History Mystery Solved: Maryville Times’ first publisher’s descendant tells story of Neff family
By Dean Stone | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Until a few weeks ago, The Daily Times had only very limited historical information about Andrew Jackson Neff, founder of The Maryville Times in 1883.
It was then I secured a copy of the just-published book, “Running Out of Footprints,” which was professionally researched in great detail and is a well-written family history by Cathy Neff Callen, his great-granddaughter. She is a retired educator living in Lawrence, Kan.
Cathy and some of her family visited Maryville en route to the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga where Neff’s unit was heavily involved. While here, she visited the area where Neff lived as well as Neff Street, which was named for him and intersects South Washington Street. A visit was also made to the site on West Main Street — now 133 W. Broadway Ave., next door to the Capitol Theater — where the newspaper was founded.
It has long been considered locally that Maryville’s Neff Street was named for The Times’ founder. Most had assumed he lived on that street which crosses South Washington Street.
However, through the help and diligent research by Blount County Records Manager and Archivist Jackie Glenn it has been discovered that in 1885 Neff apparently resided on Main Street (Broadway) with the lot number not shown. He was a partner in the 20-lot Neff and William H. Henry Addition. Neff Street likely was the name of the main street of the addition.
However, a Feb. 17, 1886, issue of The Times notes that Neff and Henry lived on the hill near Fort Craig which would have been the Neff Street area.
Neff, a brevet general, in earlier years helped organize and then served in the Union’s 84th Indiana Regiment at Chickamauga. His partner in the addition, Capt. William H. Henry, “was in command of Company L, Fourth Tennessee,” a Confederate unit, Inez Burns writes in her Blount County history. She adds that, opposed to alcohol, Henry was several times the Prohibition candidate for governor of Tennessee.
It was also found from tax records that Neff was a major property owner in the downtown Maryville area. Neff sold The Times in 1891 and joined most of his family in Kansas City.
The Neff family
Always a family-owned newspaper, The Times has played a key role in the community for the past 130 years.
Thanks to the permission from Cathy, in order to record locally and give due recognition to our founder, The Times is publishing some highlights of the family history.
Among the Neff's six sons were a mayor of Kansas City, editors and publishers, a minister, brilliant pediatric scholar and a professor of Romance Languages at the University of Chicago. It continued on through the grandchildren with one being president and CEO of the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
The Neffs came to America from Switzerland prior to the Revolutionary War because of persecution of the Protestants. They apparently were Antibaptists/Mennonites, believing only in baptism of adults and strong believers of separation of church and state.
Francis Neff came to Pennsylvania about 1715 where there is a town named Neff. They settled in Germantown. His son John moved with his parents early in life to Virginia and later to West Virginia before moving to Ohio.
There, Andrew Jackson Neff was born Nov. 30, 1825, in Newcomb, Ohio, to George North Neff and Susanna Potter, one of three children.
He had a sister, Elizabeth Neff Crabbs, who lived and died in Wabash, Ind., and a brother, Allen Neff, a photographer who lived in Indianapolis, but died in Hot Springs, Ark.
When Andrew was 13 or 14, in 1839, the family moved 150 miles west to the frontier in Chester Township in Wabash County, Ind.
Beginning in 1851, he served four years in the elective office of prosecuting attorney for the circuit court in Hartford City were he practiced law. He attended academies in New Castle, Muncie and Winchester.
On Jan. 18, 1853, Neff married Ann Hasseltine Chaffee in Hartford City, Ind. She was born in Lima, Ohio in 1833, the oldest of seven children of Baptist minister William Chaffee and his wife, Abigail Thayer. Ann Hasseltine was named for Ann Hasseltine Judson, the first woman missionary to Burma.
Neff served in the Indiana legislature 1856-57 and the Indiana senate 1871-75.
While in the legislature from Winchester, he published the Winchester Herald and later was co-publisher of the Randolph Journal in Winchester. When the legislature was in session, he roomed at the home of Gen. Lew Wallace in Indianapolis where a fellow roomer was Robert Gatlin, inventor of the well known gun.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Neff organized the 84th Indiana Regiment and became its colonel, seeing service in East Tennessee and especially at the battle of Chickamauga. He was in service two years and was honored at the close of the war by being made a brevet brigadier general. He had volunteered, leaving behind his wife and four sons under the age of 8.
After the war, he experimented with various ways to make a living. By 1870, he had either set farming aside (or lessened it), he opened a store in downtown Winchester, where he may have been handling law cases as well. From 1860, his occupation changed from lawyer to boot and shoe merchant.
