Judge Neilan's daughter entered and asked her father if he felt like eating anything. He said he believed he would like a little Irish moss. It was prepared and served and Father Hyland laughingly asked Judge Neilan how near he supposed the moss had ever been to Ireland. The Judge smiled and said he presumed it had never been any nearer than the rocky coasts of Massachusetts. And thus they chatted on until Father Hyland took his departure. Judge Neilan ate lightly at supper: but when he was seated in the library something he had partaken of failed to agree with him and his food was ejected. It was this paroxism that affected the heart action and death came finally very quietly while Judge Neilan was still sitting with his hands folded on his lap in his chair.

The bar association met at 1:30 0'clock this afternoon to take action on the death.

John F. Neilan was born in the County of Roscommon Ireland November 18, 1845. His parents emigrated to the United States in 1838 settling in New Haven Conn. In 1857 they removed to Fayette County, Ohio, where they remained until locating in this county in 1866.

Mr. Neilan was born of poor parents and received his education after he was twelve years of age. But he was an ardent student, reading on all subjects, until he became one of the best informed men of the community, possessing a fine and well selected library. Mr. Neilan's early life until he reached his majority was that of a hard-working farmer: and like Tom Corwin, the wagon boy, he determined to secure a more advanced education and he abandoned farm work. With characteristic will power and determination he at once set about to qualify himself for the profession of teaching. In 1866 he took up this work and followed the calling for seven years.

Being attracted by the law he took up the study of that profession in the office of Stephen Crane and, in 1874 was admitted to the bar. In the same year he served as editor of the Hamilton Examiner, which was established for the purpose of purifying Butler County politics. "As a writer," says Stephen Cone in his History of Hamilton, "he wielded a pen that cut as keen as a Damascus blade."

Mr. Neilan was elected city solicitor in 1877, and served two terms. In 1879 he was chosen county prosecuting attorney and in 1881 was reelected. It is said that he made an excellent prosecutor, trying and indicting more men for capital punishment and convicting more men than any of his predecessors. He was ever fearless in the discharge of his duties. No grand jury during his term of office ever remained in session longer than one week. He examined from fifty to seventy-five witnesses per day.

At the general election held November 3, 1896, Neilan was elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for a period of five years. He was well equipped for the high position, being an able lawyer and a polished scholar. He ever had the courage of his convictions and few men are possessed of more determination than was he when once his determination was formed.

Judge Neilan was always a friend of higher education. His friend Gov. Hoadley, adopted him on the board of trustees of Miami University for nine years, on which body he served as a member of the executive committee.

Judge Neilan is the founder of the Catholic Knights of Ohio, which is a beneficiary organization, with social and fraternal features attached. He was one of the prime movers in securing for Hamilton the Mercy Hospital. He was a democrat but had liberal political and Christian views.

Judge Neilan was one of the Committee on arrangements and was very active in connection with the city's centennial celebration in 1891. He was a member of the Butler County Bar Association and for some years was chairman of the democratic county executive committee. He was broad in his charity and stood high in his profession. His death will long be regretted.

On June 2, 1874 Judge Neilan was united in marriage to Jane Kincaid, daughter of Jackson Kincaid and Isabel Hill Kincaid, then well known resident of this county. Six children resulted from the union of whom Thomas K and William Neilan died in infancy and four survive, John F. Neilan, junior. Mary E. and Robert Neilan of this city and Mrs. W.O Teague of Boston. Mrs. Neilan died about six years ago and last May Judge Neilan was again married to Mrs. Agnes Neilan of Akron, who in addition to the children above mentioned also survives him.

Judge Neilan was a man of an essentially aggressive and pugnacious character coupled with finer traits that elicited the admiration of friend and foe alike. He was outspoken, even to the injury of his own interests and he was strong in his fidelity to his friendships. He was a self made man in every respect. In his young days the guiding star of his life was the achievement of an education and he went through the hard rough toil of the farm to secure it. As a farmer boy he was energetic and industrious and as a school teacher he was a good instructor and disciplinarian and a leading figure in the teacher's institutes of those days. With his admission to the bar he devoted all of his energies to his profession saving what was required by his political affiliations and he speedily became a potent factor in democratic counsels. He passed trhough many periods on the political waters and made many enemies but more friends. But he discharged his public duties with ability. His code of life embraced his family, his friends, his religion, his profession and his politics with his duty to the community as a citizen and he lived up to it well.

Although he left Ireland when a mere infant Juge Neilan was all his life an ardent Irishmen, He took part in the activities of Irish organizations, and his sympathies with the Island of his birth were so intense that they developed a corresponding hatred of England. He presided at a Boer meeting in this city after the South African War, and referred to England as the "robber nation of modern times." If he had remained in Ireland it is probable that Judge Neilan would have become an active leader of the opposition to the government.

His tasks and interests were broad and often unsuspected. At one time he took a keen interest in arctic exploration and bought many works on the subject.

In his judicial career the most important thing that Judge Neilan was ever called upon to do was to name the Board of Control for Hamilton at the time of the passage of the so called "ripper bill." It developed upon him to name the entire city government which he did.

No man at the local bar had a more vivid personality and lawyers tell anecdotes of his experiences by the hundred. Judge Neilan's strong intellect was backed by inclinations and prejudices equally strong. And in consequence he was frequently lead into situations that were unusual, interesting and often amusing. He never hesitated to say what he meant, and some of his friends used to hold that under excitement he was given to sometimes saying more than he meant. In the old days of Democratic factional excitement in this county he was always in the fight, and many of his speeches are still recalled as models of the Philipple type. In the past 40 years no man has been more closely identified with the activities of Butler County.

Judge Neilan always took a great interest in the public institutions with which he was connected. His friend Governor Campbell, appointed him trustee of Miami University when Governor and Judge Neilan always took a keen interest in its affairs. Mercy Hospital was always an object of his keenest solicitude, and he was a trusted advisor of its management.

Court adjourns in respect to dead judge

When the common pleas court convened this afternoon Allen Andrews formally brought to the knowledge of the court the death of the Hon. John F. Neilan and moved that as a mark of respect the court adjourn. Judge Gard said that he had heard of the death of Judge Neilan with extreme regret and on his motion he adjourned court until Saturday morning at 9 o'clock.

The Butler County Bar Association at once met with President R.N Shotts presiding to take action on the death of Judge Neilan.

On motion of Ben F. Harwitz, a committee of three consisting of Judge Warren Gard, Judge Clarence Murphy and Judge E.A. Beldon was appointed to prepare and present a suitable memorial.

On motion of H.L Krauth a committee consisting of H.L Krauth and Judge Ed H. Jones was appointed to make arrangements for attending the funeral which upon motion of W.C Shepherd the bar association decided to attend in a body.

On motion of Judge Gard the hour from 9 until 10 0'clock a.m next Monday was set apart as the time to receive the report of the memorial committee and to afford an opportunity for such other tributes as might be desired to be offered.

Neilan funeral will be held Saturday morning

It was announced this afternoon that the funeral of the late Judge Neilan will be held at the home at __:30 a.m Saturday. Services with High Mass, will be held at St. Mary's church at 9:15 a.m. The services will be conducted by Father Hyland and Shea. The pall bearers will be J.J. Pater, John F. Heath, M.O Burns, W.J Coakley, Chas. E. Mason and John Hogan, Of Detroit.
Send family ties information to :