Pioneers of Ellis County
Thomas C. Neel
Thomas C. Neel was born in Sparta, Hancock County, Georgia in 1825 and graduated from Mercer University in 1846. He taught school in Warren County for two years and in 1848 married Willia E. Latimer, daughter of John B. Latimer of Hancock County. He continued teaching school for four more years at Sparta and then spent a year on his farm.
Neel moved to Harrison County, Texas in April 1854 and in the same year bought considerable land - among which were the certificates of Sutherland Mayfield and S. H. Swisher in Ellis County. The next year he moved his family there [to Ellis County] and in only a few years, had a large plantation with considerable acreage in farming.
In 1857 a postoffice, Wilton, was established at the plantation - the name derived from Neel's name for his wife - "Will." It was discontinued in 1872.
Mr. Neel was below average weight, with broad shoulders and compact built, black hair and dark gray eyes. A loyal supporter of the Confederacy, he used all of his plantation's resources to aid it and to help families of soldiers. He was held in the highest esteem and respect by the people of Central Texas.
In January 1861, Neal was one of two delegates to the secession convention and the following August was elected representative from the 42th District (comprising Ellis, Johnson and Parker Counties) to the lower House of the 9th Legislature. When his term expired he was elected State Senator from the 19th District. However, in the month following his election, he was taken ill with congestive chills and died within a few days. Aware of his approaching death, he called his wife, daughter, sorrowful neighbors and slaves together and "addressed them like a patriarch of old, giving advice, admonition and consolation in an impressive manner...." His death was a severe shock to the county and a public meeting of citizens was called where eulogies and sympathic and flattering resolutions were delivered. He was only thirty-seven.
In August 1865, Neel's widow married Capt. William H. Getzendaner, and after living three years on the Neel plantation, they moved to Waxahachie where he resumed his law practice. Neel's only daughter, Mattie Moss, married Frank Templeton and lived in Ennis.
[Source: A Memorial and Biographical History of Ellis County, Texas, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Ill. 1892]
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