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MCNEIL Family History

July 2011

Our McNeil line consists soley of Jane (or Jean) McNeil1 (~1831-~1890) of Ayrshire, Scotland. She was said to be a washing girl from Kilbirnie who married James Goodwin and immigrated to the United States.

Jane raised eight children in Coulterville, Mariposa County, California by James before he died in 1864. She later remarried to Peter Johnson (b. 1831) and had another four children by him. After Peter's death in the 1870s, Jane married once more to James Opie.

Jane (MCNEIL GOODWIN) JOHNSON1 (~1831-~1890)

Jane (MCNEIL GOODWIN) JOHNSON 1. Jane McNeil1 was born about 1831 in Ayrshire, Scotland. She married James Goodwin there and immigrated to America. They made their way through Pennsylvania to California where James died at the age of 34. Jane later married Peter Johnson and afterward James Opie. Altogether Jane had 11 children:

1A. Thomas Goodwin 5 Sep 1849 1849 (1)
1B. James William Goodwin 17 Mar 1851 Sep 1851 (6 mos.)
1C. Elizabeth Goodwin2 12 Aug 1852 2 Jun 1942 (89)
1D. Martha Jane Goodwin 7 Sep 1854 1 Mar 1885 (30)
1E. John Charles Goodwin 9 Apr 1857 9 Sep 1876 (19)
1F. Maggie Goodwin (1860) (1899) (39)
1G. George T. Goodwin (1861/1862) 15 Mar 1920 (58)
1H. James Norman William Goodwin (1862) 1935 (73)

1I. Joseph A. Johnson Jan 1867 --  -- 
1J. Daniel N. Johnson Nov 1869 (>1870) (>2)
1K. Peter Nicholas Johnson 6 Jun 1870 1929 (59)

Jane (MCNEIL GOODWIN) JOHNSON Per the 1880 census of Mariposa County, California, Jane's father was born in Scotland but her mother was Irish. She was a laundry girl in Ayrshire when she met and married James Goodwin on February 3, 1829, at the St. Thomas Methodist Church in Kilbirnie, Strathclyde, Scotland. She gave birth to two sons before they emigrated to America in 1851. The first died in Scotland and the second died on the trip over to America. Upon reaching the New World, Jane and James first settled in the area of Bear Gap, Northumberland County and Minersville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. James was a coal miner there, probably continuing a trade he knew in the old country. The Goodwin couple then had two daughters, Elizabeth and Martha Jane, both born in Bear Gap and baptized there at the Methodist Church. Their next child, John Charles was either born in Pennsylvania or California.

It was about this time that James decided to follow the wave of gold prospectors to California. He went ahead of his family and set up a store along the Kern River which runs through Sequoia National Park in Tulare County. He stayed there until the store was destroyed during an Indian massacre and then moved to the area of Coulterville, Mariposa County. Once settled, he sent for his family around 1857. They went by way of boat from New York to the Isthmus of Panama, crossed and then took another boat to San Francisco.

Once the family was reunited, the next children were born, probably around Coulterville near the Banderita Mine. James and his brother, John Sr. first worked at the Banderita Mine which was established in 1856. In 1861 the Goodwin family moved down into Coulterville and John Sr. eventually had a ranch at Dutch Creek in the Red Cloud area (present day Greeley Hill).

Just years after settling in Coulterville, James Goodwin died at the age of 34 on January 2, 1864, leaving his wife and six children. Given the early age of his death and his earlier profession of coal mining, it is likely that James Goodwin died of "black lung" disease.

Following James' death, Jane filed for a homestead declaration on Friday, February 24, 1865.

Pete Johnson

1878 Property
An 1878 map of Coulterville shows property for "Mrs. Johnson" at Block 9, Lot 7, 0.31 acres along the west side of Main Street at about the current address to 5021 Main Street.

Jane remarried to Peter Johnson, a French Canadian immigrant, on September 26, 1866. She had four more sons by him and continued to live in Coulterville (Maxwell Creek) through the 1870 census. By the 1880 census of Coulterville, Peter is absent, presumably having died prior to 1880, somewhere in his 40's. Jane was then living with her four youngest sons.

James Opie

After Peter's death, Jane remarried for a third time in 1888. This time to James Opie, an English immigrant.

James Opie Marriage

Note: Jane McNeil (born about 1832) is believed to have married a James Opie about 1888. The first guess is that this James Opie is the same that later married Annie Opie in January 1888 and became a noted justice of the peace. This unlikely combination, especially given that Jane would be 30 years James' senior, suggests an error.

As such, after scouring Mariposa and surrounding counties for other Opies, I find a James Opie, born August 1842, in England, who immigrated in 1863. This James appears in the 1880 census of Amador County married to a woman named Mary and with three young children. Come the 1900 census, James is a widower living in Newman, Stanislaus County, as a boarder. In the 1910 census, he turns up Murray Township, Alameda County as a lodger and club house keeper. So far, no sign of what became of the three children.

As this mystery unfolds, four likely OPIE brothers continue to pop up:

  • Joseph Opie (born about 1839, immigrated about 1862), father of the younger James Opie (born January, 1862; immigrated in 1869)
  • James Opie (born August, 1842, immigrated from England in 1863)
  • William H. Opie (born March 1852, immigrated from England in 1869)
  • Edward Opie (born May 1854, immigrated from England in 1872)
  • Furthermore, another James Opie (born about 1840) is noted as having died in 1912 in Santa Clara County, California. So far no connection of this James Opie to Mariposa County has been confirmed.

