The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944 Page: 65
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their only child. On the evening of September 29, 1859, most of the resi-
dents of Brownsville joined their Matamoros neighbors, in the latter
city, in a belated celebration of the "Diez y Seis." They returned home
on the morning of the 30th, to find their own city being terrorized by
an armed band; this was the notorious "Cortina Raid." Stores were
looted and several Brownsville citizens slain. Most prominent of these
was William Peter Neale, who was shot through the window of the bed-
room where he slept with his wife and infant son. His murder is sup-
posed to have resulted from a private grudge; it occurred in the Neale
home on 14th Street, now aged one hundred and nine years, where his
descendants still reside. His widow, Margaret Neale, survived him only
a few years, and their orphan was reared by William Neale, his grand-
father, and Isabel Neale Cowen, his aunt.
When driven from his home at Nealeville in 1859, William Neale re-
moved his family to Brownsville, where he resided until the occupation
of the city by Union forces in October, 1863, when with nearly all the
other citizens of Brownsville, he removed to Matamoros. Owing to his
quiet life and English birth, his Matamoros exile was less lengthy than
that of his Confederate friends. His final years were spent in Browns-
ville, and he died there in 1897, in his ninetieth year, locally famous as
historian, raconteur, wit and genial host. He delivered a classic address
at the Centennial Celebration in Brownsville on July 4, 1876 (published in
Chatfield's Twin Cities of the Lower Rio Grande), in which much of
the flavor of pioneer life on the Rio Grande has been preserved.
William A. Neale was given his advanced schooling at Spring Hill
College of Mobile, Alabama, and began his business training with Tru-
witt & Co., merchants of Mobile. Social and commercial relations be-
tween Mobile and Brownsville were then very close. Neale's first public
service in Brownsville was as a member of a very able executive com-
mittee of the organization which, during the autumn of 1882, stamped
out the worst epidemic of yellow fever Brownsville has ever known. He
was then associated in business with the famous Brownsville mercantile
house of Bloomberg & Raphael, in whose employment he continued for
twenty-four years. The business of this firm was almost the whole eco-
nomic story of the lower Rio Grande, from 1882, when railroads extending
to Laredo, Eagle Pass and El Paso ended the epoch during which the
ports of Brownsville and Matamoros controlled northern Mexico's lucra-
tive trade, until 1904, when direct rail connections brought a new prosperity
to the lower Rio Grande, based on crops and cattle, and with which the
mines of Mexico had little to do.
Besides his long service with Bloomberg & Raphael, Neale was employed
by the Rio Grande Railroad for several years. This was the famous one-
meter gauge line from Brownsville to Point Isabel, built by Brownsville
merchants in 1872 to eliminate an uneconomic long haul by oxcart or
steam lighter from shipside at Point Isabel or Brazos de Santiago to
the steamboat landing at Brownsville, where the upriver voyages of the
small sternwheel river boats began. He was afterward associated with
J. C. Lehman & Co., New Orleans merchants, for several years.
Irrigation and direct rail connections caused a complete change in the
business life of Brownsville after 1904. Boats no longer plied between
other Gulf ports and Point Isabel, and the type of business for which Mr.
Neale had been trained, and in which he had gained all his experience,
passed away. He transferred his intimate knowledge of the business
life of the Rio Grande to the United States customs service in 1909, and
continued in it for twenty-three years, retiring in 1932.
During his latter years he held much the same place in community
life that his grandfather had filled half a century before. He was "oldest
inhabitant," historian, and tester of the truth of old tales. Some of his
best stories had to do, not with the familiar life of Old Brownsville, but
with his student days at Mobile. Among his acquaintances there was the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944, periodical, 1944; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146054/m1/69/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.