Story of a Pioneer Fayetteville, Ark.
September 29, 1889
Editor Arkansas Democrat
Geo. Duckworth Neill
Geo. Duckworth Neill, of Kingston, Madison Co., Ark., was in our city on Saturday, September 28, and spent the evening with your correspondent. He is a remarkable man in many respects and a short sketch of his life may be of some interest to some of you readers.
He was born in Burke Co., North Carolina, May 17, 1817, came to Madison and settled near Kingston in the spring of 1852, and has lived there ever since. His height was six feet three inches; his weight was 214 pounds. He has worked on a farm all his life. In the year 1882, when 65 years of age, he broke and laid off, each way, twenty-seven acres of land and planted it in corn, and gathered 1,600 bushels of corn off the twenty-seven acres. In addition to this he turned eight acres of land, which he sowed in oats, which made a large yield. He did all the work himself, hiring no help except one hand to cover the corn when planted in the spring, which took two and one-half days. In addition to this attended to a herd of cattle, which herd in the range of eight miles away from home, making weekly visits to them to give them salt. He had forty heads of cattle. He informed your correspondent that he did not know the taste of coffee nor brandy, as he had never tasted either since he was a child. He never drank as much as a teaspoonful of whiskey at one time in his life. He never had a headache or backache, and never knew what it was to feel sleepy or drowsy in his life. Had gone to the Masonic Lodge and assisted in conferring degrees all night, several times in his life, and never felt any worse for it.
Coming home from Little Rock several years ago he rode horseback forty miles in the daylight and twenty after dark, reaching home after midnight, slept the balance of the night, but rose at his usual time early dawn, and did a good day's work next day. He had all his life risen at daylight winter and summer. His habit was rise at daylight, hitch to his plow at 6 a.m. turn out at 11, rest until 1 p.m. precisely at 1 p.m. he hitched to his plow turned out a 6 p.m. and went to bed at 7:30p.m. He has smoked his pipe from his boyhood never had the whooping cough. His education was limited, but he did learn to read when a small boy, and yet has in his possession his first speller, in which he learned hi ABC's. The first books he read through were the Old Bible and the Testament. He then read the revised statues of North Carolina, then Potter's Justice of North Carolina. After then studied vocal music until he was able to compose his own music, singing and playing it on his fiddle at the same time. He has been an elder in the "Cumberland Presbyterian Church" thirty-seven years, and Master and Royal Arch Mason since 1854, or thirty-five years. He served several years as County and Probate Judge.
His wife died in 1859 and he has lived a widower thirty years. He is yet an active, sprightly man, can ride fifty miles a day on horseback, has ridden this year over 750 miles on his horse, besides other riding through the woods looking after his stock, never saw the mule or horse that he was afraid to ride, except it be a Mexican mustang. He can even yet, stand straight on his horse's back when his is in a gallop and keep two apples tossed up, catching them as they fell like a Chinese juggler. But he saw something on our streets today that beat him, and he acknowledged the corn. It was a man riding a bicycle the first he ever saw, and he gave it a wide berth.
I offered to pay for his night's lodging and give him $1.50 if he would wide it across one block. But he begged to be excused. He never saw an electric light until they blazed up on our streets this eve and he expressed his surprise and admiration in fitting language.
He never wore a pair of spectacles, and can see to read fine print with his natural eyes and yet shoots his rifle gun, killing squirrels of out the top most branches of the tallest trees, and can see an distinguish his cattle at a distance of one mile. He has played a fiddle for many years, but never was much for dancing.
He has now in his possession, and always carries hi his vest pocket, several pieces of old continental money, some dated in 1775 and 1776 and some 1780, which his grandfather, John Neill, received in payment for services rendered as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and also has at his home a hay fork which his grandfather brought from Ireland, about the year 1764
He says his Father, William Neill, weight was 264 pounds and his brother 275 pounds.