Jane (McNeil Goodwin Johnson) Opie died two years later in 1890 at about the age of 58. She is buried at the Coulterville Cemetery in an unmarked plot near the Goodwin plot. Granddaughter, Ila Goss-Barrett later added her name "Jean" to the headstone of her first husband, James GOODWIN. Jane is not necessarily buried beneath that head stone, but in the general area.

Joseph A. Johnson (1867-)

1I. Joseph A. Johnson was born in January 1867, probably in Coulterville, Mariposa County, California. He married Alma J., a daughter of Iowa and Missouri pioneers, about 1890 and had five children, only two of whom survived beyond childhood:[Cen 1900]

1I1. Alma H. Johnson Feb 1892 1918 (26)
1I2. Ida J. Johnson Nov 1894 1918 (23)
1I3. Peter Johnson 1895 1898 (3)
1Ix. Johnson Bef 1900 Bef 1900 -- 
1Ix. Johnson Bef 1900 Bef 1900 -- 
1870 Census
Joseph appears in the 1870 census (at the age of 2 years) as "John A.," whom was previously held as a son that may have died in childhood.[Cen 1870]

Alma died prior to 1910 and Joseph is found in the 1910 Mariposa County census as a widower, prospecting in the Stanislaus Forest Reserve (associated with Red Cloud/Greeley Hill north of Coulterville).[Cen 1910]

1918 Spanish Flu?
Daughters Alma and Ida both died in their twenties in 1918, suggesting that they may have fallen during the devastating "Spanish Flu" pandemic toward the end of World War I.

By the 1920 census, Joseph remarried to a Louisa, a native of California[Cen 1920], and come the 1930 census was remarried again to a Jennie/Jessie M. of Minnesota and provided for her son, Ernie R. Pearson.[Cen 1930]

Joseph was also married to Donia Castro.

Donia Castro
So far the documentation search for this family is woefully incomplete and fragmented. Above is what I've been able to piece together from censuses, however, there are contradictions between these facts and the recollections of Joseph's great-grandniece, Wilma (Barrett) Jenkins. Wilma recalls that Donia was the mother of Alma, Ida, and Pete. Donia grew up along Merced Falls Road between Merced Falls and Webb (Station). She was known to have served as a midwife and later married another man named Johnson, living for a time in Manteca, San Joaquin County, and Coulterivlle during the 1940s.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to rectify how Donia would have been Alma, Ida, and Pete's mother. The 1900 census shows "Alma J." as the mother of Alma and Ida, and that she and Joseph were married for 10 years, predating the children's births.

Another hypothesis could be that "Alma J." and Donia are somehow the same person, but the 1910 census shows that Joseph was widowed, and Donia lived on into the 1940s.

Wilma also recalls Jennie and her son Ernie lived below the school house in Coulterville.

  • Cen 1870: 12 Jul 1870 Census, Maxwell Creek, Township 4, Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1880: 14 Jun 1880 Census, Coulterville, Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1900: 22 Jun 1900 Census, Coulterville North Precinct, Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1910: 13 May 1910 Census, Stanislaus Forest Reserve (Township 2), Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1920: 8 Mar 1920 Census, Township 2, Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1930: 4 Apr 1930 Census, Coulterville, Township 2, Mariposa County, California

Daniel N. JOHNSON (1869-)

1J. Daniel N. Johnson was born in November 1869, probably in Coulterville, Mariposa County, California. He appears to have died after the 1870 census.

Peter Nicholas JOHNSON (1870-1929)

Peter N. JOHNSON, II 1K. Peter "Pete" Nicholas Johnson was born June 6, 1870, in Coulterville, Mariposa County, California. He married Ida Mae Converse on December 2, 1896, in Modesto, Stanislaus, County, California. They had two children:

1K1. Daisy Loretta Johnson 31 Mar 1898 28 Dec 1990 (92)
1K2. Peter Carl Johnson 29 Apr 1904 11 Jan 1993 (88)

The Johnson family lived on Main Street in Coulterville through at least 1920, where Peter mined for gold[Cen 1900-1920] and Pete hauled the mail in his 1913 Buick truck. They later moved to Modesto.

Peter N. JOHNSON Headstone, Modesto

Peter Nicholas Johnson died on April 9, 1929, in Modesto, and was buried at Modesto Citizens Cemetery. He was 58 years old. His headstone is adorned with the emblem of the Knights of Pythias.

His widow Ida Mae (Converse) Johnson died 34 years later in Coulterville, on June 2, 1963, at the age of 87 years. She is also buried at Modesto Citizens Cemetery.

McNeil-Johnson/Converse Connection
Pete's nephew, Benjamin Goss2, married Ida's younger sister Alice4, in 1898, two years after Pete and Ida married.

  • Cen 1880: 14 Jun 1880 Census, Coulterville, Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1900: 16 Jun 1900 Census, Bull Creek, Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1910: 7 May 1910 Census, Township 2 (Coulterville), Mariposa County, California
  • Cen 1920: 20 Feb 1920 Census, Township 2 (Coulterville), Mariposa County, California
  • Grave: Cemetery, City, County, State, Find A Grave <>