Judge Stephen B. Neal
  G. Edward Neal



Home Preface Introduction                             Beaver Pond Neals of  Virginia

        Stephen B. Neal (John; Stephen; David; Steaven Neall Sr.) was born in Pittsylvania Co. Virginia on June 11, 1817. He was the son of John Neal and Priscilla Craddock, daughter of John Craddock and Mary Hendricks.

    Stephen's father John Neal was born in Amelia County Virginia in an area called Beaver Pond. Steaven Neall Sr., the American progenitor of this line of Neals, settled on Beaver Pond after arriving from Ireland in 1730. Some of Steaven Neall's children settled on Beaver Pond as early as 1718. 

     In 1819, when he was  two years old, Stephen's parents moved to Bath County Kentucky and later to nearby Nicholas County Ky and then back to Bath Co. Stephen's mother Priscilla died in 1832 when he was 15 years old and his father John subsequently remarried, while in his sixties, to Eliza Fletcher and had two additional children. One of which was my great grandfather Thomas Fletcher Neal. 

     Up to this point, Stephen like a lot of other young men, was trained for farming and had little or no formal schooling. He had a strong desire for knowledge, however, and read whatever books he could get his hands on including the histories of Greece and Rome.  Sometime after Stephen's mother died, his father decided to give him his leave to pursue whatever life and profession he wanted to. The Neals were an educated family, and in fact at least two of Stephen's brothers were to become school teachers, so I am sure there were limits on what Stephen's father would allow him to do.

     What Stephen chose to do, at the age of 16, was to live with and work for a neighbor who had a fair supply of books and with whom Thomas Nelson, a school teacher and Latin and Greek scholar, also resided. After about two years, Stephen attended a country school and worked mornings, evenings and weekends to pay his way while attending school. When he was 19, he studied Latin and Greek at the old Academy at Moorefield Ky which was under the control of Professor Henry T. Trimble, a graduate of Transylvania University, Ky.

      Stephen attended the Moorefield Academy for about a year and then became a teacher in a country school near Moorefield at the age of 20. Stephen apparently was not totally satisfied with teaching, however, and began reading law at a lawyer's office in Carlisle Ky. In 1841, he went to Madison Indiana where he studied law in the office of the Hon. Joseph G. Marshall. After about a year, he then returned to Carlisle Ky. where he was admitted to the Bar and began his law practice.

     Stephen moved to Lebanon Indiana in 1843 and was elected to the Indiana State Legislature in 1846 and 1847 as a Jeffersonian Democrat. As an ardent opponent to slavery, Stephen helped form the Boone County Republican Party in 1856, and was a member of that party until 1888. 

     Although slaves were given their freedom after the War between the States, they still had little or no rights as an American citizen and there seemed to be little movement or desire toward changing the status quo. Judge Neal was apparently not just against slavery but he obviously believed as our founding fathers did that all men are created equal and that certainly all Americans should have equal rights under the constitution.

     As a man of principal and action, Judge Neal in 1866 wrote and sent a draft of a proposed amendment to the constitution to his friend and former colleague in the State Legislature, Godlove S. Orth who had  subsequently become a U.S. Representative in Congress.  Congressman Orth presented Judge Neal's draft to Congress and it was passed, as drafted,  as the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congress did add a section providing for the amendment's enforcement, however.

    The basic premise of the 14th amendment is to make anyone born in the United States a citizen and thereby entitled to equal rights under the constitution, including the right to vote, regardless of race, creed or religion. 

It seems to be common knowledge, even by so called scholars,  that the 14th amendment was written by the Committee for Reconstruction or as some think, Senator Jacob Howard.  A biography in the Boone County Genealogy actually tells us why Judge Neal has not gotten the recognition he deserves for the 14th amendment and other important issues he was involved with:

 “In the judicial forum, in the halls of legislation, in the church, he has been unobtrusive, carefully avoiding attracting attention, and, as far as practicable, seeking no public notoriety, but carefully seeking to be unknown. The most important political act of his life remained unknown for twenty years after its accomplishment, except to a few confidential friends who were enjoined to secrecy.”

The last sentence of course refers to him being the author of the 14th amendment. Judge Neal sent his draft of the amendment to Representative Godlove S. Orth who was a friend and former colleague in the Indiana State Legislature.  I would suspect that Congressman Orth was one of those who was enjoined to secrecy as to the author of the draft.


     In retrospect, what Judge Neal was obviously concerned about in the mid 1860s,  and what he did in writing the amendment and presenting it to congress, was probably the first act of "civil rights" legislation in our history. Although additional civil rights legislation would be needed later to ensure equal rights, what Judge Neal did, and the passing of the 14th amendment by Congress, during a crucial and pivotal point in our history had a profound and lasting affect on the survival of our country.

     Although the Hon. Stephen Neal is most noted for his writing and promoting of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, his tireless and honorable work in other areas of legislation has left a large imprint not only on the state of Indiana but on the rest of the nation as well. He was active in urging the adoption of a homestead law; he introduced a joint resolution prohibiting the legislature from granting divorces by legislative action, believing this was the purview of the Judicial Branch; he urged the adoption of a resolution to Congress to adopt "the Wilmot proviso" forever inhibiting slavery in all the free territories; etc.

     Judge Neal was elected Judge of the Boone County, Indiana Circuit Court in 1890 and retired to his farm just east of Lebanon at the end of his term in 1897. Judge Neal was a student of religious and political themes and contributed to magazines on those subjects. For the five years that Horace Greeley was editor of the New York Tribune, Judge Neal contributed articles to that newspaper at Greeley's request.

     Judge Neal was a member of the Christian Church and was ordained a Minister around 1855. He preached at various places in Boone, Clinton and Montgomery Cos., Indiana and his later life was devoted to the compilation of a work on theology.

     One has to wonder how Judge Neal found the time but he was married three times and had 16 children. His first two wives died and the third marriage ended in a divorce. He did, however, remarry his third wife in 1902 when he was 85 years old. Judge Stephen Neal died at his home in Lebanon Indiana on June 23, 1905. 

     I think it is relatively safe to say that Judge Stephen Neal touched a lot of lives during his lifetime and in fact will continue to do so for generations to come. He doesn't get the credit he deserves but he, simply put, left some pretty big footprints across this country.


A bust of Judge Neal stands in the Boone County Indiana Court House





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