The Job Neill letters were written by Job Stark Neill, the son of Henry and Dorcas Stark Neill about 135 years ago. Neill was born in the Neill homestead at Desha (Alderbrook at that time) in Independence County in 1840. These historical letters were published for the first time in the Independence County Chronicle after which were made available to the public by Mrs. Walker A. Dowell of Walnut Ridge.
The Job Neill letters were kept because of their historical significance. One of the reasons is that these letters document the life of a young daring gentleman who was among the first people from Arkansas to volunteer for the Confederate Army. Job worked as a private in Captain William E. Gibb’s Company. These letters also show how life was in Arkansas a few days before the Civil War. The letters also give a glimpse of the life of a twenty one year old intelligent, willing and vainglorious man.
Job knew he was not going to get permission from his parents to volunteer, so, he ran away from home. These letters were his only means of communication to his mother, father and brother apologizing for having left home. Most of the letters he wrote to his mother were not traced but a few to his father and brother were found. Job in his letters used to inform his family of how he was fairing on with his duties and life in general. The letters were found with lots of finger prints but the message was still readable.
There are other letters, though not written by Job Stark Neil, which are included in Job Neill letters collection. These letters were written by his younger brother, which with no doubt shows that the brothers shared the same views and convictions. Robert, Job’s younger brother also endeavored to write about the life of Job in his letters. Other captains and doctors including Dr. William M Lawrence also wrote to the Neill’s parents after Job died in the war. In his letter, Dr. William says
“……my dear brother fell. I was denied the poor consolation of standing by his side, but I have it for those who saw that he died the death of a soldier…….”
Remains of private Job Stark Neill were initially buried in the Neill’s corn patch lot then later removed and interred in the Neill lot in Oakland cemetery in Batesville. Robert remained with a lock of Job’s hair.