Charles Richards (or Ralph) Neillie (1870-1942), a native of Pennsylvania, worked in Cleveland, Ohio, as horticulturist at City Nurseries, City Entomologist in the Forestry Division of the Department of Public Service, City Tree Warden, landscaper, and cemetery florist. He was the first to propose using airplanes as cropdusters, and was an expert on tree blight. I first read about him in Harry G. Lang's" Silence of the Spheres: the Deaf Experience in the History of Science," which includes a brief summary of his career. He appears to have been a colorful and accomplished character. Although he didn't graduate from Gallaudet College (he left in 1891 after three years), he received an honorary Master's for his contributions to the community.
I've found little about him online. He appears to have been forgotten after his death . . . so I'm all the more eager to bring his story to our readers!
I've connected with several sources, including Cleveland Public Library's History Department, State Library of Ohio, Ohio Historical Society, Cuyahoga County Archives, Cleveland City Council's Archives, and Western Reserve Historical Society, and have obtained some useful information, such as World War I-era clips from the "Plain Dealer" in which Neillie proffered horticultural advice to residents, and a book, "Gleanings in Bee Culture," which includes an interview. I also have an obituary. I now have his DOB and DOD: 2/22/1870—7/20/1942.
I'm still hoping to get additional information from one or more of these sources, such as the Archives . . . property deeds, payroll information, Cleveland City Records, for example.
Charles and his wife, Elizabeth (Wells), who was also deaf, purchased a quarter-acre lot at 4317 East 116th Street, just off Calvary Cemetery. They purchased a small house cheaply, moved it onto the property, fixed it up (Elizabeth became quite skilled at roofwork), and transformed the property into a pocket-sized Garden of Eden. When I Google-Mapped the address, I got a crushing shock. Although Charles and Elizabeth planted several varieties of fruit trees, berry bushes, flowers, and vegetables, and set up beehives in their little back yard, there is now absolutely no trace of anything—it's a blank, flat patch of grass unrelieved by a single tree. I expected their house to be gone, but was hoping that there'd be something of the mini-orchard the Neillie family so lovingly maintained. Of course, it's possible that the street was renumbered, but it's also quite possible that a subsequent owner, or nature, or a combination of neglect and deliberate removal, destroyed everything.
Here's the genealogical data I was able to scrape together. Charles R. and Elizabeth W. Neillie (12/31/1874—9/1/1959) married on April 10, 1897. They had five children: Clarence Charles (2/20/1898—12/?/1981); Edison (11/19/1901—12/15/1917), Elmer Houser (8/16/1907—2/6/1993); Franklin Henry (7/4/1909—4/?/1987); and Elizabeth Marion (7/29/1913—1/27/2010). All were born and living in Cuyahoga County during the 1920 Federal Census, and several of them appear to have lived in Ohio at the time of their deaths. I'm seeking living descendants.
As yet, I don't have any photos, which presents a major obstacle in my plan to feature a biographical sketch of this enterprising family in DEAF LIFE. So far, no photos have turned up—CPL has none. Perhaps someone knows of a living descendant. Perhaps great-grandchildren . . . and wouldn't it be splendid if one or more had a photo album?
This query is also posted on the Find a Grave surnames and Ohio forums. I received some useful responses, but am just getting connected with the family. No photos . . . yet!
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