THE decease of George Graham gave our
citizens an opportunity for holding "memorial services" over
departed worth, and a similar event might have been taken advantage of
in 1850, when the papers of the city announced the death of George W.
Neff, who had long been one of the most trusted leaders in our
commercial world, his enterprise and business sagacity being recognized
in every thing tending to promote the future growth of Cincinnati or
increase the comfort and welfare of its citizens.
George W. Neff belonged to one of the
oldest and most respectable families of Philadelphia, where he was born
May 19, 1800, receiving a good practical education, and graduating at
Princeton with the highest honors, in 1818, when only eighteen years of
age, and afterward received a thorough training in business. He then
studied law with Hon. Horace Binney, the Nestor of the Philadelphia bar,
in his first case having as an opposing counsel his old preceptor, over
whom he gained a victory. Young Neff', appreciating the grander chances
for success in the then Far West, came to Cincinnati in 1824, and
commenced a mercantile career, which was soon to rank him among our
ablest and most. discreet financiers—which is saying much, when we
remember that Josiah Lawrence, Griffin Taylor, John Kilgour, John .C.
Culbertson, R. R. Springer, William Barr, and others of the same class
of old-school merchants were then in their prime.
George W. Neff was active and far-seeing.
His business shrewdness intuitively taught him that Cincinnati was
admirably located to become a vast metropolis; but to give it a fair
chance to outstrip its would-be rivals, it must have canals, turnpikes,
railroads, and other means of transportation ; and at once Mr. Neff
successfully put into operation our system of turnpikes, and became one
of the most zealous advocates of our canal and railroad systems, being
one of the foremost in advocating the construction of a great railroad
to the South. He was the first president of the Little Miami Railroad,
and, as president of Council, secured the credit of the city in aiding
that road.. In those days we had no paid fire department, and the very
best citizens were volunteers to fight the fiery elements, and of all
these brave men none were more gallant than George W. Neff, the
president of the famous " Independent Red Rovers."
In business Mr. Neff was quick and
positive, but withal extremely conservative; and it was. this careful
weighing of cause and effect which caused him to be selected as the
president of the Lafayette Bank, and the first president of the
Firemen's Insurance Company, a corporation which, from its foundation,
has always been known for its solidity, and which during its entire
career of a half century has only had three presidents, George W. Neff,
Josiah Lawrence, and Ex-mayor Henry E. Spencer, its present head.
Mr. Neff had only reached the zenith of
his manhood, although he had done so much, when, August 9, 1850, he was
laid to rest in Spring Grove Cemetery, of which beautiful "City of
the Dead " he was one of the founders.
Mr. Neff was married to Miss Maria White,
in Philadelphia, October 1, 1827, the latter being the daughter of Mr.
Ambrose White, long known in business in Philadelphia, and only deceased
a few years since, at the advanced age of ninety-four years.
Mrs. Neff was a lady of rare grace and
great philanthropy ; ardent in her missions of charity and acts of
mercy, in all things a helpmate for a noble husband, whom she survived
almost twenty years, dying June 16, 1871, in the seventieth year of her
age, she having been born December 19, 1802.
General George W. Neff; one of the
gallant officers of the nation during the late war, and now one of our
well-known business men ; Mrs. Caroline N., wife of the late Samuel C.
Humes; and the late Ambrose W. Neff, were children of this excellent
The late venerable and respected
merchants, William and Peter Neff, were brothers of George W. Neff, both
of whom became residents of this city a few years after the latter came
here. DE B.
Source: In Memoriam
Cincinnati 1881, Cincinnati, A. E. Jones, Publisher, 1881.