The  Shelbyville  Republican
September 18, 1896
Page 2

Peter  Neeb

Reaches the Age of One Hundred Years
The Event Celebrated Today
Becoming Style --- A History of His Remarkable Life as Told by Himself.
          Shelby County has a citizen, a man who is one hundred years old. His name is Uncle Peter Neeb and he lives with his daughter, Mrs. Wlliam Hill, who with her husband and children reside on the  Mary Higgins farm, just this side of Prescott.  Uncle Peter rounded out his century of years today, and in honor of the event he was given a big dinner at which his children, grand-children, and great-grand-children assembled and with them a large number of his friends and neighbors, from town and country.  No one at this meeting ever beheld before a man who is one hundred years old and perhaps they will never see another one.  A year ago the Republican mentioned the fact of Uncle Peter's birthday at that time declaring that there was no reason why he should not round out another year and there seems now, so far as surface indications are concerned, that there is no reason why he should not live ten years longer.  A few days ago  Miss Sadie Rhoads  accompanied the writer to Mr. Neeb's home where the negative was taken from which the accompanying picture was made, it being the first likeness he ever had.  Mr. Neeb has lived in this county sixty-five years.  The history of his life is full of interest.  He was born in the manufacturing town of  Nuremburgh, an ancient free town on the Nogat river, in the middle Franconia district, Bavaria.  His birth occurred on the 17th day of September, 1796.  He was the youngest of a family of fifteen children.  When he was six month old his parents died and not long afterward most of his brothers and sisters came to this country, leaving little Peter in the care of another family who raised him.  One brother was killed in a war with Spain.  As soon as he was able to work, Peter was placed under the care of the owner of a large distillery who learned him the distilling business.
          At the age of eighteen years, with some friends who were coming to America, young Neeb also crossed the sea.  His first business was to look up the members of his family.  In doing this he learned that three of his brothers had been killed only a short time before his arrival while fighting for their adopted country against England.  He next drifted to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, where he secured a good position in a distillery.  In due course of time he was married.  Among his earliest acquaintances in Pennsylvania was Mr. John Fox, a gentleman who lived east of this city the greater part of his life and whose death occurred not many years ago.  At a very early date Mr. Fox left his home in Pennsylvania, moving to Shelby county.  At the age of thirty-five years Mr. Neeb concluded to "go west" and having saved a considerable sum of money he was looked after by land agents, one of them succeeding in selling him a farm near the town of Centerville, Ohio, now called Charlestown.  Mr. Neeb had a brother living at that point and for that reason desired to purchase land there.  To the land agent Mr. Neeb paid $600 and with the deed in his pocket, his family and household goods in a two horse wagon he started over the mountains for his new home.  His brother met him on his arrival and without waiting for anything else they went straight to the office of the recorder of deeds where they ascertained that no such farm as Peter had purchased and paid for existed.  This was an eye opener and thinking that perhaps he had fallen among thieves, and remembering his old friend John Fox, Uncle Peter did not stop to unload his goods from the wagon, but continued his journey to Indiana, reaching this county in due course of time.  He found Mr. Fox near Ray's Crossing where he purchased from the Government a tract of land, the title of which was never questioned.
          This in short is how our centenarian became a resident of Shelby county.  His life is full of the incidents that so materially enter into the building up of a county like Shelby.  Uncle Peter never had much of an education but being somewhat fond of reading he picked up a great deal of information in that way.  In all kinds of farm work before the advent of machinery he was always a leader and when the wheat was ready to cut he was selected by all land owners who could secure his service to lead the men with the cradle. In hay harvest it was the same while at log rollings and wood choppings he could do more work than any man who could be found.  He was a shrewd trader and until the building of what is now the Big Four railroad he engaged in buying produce which he took to Cincinnati and sold.  On his return trip he brought goods for the merchants, one of his best patrons being the late Samuel Hamilton who was then merchandizing.  He made a full hand in the harvest field until he was eighty years old and performed manual labor regularly until he was ninety.  When he was ninety-three he was living with one of his sons near Ray's Crossing from which point he would walk to town and back in a day.  His entire life has been one of ceaseless activity and even now he frequently starts across the country, a distance of four miles, to visit his son  Henry.  When he starts out to make this trip a horse is always hitched to a buggy, the old man over taken and carried to his destination, the family fearing he might give down on the way.
          When Mr. Neeb was called on to secure the facts concerning his life and to get his picture he was found sitting on the back porch of his home watching one of his granddaughters, a decidedly good looking girl, cutting cabbage to make kraut for winter use.
          He was apparently interested in the work; in fact, he is not doing a thing but counting on assisting to dispose of that barrel of cabbage during the winter.  There is a peculiar strangeness about his hearing.  Talk to him in a loud, harsh tone and he does not hear, soften and modulate the voice and he hears distinctly every word.  Of late years he has preferred to speak in his mother tongue, it seeming to be easier for him.  For this reason Mrs. Hill acted as interpreter.  His mind is dwelling more in the past than in the busy present.  Things that happened almost a hundred years ago he remembers better than the events of yesterday.  Among other things [he] was asked how long it required the ship he reached America on, to cross the sea, his reply being that "it was so long ago he did not remember."  He then told of the closing scenes of the war of 1812, and of the death of his three brothers.  Distinctly he remembered the visit of General Lafayette to America in 1824.  His first vote was cast for James Monroe.  He considers Andrew Jackson the grandest man that ever lived and in his opinion the best act any president ever committed, was when Jackson suppressed the secession movement in South Carolina in 1832.
          Mr. Neeb joined the German Evangelist church when he was a young man and until he was almost sixty years old he was a regular attendant; and most always held an official position in the church.  At that point in his life his faith was shaken a little, and for that reason he has since seldom visited a church.  One day while talking to his minister, the minister asked Mr. Neeb if he believed everything he heard him preach.  Mr. Neeb replied that most certainly he did, when he was dumbfounded by hearing the minister declare that he did not believe himself what he was preaching.
          All his life he had been a constant reader of the Bible, but after this experience he contented himself by reading rather than by hearing.  His family, however, he tried to raise in the church.
           In Mr. Neeb the advocates of non-alcoholism would find a knotty problem.  He has drank whisky all his life and still drinks it.  Perhaps the use of it has shortened his life, but he does not understand it that way. With a smile he said the people do not make near as good whisky as he used to make back in Pennsylvania and in the old country.  Occasionally he goes over to Prescott and while there always drinks two glasses of beer, but prefers the ardent.  He never took a chew of tobacco in his life and but rarely smoked, the only time he would ever consent to do this being when he was in the company of "gentlemen" and was proffered a cigar.  To refuse a little civility of that kind Mr. Neeb considered a breach of etiquette that should never be made though it made him sick.
          One feature in his life that is very remarkable is the fact that he never had the headache, never had the backache, never felt a rheumatic or a neuralgic pain and was never sick in bed a single day in his life.  Now at the age of one hundred years he looks no older than most people do at the age of seventy.  His face is not seamed and wrinkled to any great extent, while his brow is as white and as smooth as polished marble.  His eyes are bright, but have lost their power until he reads but little.  His last tooth disappeared twenty years ago.  His nerves and muscles are under as complete control as they every were in his life, not a tremor showing that his physical system is the least impaired.  When he posed for the picture he was as still as though he was a graven image.  He sleeps sound, eats three meals a day with the family, dresses and washes himself and is not a care in any sense.
          Fifty-four years ago Mrs. Neeb died and her remains were laid to rest in the German graveyard, in Union township.  Mr. Neeb never married again.  To them were born eleven children, of whom only four are now living, they being Mrs. Hill, with whom he lives, Peter, who resides in Madison county, and Henry and Jacob, of this county.  His grandchildren number thirty-one and his great-grandchildren eleven. It is hoped that Uncle Peter, like Tennyson's brook, will go on forever.