Apparently not satisfied, he ran for the Indiana senate. While in the senate in 1875, his main issues dealt with restricting alcohol consumption, a reflection of the national stance in favor of temperance. His mother was raised in a family whose major source of income came from the sale of whiskey. His wife, Ann, appeared in “Goodspeed’s History of East Tennessee,” stating she was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Around 1876, Neff moved across Indiana to Greencastle, where he operated a boot and shoe business and published the Greencastle Times. The move reflected his and Ann’s emphasis on education. While there they supported a succession of sons attending Asbury (DePauw) University.
Move to Maryville
Why the move to Maryville?
It could have been because a newspaper here had folded the year before or it may have been a desire to return to the area where he had fought, the 84th’s bloodiest battle having been at Chickamauga. Obviously his parents thought a lot of Andrew Jackson, which could have contributed to the decision.
Or he may have found his calling in a profession which three of his sons, two of his grandsons and a granddaughter followed by choosing careers involving communication.
George, Walter, Frank and Nellie accompanied their parents to Maryville in late 1883, when Andrew Jackson Neff with his son, George, are credited with founding The Maryville Times.
Apparently, the initial building was located at 133 West Main (now Broadway), just west of the present location of the Capitol Theater.
Frank and Nellie were registered at the Maryville College Normal and Preparatory School in 1888-89.
George and Walter didn’t linger long in Tennessee, but joined their older brother Jay in Kansas City to help publish The Daily Drovers Telegram.
(Drover was a common Midwestern term for those who drove cattle to market.)
Six sons, one daughter
Andrew Jackson Neff and his wife, Ann, had seven children (six consecutive sons first, and then a daughter, a one-in-64 likelihood). All seven children were born in Indiana.
Jay Holcomb Neff, the oldest son, was born in 1854. He was a graduate of Asbury University (now DePauw) in Greencastle, Ind. He trained as a lawyer, moved to Kansas City where he bought and ran The Daily Drovers Telegram. He was also mayor of Kansas City, Mo., from 1904-1905.
William Thorne Neff, the second son, was born in 1856. He, too, graduated from Asbury University and became a Methodist minister.
Theodore Lee Neff, the third son, was born in 1858, and also graduated from Asbury. He received a doctorate from University of Chicago, serving as a professor of romance languages for his entire career.
George North Neff, the fourth son, was born in 1861. He attended Asbury, but did not graduate. He moved to Maryville with his parents and helped with The Maryville Times. George Neff later moved to Kansas City and became a partner with his brother, Jay, in publishing The Daily Drovers Telegram. He became president of the paper when his brother died in 1915.
Walter Prescott Neff, the fifth son, was born in 1866. He attended DePauw University, but did not graduate. Walter moved with his parents to Tennessee and assisted his father and brother with The Maryville Times, then moved to Kansas City and became editor of The Daily Drovers Telegram. Walter is credited with naming the American Royal Livestock and Horse Show, and indirectly with the name of the Kansas City Royals baseball team. He also edited a humor column.
Frank Chaffee Neff, the sixth son, was born in 1872. Frank moved with his family to Tennessee and attended Maryville College before moving with his parents to Kansas City in 1891. He attended the University of Iowa before enrolling in and graduating from the University Medical College of Kansas City. He was a practicing pediatrician his entire life. In 1924, he became the first chair of pediatrics at Kansas University Medical Center and was professor of pediatrics there until his retirement in 1945. He was eulogized as a renowned physician and brilliant pediatric scholar. Cathy Neff Callen, the author, is the daughter of Frank Neff Jr.
Nellie Neff, the seventh child and only daughter, was born in 1873. She also attended Maryville College Normal and Prep School before moving with the family to Kansas City in 1891. She drowned at an outing celebrating her high school graduation.
The six brothers produced only six offspring for the next generation, but several were quite prominent.
Jay’s son, Ward, took over The Daily Drovers Telegram when his father died, bought several other similar newspapers and operated out of Chicago.
Two of William’s three children were exceptional. The oldest, Marietta (born in 1883), earned a graduate degree from Berkeley and was editor of Asia magazine in New York City. His son, Paul Joseph Neff, born in 1884, was president and CEO of the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
Theodore’s son, Lloyd Neff, worked for The Daily Drovers Telegram before purchasing The Johnson County (Kansas) Herald.
