HARMER S. NEFF, of West Newton, a leading business man, who has rendered valuable service to his community in various important official stations, is a native of the borough in which he now resides, born October 1, 1862, son of Reuben F. and Ann (Gressley) Neff.
Reuben F. Neff was born in Sewickley township, Westmoreland county, a son of Reuben Neff, a farmer. He was reared on the home farm, and on reaching manhood engaged as a contractor in sinking coal mine shafts. During the Civil war he served faithfully and honorably for two and a half years in the One Hundred and Fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, participating in some of the most stirring campaigns and notable battles which marked the annals of the famous old Army of the Potomac. His capability was such that he was marked for a lieutenancy, but this preferment was withheld from him through chicanery. On his return from the army he resumed his contract work, but soon came to his death in the line of his duty. He had been re-engaged in this pursuit not more than three months, when he was killed while sinking a mine shaft at West Newton. His wife survived him many years. remaining unmarried, and devoting herself to the service of her family, which was left in straitened circumstances. They were the parents of four children. i. William. engaged in the stock business in Missouri: 2. Frank, resides in Stephen county, Kansas, where he is engaged in the stock business: he has served as county superintendent of schools, and is the present clerk of court. 3. Wesley, a carpenter at McKeesport, Pennsylvania. 4. Harmer S. All these children took employment very early in life in order to assist their widowed mother in keeping her family together.
Harmer S. Neff worked upon a farm until he was eleven years of age, and at fifteen, engaged with a blacksmith. His education was necessarily limited, but his ambition enabled him to compensate for meager school advantages by directing him to the acquisition of knowledge from other sources. After blacksmithing with A. W. Smith, at McKeesport, for a time, he took a position with the Markle Paper Company, in West Newton, his duties being caring for their machinery. He acquitted himself with credit in this position for several years, developing the capabilities of a skilled machinist, and entered the employ of the Osborn Seagern Coal Company, being charged with the care of the machinery in their various mines in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 1893 he resigned this position to connect himself with the National Tube Works in McKeesport, with the desire of entering upon a larger knowledge of a different class of machinery. After two years so occupied he was for a short time employed in the capacity of foreman in the machine shops of the Pittsburg Coal Company, which he left to accept the position of machinist for the United States Radiator Company in West Newton. After two years of this employment (in 1902) he resigned, with an excellent record as a workman and a man, never once leaving a position under compulsion, but only on his own motion in order to enter upon a more desirable situation. His retirement from his last employment was due to his determination to enter upon an independent career, and he at once opened a machine shop in West Newton, a venture in which he has been eminently successful, as is attested by the large and important patronage which has been accorded him, and which is constantly increasing. He is actively identified with the life of the community. and his public spirit and capability have found cordial recognition in his election to various positions of usefulness. He has served one term as a member of the town council, and two terms as a member of the board of health, while he is at present a member of the school board. His religious membership is with the Methodist Episcopal church, and in politics he is a Republican. He is a member of West Newton Lodge, No. 440, I. O. O. F. Mr. Neff married in 1882, Sadie Harped, a daughter of William Earned, a leading farmer of Bruston Mills, West Virginia. They have three children: Edna, Frank and Gordon. The first named is a graduate of the California State Normal school, and is a highly esteemed teacher in the West Newton public schools.
Source: Page(s) 230-232, History of Westmoreland County, Volume II, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed August 2008 by Nathan Zipfel for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
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