NEAL, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
NEAL, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (179?–1873). Benjamin Franklin Neal, Texas pioneer, judge, and newspaper publisher, was born between 1792 and 1796, probably in Virginia. He apparently had some legal training and practiced law as a young man. He moved to Texas in 1838 and in a short time settled in Refugio County. Neal sympathized with the Federalist revolutionaries in Mexico and in 1838 or early 1839 joined a force of Texan volunteers commanded by Ewen Cameron. In 1839 he participated along with twenty-five other Texans in the Federalist capture of Monterrey. In 1840 he was appointed chief justice of Refugio County, a position he continued to hold with brief interruptions until 1845. In 1841 Neal bought the San Luis Advocate and a few months later closed the paper down and moved the press to Galveston, where he purchased a partial interest in the Galveston News. He eventually sold his share in the News to Willard Richardson and in 1846 moved to Corpus Christi. In 1852 he founded another newspaper, the Nueces Valley, which he edited with several interruptions until 1870, when poor health forced him to step down.
Around 1850 Neal married Eleanor Rebecca O'Neil, with whom he had one son. Mrs. Neal died of yellow fever in 1852, and Neal subsequently married Azubah Haines. He opened a law practice in Corpus Christi and was elected first mayor of the town after it was incorporated in 1852. After an unsuccessful bid for a second term he ran again and was reelected in 1855. In 1859 he went to Arizona, where he made a considerable fortune in a gold-mining venture in the Gila River valley. He returned to Corpus Christi sometime in 1860 and became an outspoken advocate of states' rights. When the Civil War broke out Neal organized and personally financed an artillery company to defend Corpus Christi against Union ships. Neal's Battery, as the unit was called, was attached to Col. Alfred Marmaduke Hobby's Eighth Texas Infantry Regiment and saw action during the two battles of Corpus Christi. Neal also served in the Confederate Army and eventually reached the rank of major. During the war he was appointed judge of the Fourteenth Judicial District and served until he was deposed by the federal military government in 1865. He was restored to office a short time later, only to be removed again by military order in 1867. He later served on the bench of the Nueces-Karnes County District until 1870. Over the years Neal worked tirelessly to secure legislation and financial support for a deepwater port and rail link for Corpus Christi. He died in Corpus Christi on July 18, 1873, and was buried there. A monument in his honor was erected in Corpus Christi in 1935.
Corpus Christi Weekly Gazette, July 19, 1873. Hobart Huson, District Judges of Refugio County (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1941). Lillian D. Martin, The History of the Galveston News (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1929). Joseph Milton Nance, After San Jacinto: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836–1841 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963).
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 3, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.