          To take a retrospective view of Mr. Neeb's life, it can be readily seen that it covers much that is of historic interest of the United States.  The Constitution was but twenty years old when he was born.  He has lived during the life-time of every President of the United States, for he was born before President Washington issued to the people his farewell address---"a document crowded with precepts of political wisdom, prudent counsel and chastened patriotism."  He was a year old when John Adams was inaugurated President in 1797, and when our first real trouble commenced with France, he was a cooing baby, hence is older than Charles C. Pickney's immortal "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."  He was three years old when President Washington died, but it is only fair to Mr. Neeb to ad that he makes no claim of ever having seen General Washington.  He was four years old when Congress assembled for the first time in Washington City, Thomas Jefferson then being President.  He was seven years old when the United States went to war with the Barbary States (North Africa) in which Commodore Decatur won great renown as a naval strategist.  He was old enough when Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton to remember the event had he lived in this country at that time.
          He was eleven years old when Robert Fulton made his first trip from New York City to Albany on a steamboat.  He was fifteen years old when General Harrison, grand-father of ex-President Harrison, defeated Techumtha [sic], the great Shawnee chief, on the battle ground near the present city of Lafayette.  He was sixteen years old when our second war commenced with England.  He was past twenty-one years old when James Monroe was elected President, voted for him (1817) and remembers when the "Monroe Doctrine" was promulgated. He was married before the famous Missouri Compromise act (1820) was agitating the minds of the statesmen and the people.  He was twenty-eight years old when General Lafayette returned to America and visited the tomb of Washington at Mr. Vernon, an event he remembers.  He was thirty-six years old when President Jackson put down the rebellion in South Carolina, telling the insurgents that if they did not return to their homes that he would hang them higher than Haman.  Mr. Neeb also remembers that historic event.  Such men as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun linger in his mind a recollection of but yesterday.  It is but as a dream to him to recall up the laying of the corner stone of the Bunker Hill monument (1825) by General Lafayette, the oration of that occasion being delivered by Daniel Webster.  On that day 200 Revolutionary veterans were present, forty of them being survivors of the Bunker Hill fight.  In 1835, when Texas had her rebellion, Mr. Neeb was thirty-nine years old, and in 1848, when the Mexican war commenced, he was beginning to be an old man in years.  He was forty-eight years old when the nomination of James Polk for presidency, was transmitted from Baltimore to Washington City by magnetic telegraph, this being the first message of that nature ever sent by man, the exact date being May 29, 1844.  The story of a hundred years could be carried on indefinatly.  Could Mr. Neeb wake up a hundred years hence and see this country as it will probably be then, he would not recognize it as being the same place where he distilled whisky in a little village in Pennsylvania when a boy."

Contributed by Phyllis Miller Fleming.
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