Life and Times of Francis Maria Stillman
and 3rd husband - Franklin Neff

son of John Neff II and Mary Barr



Franklin Neff


In the beautiful community of Strasburg, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Franklin Neff was born, the first son of John Neff II and Mary Barr, February 18, 1824. He was the second of ten children.

They were honest, hardworking people whose ancestors had come to, what was then called, Pennís Woods for religious freedom.

We know little about Franklin's childhood, but we do know that he received a practical education as a farmer, a business man and a miller. He was raised a devout Mennonite As a part of his church and parental teaching, he became a man of great faith. He was 18 when the family heard Elder Henry Deam speak at the school near their home. He accepted the challenge to read the Book of Mormon and ask God if it was true. What strength of character it must have taken for a young man of wealthy parents to leave all that he loved behind and join an unpopular and persecuted people. That he was convinced that the Book of Mormon was true and that the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored, is born out by the pattern of his whole like. He never looked back. He was faithful to the gospel all of the remaining days of his life.

It appears that Franklin, his brothers and his sisters honored their parents and never rebelled against their authority. Franklin was probably trusted to take charge of his fatherís business while John, Mary and Barbara went to Nauvoo to visit Joseph Smith in May of 1844.

Attracting Franklinís attention was his cousin, Elizabeth Musser, She was the daughter of Anna Barr and Samuel Musser. Anna was the sister of Franklin's mother, Mary. They were married in Strasburg on March 5 1846.

Also in 1846, the Family made preparations to leave Lancaster. John made arrangements for someone to take care of his interests in Pennsylvania He, and his sons had money belts made in which they carried gold coins. A false bottom was designed for their wagon which held more gold. When they arrived at what had been described to Franklin as the beautiful, booming city of Nauvoo, only those too poor and too ill to travel remained.

The Neffs arrived at Winter Quarters in mid-September and helped build a flour mill which still stands in Florence, Nebraska. Franklin's experience as a miller would have been invaluable as well as his father and brothers. Eight hundred log and sod houses were built by the saints there. The city was laid out in 21 wards with a bishop over each ward. They built a church and school. Wheat was planted in the fertile soil near Winter Quarters and a crop was grown which was ground into flour to feed the thousands of hungry saints.

Before Brigham Young left in the early spring of 1847, He deeded the mill to John Neff and ask that he run the mill for another season to help those who would follow. It was arranged that Franklin would stay with his family and run the mill then follow after.The rest of the John Neff family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with the third company, October 2, 1847

Franklin and Elizabeth worked on the mill, plowing, planting, harvesting and milling wheat. On April 28, 1848, a daughter, Elizabeth, was born to Franklin and Elizabeth in Winter Quarters. Soon after her birth they finished making flour from the spring wheat and packed up the mill stones and machinery and came to Utah.

They settled in the area at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon where the family had built a home and begun another grist mill. To run the mill they used an overshot water wheel and penstock. Although the Neff mill was not the first in the Salt Lake Valley, it was the first to bolt the flour. This was a process of running the flour through silk goods brought from their home in Pennsylvania, thus sifting the course from the fine flour.

On February 2, 1853, another daughter, Letitia, was born to Franklin and Elizabeth. However, Elizabeth became very ill and lived just three weeks after the birth and died at the age of 27 years. Letitia was not a healthy child and passed away eight months later on Oct. 18,1853.

Two years later, Franklin met a young widow, Frances Maria Stillman Russell, a daughter of Jason and Harriet Elizabeth Seymore Stillman. Her family had heard the gospel while living in New York state and traveled to Nauvoo to be near the saints.

Francis came to the Salt Lake valley in 1850. Her husband, Lester Russell, died while crossing the plains. They had two daughters, one who died as a baby on the plains and harriet Ida.

After arriving in the valley, she married Lesterís brother, Issac Nelson Russell. This union did not work out well and he left to seek gold in California.

Franklin and Francis were married January 1, 1855. Nine children blessed this union, Francis Maria, Mary Minerva, John Franklin, Barbra Matilda, Rosella Salome, May Seymour, Alice Armelia, Seymour Howard, and Alfaretta. They also adopted two indian children. So with the 2 from previous marriages, They had 13 children. Frances and John died of diphtheria the winter of 1865 and Barbara died at age 3 in 1866. Alice, died of cancer at age 27.

