The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III, pgs. 616
NATHAN CLAWSON McNEIL. No matter what notable achievements a man can justly claim
as personal he always cherishes a feeling of pride in those of an honorable ancestral
line. Thus Nathan Clawson McNeil, prominent lawyer, state senator and concerned with
many leading interests in Pocahontas County, counts as one of his most valued assets
his direct descent from Thomas McNeil, that sturdy character of over 150 years ago who
was known as the pioneer of Swago.
Thomas McNeil was of Scotch parentage and possibly of Scotch birth. He was one of the
earliest of the pioneers to brave the rigors and perils of the frontier west of the
Alleghany Mountains. About 1770 he entered 300 acres of land in Pocahontas County, now
West Virginia, defended his claim with fearless courage, and was one of the first in his
section to improve land and cultivate it profitably. His wife, Mary Ireson McNeil, was of
no less rugged a type than himself, and in their pioneer home of primitive construction
they reared a family of six children with habits of industry that have been characteristic
of the McNeils ever since.
Jonathan McNeil, the eldest of his parents’ children, spent his life as a farmer.
He married Phoebe Moore, who was a daughter of Moses Moore, and they had four children:
John, William, Moore and Preston. Mrs. McNeil was born February 13, 1774, and was thirteen
years old at the time of the celebrated raid, which she remembered well. Other occupations
carried on by Jonathan McNeil were milling and powder making, while his wife was an expert
in weaving and fulling cloth.
William McNeil, son of Jonathan and Phoebe McNeil, and grandfather of Nathan Clawson
McNeil, was well and favorably known over what is now Pocahontas County as one of the early
and well informed school teachers. He married Nancy Griffey, of Franklin County, Virginia,
and they made their home on a part of the old McNeil homestead. They became the parents of
seven children: Jonathan, James, Claiborne, Moore, Jane, Elizabeth and Agnes. Claiborne
McNeil, of the above family, spent the greater part of his life near Buckeye, in his native
county, where he was held in esteem as a man of sterling character. To his marriage with
Elizabeth Adkinson the following children were born: Charlotte (Mrs. Joseph Pennell),
Joshua B., D. T. and Nathan Clawson.
Nathan Clawson McNeil was born in a log cabin at Buckeye Cove, Pocahontas County,
West Virginia, November 7, 1865, the youngest of his parents’ four children. He attended the
public schools and the high school at Hillsboro, and then entered the law department of the
University of West Virginia, from which he was graduated in 1888. Later he took special
courses in law under John B. Minor, which was a great privilege, as Professor Minor was
one of the most brilliant instructors in the university. Mr. McNeil was admitted to the
bar in 1890, and prior to the establishment of the county seat at Marlinton, engaged in
practice at Huntersville, the old county seat. He lived at other points in earlier life,
having taught school in the county for six years, beginning at the age of seventeen, but
has maintained his home at Marlinton since leaving Huntersville.
In Mr. McNeil his fellow citizens found not only an able lawyer but a broad-minded man
of affairs, vitally interested in the welfare of county and state, a man who has been very
prominent politically and one who has never failed to consider a public office as a public
trust. For fourteen years he served as chairman of the Republican County Executive
Committee, and was elected a member of the State Senate. He served with honor and
efficiency in the sessions of 1907-1909, taking a very active part as chairman of
the committee on election and privileges, at a time when it was one of the most important
committees in the Legislative branch. He managed the campaign of Hon. Nathan B. Scott for
the United States Senate and made the nominating speech. Mr. McNeil was the father of the
first state game law.
On November 15, 1904, Mr. McNeil married Miss Ruth Young, a former pupil. They are
members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He is a Knight Templar Mason and
a member of the Mystic Shrine.
Submitted by Valerie Crook, , April 1999