Biography of John Neil
Marin County, CA Biographies





John Neil. In 1849 was residing in Liverpool, England. Made a n engagement with Messrs. Starkey Bros., merchants of Liverpool, to build iron houses in California. Left Liverpool November, 16, 1849, by way of London and Southampton, from which place he sailed on the 17th, by the West India Royal Mail Steam Packets, calling at islands of Madeira, Barbados, St. Thomas, Porto Rico, San Domingo, Jamaica, Central America, Santa Martha, Cartagena and Chagres. Passed up the Chagres river in a canoe; was three days and two nights on the river; reached Cruces on Christmas eve; rested the next day, and the day following started for Panama on mule back. Had to wait a week for a steamer, all the tickets being bought up. Had to repurchase one. First of January, 1850, sailed from Panama in the steamer "Panama," Captain Bailey. Mr. Neil writes:.

Arrived in the Bay of San Francisco on the 20th; there were no wharves or means of landing; hired a boat; landed on the beach, where the Bank of California now stands. Looking around, every place looked so wild. The streets were wide passage ways, with mud holes full of water; the houses were great wooden barns and tents intermixed. In dry weather a fire with such material would be serious. Starkey Bros. had the only fire engine in the Territory. In the May fire of 1850 the engine done good service. I had command of it. In 1840 there was great progress in mechanics, particularly in iron, as applicable for fireproof houses and bridges. In 1842 the first mechanical journal was published in Glasgow, the first of its kind, anywhere. My cooking and condensing apparatus appeared in number four of that journal. The boiler was supplied with water by atmospheric pressure; the furnace burned its own smoke. When not cooking, it will condense sea water or ditch water into fresh, good water. My next invention, the circular iron roof, appeared in number nine. This roof will cover two hundred feet of one span; cast iron plates to cover these roofs, with water tight joints also. The corrugated plate is my invention. I invented a chimney sweeping apparatus in Glasgow. Where houses are seven and eight stories high, some of those chimneys will have forty flues. Many boys have been smothered in sweeping them. I had a bar of iron across the top of the flues, with a sheave over each flue. An endless chain ran over the sheave. The chain ran down to the fire place, attached to a wire brush, and the work was readily done. In 1852 I got home sick; however, I thought I would see a little of the country. The little steamer "Red Jacket" was running to Petaluma creek. I got on board; got off at the Haystack; came down to the island on which I now live; was pleased with it; came home and bought it. Moved my family to it in March, 1853. I was born in Ireland in 1805, of Scotch and English descent. Married Catherine Moopy, in 1827, who died in 1845, leaving six children, four sons and two daughters. Married Harriet Snape in 1847, who died in 1866, leaving three children, one son and two daughters.

From:
History of Marin County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co., Publishers
San Francisco, California 1880


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