As for Frank’s son, Frank Neff Jr.: “My father, was an ordinary person, but could cook up a mean batch of ribs and was a master prankster!” Cathy, the author and great granddaughter, wrote.
Andrew Jackson Neff apparently arrived in Blount County in December 1883 and established The Maryville Times which published its first issue the following January.
Neff published The Times until 1890, when he sold it to Andrew Goddard and sons, Leonard and Clyde. Capt. Leonard S. Goddard ended his association to serve in the Army in the Spanish-American War. An attorney, after duty in Cuba and the Philippines, he returned to the Philippines which was ceded to the United States in 1898 and served as U.S. advocate general.
In 1914, Clyde Goddard sold The Times to John H. “Doc” Mitchell, drug store owner and first fire chief. He was the father of Marvin “Little Doc” Mitchell who served as executive vice president under another native Blount Countian, John D. Harper, of Louisville, who was president of ALCOA Inc. in the 1960s when it was almost a world monopoly in the aluminum industry.
Mitchell’s year as owner made the paper a Democratic organ as he reportedly bought The Times in order to support U.S. Senator Luke Lea, a Democrat and founder and owner of the Nashville Tennessean.
In 1915, Clyde Bright Emert, a 1908 University of Tennessee graduate, native of Blount County and son of a Methodist minister, bought Mitchell out.
He served as owner and publisher until November 1955 when Tutt S. Bradford of Columbia, S. C., became the owner and served as publisher until 1984. At that time, his daughter, Nancy Bradford Cain, was named managing editor and Jerome F. Moon, a native Blount Countian and husband of Debbie Bradford Moon, was named publisher.
Persis Corp., a family group with headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii, purchased The Times on Dec. 18, 1989. Gerald Garcia served as publisher until January 1992, when he was replaced by Larry Walcutt, who served until February 1994. Walcutt was replaced by F. Max Crotser, former publisher in Quincy, Ill.
On Sept. 16, 1994, The Daily Times and six other Persis Corp. newspapers were sold to another family group, Horvitz Newspapers Inc., headed by Peter Horvitz.
On Sept. 1, 2010, Jones Media Inc., a family group headed by Gregg K. Jones and headquartered in Greeneville, purchased The Times. Carl Esposito, who previously served as publisher of the Bristol Herald Courier, was named publisher of The Daily Times.
Locations of The Times
Apparently from its founding in 1883 until 1919, The Times was printed at 133 W. Broadway Ave., just west of the Capitol Theater.
In 1919, David W. Proffitt founded Proffitt’s Department Store in the former Badgett Store building, which is still in use at the northeast corner of the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Cusick Street and widely remembered as “Proffitt’s Store.”
Through Maryville Kiwanis and the Blount County Chamber of Commerce founding activities, Times owner Clyde B. Emert and D.W. Proffitt had become good friends. In 1919, Emert moved The Times to Proffitt’s basement. It was located in the corner of the basement nearest the intersection and the entrance was through a stairwell cut into the sidewalk on the Cusick Street side of the building at the intersection.
With the need to expand, Emert constructed a building at the current location, 307 E. Harper Ave., in 1942. The present location has been expanded at least seven times and now occupies the block between McCammon Avenue and Patton Street.
Frequency of publication
The Times was birthed as a weekly in 1883, but when it was nearly a year old it was published daily for a week as The Maryville Daily Times, in observance of the Blount County Fair. In 1803, Blount County had become the first county in Tennessee authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly to hold a fair. In 1921, The Times became a semi-weekly and then a tri-weekly before becoming a five-days-a-week daily in April 1944.
For about six months, beginning Feb. 1, 1949, The Times published a Sunday edition before it was discontinued.
On July 31, 1990, The Daily Times switched from an afternoon to a morning newspaper.
On Aug. 28 and 29, 1999, The Daily Times began publishing Saturday and Sunday editions.
About author Cathy Callen
The great-great-granddaughter of Maryville Times founder Andrew Jackson Neff, Cathy Neff Callen, is author of “Running out of Footprints.” The writer admits she is hopelessly enamored with “these Neff men.”
Perhaps in her detailed research of the outstanding family she realized she was in reality running out of family footprints as she assembled some of the achievements of this outstanding family.
Cathy earned her undergraduate degree in special education and English at the University of Texas, a master’s degree in early childhood special education from the University of Kansas, and attended the Kansas City Art Institute for two years, majoring in photography.
Her entire working career was spent in the Topeka public school system as a teacher of the visually impaired, school principal and special education coordinator.
She resides in Lawrence, Kan.