McNeel, John Shelby (1770–1833)

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 8, 2020

John Shelby McNeel, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists and Brazoria County planter, was born in Warren County, Kentucky, on November 21, 1770. He donated 200 acres of land in Warren County near Jefferson. He moved to Texas in 1822. He received title to a sitio of land in Brazoria County on August 3, 1824. John P. Coles wrote Austin in November 1824 that the McNeels wanted to see him to secure land on the Brazos and that they were an industrious, pushing family with means of making themselves useful in the country. The census of 1826 classified McNeel as a farmer and stock raiser, aged over fifty. With him were his wife, Elizabeth Nancy, four sons, one daughter, two servants, and twenty-five slaves. John G., Leander, Sterling, and Pleasant D. McNeel were sons of John McNeel, and Elizabeth was his daughter; they may not be included in the sons enumerated in the census.

In October 1826 John McNeel wrote Austin that he had had to spend all of his last year's crop to set up his establishment, but that he soon hoped to pay the balance due on his land. The McNeel plantation, China Grove, was located on the San Bernard River and extended eastward for a mile onto Gulf Prairie; Chinaberry trees shaded the log house. McNeel produced cotton valued at $5,000 in 1830. The family had built a gin and shipped its goods from McNeel's landing or Marion. When a traveler named Fiske visited the plantation in 1831, he reported that the daughter had just completed her education in the North, that the jovial Kentuckian had 800 cattle and sixty horses, was shipping thirty oxen, and kept an Indian hunter just to supply the family with game. McNeel died on August 20, 1833, and buried in the McNeel Cemetery in Brazoria County.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Lester G. Bugbee, "The Old Three Hundred: A List of Settlers in Austin's First Colony," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Abigail Curlee, A Study of Texas Slave Plantations, 1822–1865 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1932). Louis Wiltz Kemp Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Noah Smithwick, The Evolution of a State, or Recollections of Old Texas Days (Austin: Gammel, 1900; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983).

  • Agriculture
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “McNeel, John Shelby,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

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April 8, 2020