William Neale was born in 1807 in England. At 13 years old he left home on a ship, where he unintentionally became involved in a war.
“The ship went from there to the Port of Veracruz and bombarded the Ports of Veracruz and started the revolution of Mexico with Spain in 1821,” said Eugene Fernandez, Commissioner for the Cameron County Historical Commission.
He then moved to Matamoros in 1834, where he began a state route from the lost city of Bagdad. From a windmill on the Mexican side of the river, he witnessed the bombardment of Fort Brown.
After founding the town Nealeville, present day Santa Maria, Neale experienced tragedy after Juan Cortina and his men burned his store, his journals that he kept for years, and killed his son.
But that didn’t break his spirit. He went on to fight in the Civil War, witnessing the burning of Fort Brown. And then fled to Matamoros after federal troops occupied the city.
After the civil war he settled in Brownsville, where he served as mayor twice.
And while Neale is long gone, his legacy, and house remain.
Neale’s home was given to the Brownsville Art League in 1950 and currently stands near Texas Southmost College.