Franklin and Frances were a very loving and united couple. They worked toward the same goals. In the daily affairs of running the mill, Franklin followed his fathers practice to feed the poor, and to charge no more for their flour than the tithing price of six cents a pound. While he was busy at the mill doing good works, Frances was at home doing double duty, raising their family and feeding the poor from their kitchen.

Frances was well educated and was one of the first school teachers in the district, teaching in the first log school house. She spent many hours reading to her children. The older girls would help with running the grist mill and driving the horses for plowing. She would join them gathering the sugar cane, picking the potatoes, gathering the hay, etc.

Franklin was one of the first settlers to get a patented deed from the government for his quarter section of land. This land extended from 20th East to the foothills and from 33rd South to 40th South. He gave immigrants land on which to make their homes.

He was one of the first brick and adobe makers. Franklin and is father had a shingle mill and a molasses mill. He did become what is called today "well to do" and at one time when the Saints were going to live the United Order, he and his father deeded all they had to Brigham Young. When it was realized that the Saints were not ready to live this "Order," the deeds were returned.

Franklin left his family some of his tools, including a crosscut saw, an old style wooden plane, a tomahawk he used for a hammer and an old-Lime iron square. Franklin assisted in building first school house, meeting house, social hall and many homes in East Mill Creek.

Franklin was called by President Brigham Young to go out among the Indians as an Indian Scout to make friends with them and help later companies of Saints, through safely. Franklin, with his brother in law and good friend Porter Rockwell, Gathered around the camp fire with the Indians on many occasions and smoked the pipe of peace with them. They also let their hair and beards grow long as a compliment to their Indian Friends.

Franklin welcomed Indians onto his land and gave them a little flour and corn meal. Because of their love and respect for him, the Indians always allowed him to come onto or cross their lands.

Franklin Neff died 17 Nov. 1882 at only 58 years of age. Francis died 21 years later on 13 September 1903. They left their children to carry on in their footsteps and to "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."


Children of Francis Maria Stillman
and 3rd husband - Franklin Neff

son of John Neff II and Mary Barr

Frances Maria Neff
Born: 19 Sep 1855
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 14 Nov 1866
Place: East Mill Creek, UT

Mary Minerva Neff
Born:6 Sep 1857
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 24 Feb 1928
Place: East Mill Creek, Salt Lake, Utah - 27 Feb 1928, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT
Married: James Madison Fisher, Jr.
Born: 14 Dec 1857
Place: Calls Fort, UT
Died: 12 Aug 1925
Place: East Mill Creek, Salt Lake, UT - burial 16 Aug 1925
Date Married: 26 Dec 1878, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT

John Franklin Neff
Born: 7 Aug 1859
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 29 Dec 1866
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Barbara Miltilda Neff
Born: : 15 Mar 1861
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 18 Mar 1866
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Rosella Salome Neff
Born:27 May 1863
Place: Oakwood, UT
Died: 25 Mar 1951
Place: Salt Lake City, UT
Married: Robert Pierce Fisher
Born: 1 Oct 1859
Place: Salt Lake City, UT
Died: 8 Jun 1949
Place: Salt Lake City, UT - burial 14 Jul 1949, Salt Lake City, UT
Date Married: 10 Jul 1884 in Salt Lake City, UT

May Seymour Neff
Born: 30 Oct 1866
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 15 Apr 1943
Place: Lyman, ID - 18 Apr 1943, Archer Cemetary, Madison, Idaho
Married:1) John McGregor Wilson
Born: circa 1864
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Date Married: 19 Dec 1888 in Salt Lake City, UT
Married:2) Francis Sharp, Jr.
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Date Married: 7 Jan 1903 in Salt Lake City, UT

Alice Amelia Neff
Born: 23 Nov 1868
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 6 Nov 1895
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Seymour Howard Neff
Born: 23 Dec 1871
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 22 Jun 1941
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Married:1) Eudora Irene Fisher
Born: circa 1873
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Date Married: 7 Jun 1899
Married:2) Vera Kanpton Wilson
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Alfaretta Neff
Born: 16 Jan 1872
Place: East Mill Creek, UT
Died: 19 Jan 1943
Place: Brigham City, UT - 22 Jan 1943, Brigham City, UT
Married: Arta McLean Seely (Beely)
Born: circa 1875
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Date Married: 3 May 1899, Salt Lake City, UT

Data and information for this page has been obtained from ancestry.com