John O’Neal Families – 9 generations 341 individuals 125 marriages
John O’Neal and Nancy Harbour of Kentucky Arkansas and Coryell County Texas
John O’Neal is the earliest known ancestor of an O’Neal family that settled in Texas from Arkansas in the mid-1800s, and then spread out over several generations from their Central Texas location during the last part of the 1800s. Very little is known about John O’Neal’s early life. The first records of him appear in the northeast part of present day Arkansas, just before 1820, and after he had married Nancy Harbour.
Two records that emerged many years later gives us an indication of John’s origin. In 1968 some descendents of Stephen O’Neal, John’s youngest son, discovered an old Bible that listed John’s entire family and all their dates of birth. It’s not known if it was John’s or Stephen’s Bible.
In 1832, a U.S. Cavalry unit was commissioned and formed in Independence County, Arkansas, for service in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The unit was known as Captain Jesse Bean’s Company of Mounted Rangers, United States Army. John O’Neal signed up for a one year tour and in his induction record he entered his date and place of birth. From this record we know that John O’Neal was born 4 October 1799 in Logan County, Kentucky.
No record has been found of John O’Neal’s and Nancy Harbour’s marriage; however, it likely occurred near the present day town of Melborne, Arkansas. The old Bible record showed John and Nancy’s first child Harvey was born 16 March 1819, implying a marriage in the first half of 1818 or earlier. Nancy’s family, Joseph and Mary Harbour, had been in this area of northeast Arkansas since about 1814. It seems probable that John O’Neal arrived at this location from Kentucky about 1817 when he was about age 17-18.
The area around Melborne, Arkansas was under the auspices of several governmental entities during this early 1800s time period. In 1814, the area was New Madrid, Territory of Missouri. The next year, the area became Lawrence Co., Territory of Missouri; and then, Lawrence Co., Territory of Arkansas in 1819. In 1820, the western portion of Lawrence Co was carved off to form the new, Independence Co., Territory of Arkansas. Independence County ranged from a few miles south of Batesville, northward to the Territory of Missouri border. It included the area around the town of Melborne. Then in 1825 the northern part of Independence around Melborne became Izard County, Territory of Arkansas.
Records show that John O’Neal moved about 30 miles south near Batesville and back into Independence County around the middle of 1830. With information from the old Bible record, knowledge of various governmental name changes, the official listing of John and Nancy’s children and places of birth are listed below
- 1819, March 16 Harvey O’Neal Melborne, Lawrence Co, Terr. of Missouri
- 1821, July 6 Lucinda O’Neal Melborne, Independence Co, Terr. of Ark.
- 1823, May 15 Melinda O’Neal Melborne, Independence Co, Terr. of Ark.
- 1828, May 4 William Abijah O’Neal Melborne, Izard Co, Terr. of Arkansas
- 1830, Nov 25 Rich. Gilbert O’Neal Batesville, Independence Co, Terr. of Ark.
- 1834, Dec 7 Martha “Patsy” O’Neal Batesville, Independence Co, Terr. of Ark.
- 1837, Jan 22 Thomas Jeff. O’Neal Batesville, Independence Co, AR (state)
- 1839, Sept 20 Stephen O’Neal Batesville, Independence Co, AR (state)
- 1842, May 12 Elizabeth O’Neal Batesville, Independence Co, AR (state)
- 1846, Feb 23 Maranda O’Neal Batesville, Independence Co, AR (state)
John O’Neal lived in Ruddell Township, just west of Batesville and just north of the White River from 1830 until the family left for Texas in 1846. He was on the Independence Co. Tax List each year, and he was in the 1830 and 1840 Independence Co censuses.
Before John O’Neal’s family finally left for Texas, they had established four ties with the Thomas Elms family, through marriage, in Independence Co, AR. Thomas Elms and his wife Rosanna Hadden Elms had arrived from Kentucky/Illinois before 1819, and lived at Locust Grove, just south of the White River across from Ruddell Township.
- 1841, 26 Nov Harvey O’Neal, 21 to Terrissa Elms, 18 A-93
- 1842, 28 July Malinda Ann O’Neal, 20 to David M. Elms, 28 A-108
- 1843, 20 July Lucinda O’Neal, 22 to Thomas Elms, 19 A-130
- 1848, 24 Feb Abijah (Bige) O’Neal, 19 to Elizabeth Stafford, 15 B-54(Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of Margaret Elms Stafford, who in turn was a daughter of Thomas and Rosanna Hadden Elms.)
In 1845, Nancy Harbour O’Neal inherited 545 acres of her deceased father’s (Joseph Harbour) land in Washington Co., Texas. John and Nancy and the younger, unmarried children moved to their inherited land in Texas in late 1846. The older married children had all followed by late 1850. John and Nancy gave each of their adult children 50 acres of the inherited land, once they arrived, or when they reached age 21.
By 1853, the married children of John and Nancy had begun moving northwestward to Sugarloaf, in southern Coryell Co., TX. John and Nancy joined the group in 1857. The O’Neal families were at Sugarloaf in 1859 when the last serious Comanche Indian raid was made on the area around Sugarloaf. While one grandson was slightly injured, none of the O’Neals were killed or seriously injured.
In 1860, the Probate Court in Coryell Co. named John O’Neal as guardian for their five grandchildren. They were the children of Thomas Elms and Lucinda O’Neal Elms, who had previously died. Some of the children were still living with John and Nancy until after 1870. During the Civil War, John’s three surviving sons, William Abijah, Thomas Jefferson, and Stephen all served in different Texas Regiments during the 1862-65 time period. All survived the War and returned afterward to Coryell Co. Texas.
By 1880, John and Nancy O’Neal were living in the Sugarloaf household of their widowed daughter, Malinda O’Neal Elms. John died 15 February 1882 and Nancy died 6 March 1890. Both were buried at the Sugarloaf Cemetery. The 1942 expansion of Fort Hood required the disinterment of all Sugarloaf graves and their reinterment at the Killeen City Cemetery. John’s and Nancy’s graves at Killeen are at Section – C, Row – 21, Plot – 97, Graves – 5 & 6. No gravestones are at the graves. John’s grave apparently never had a headstone; and the headstone associated with Nancy’s grave, when it was moved in 1942, no longer exists at Killeen.
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