McNeil, Charles Leverett
Manuscript Diaries of a young Charles Leverett McNeil, Cashier for the Brooks Brothers Bank, Wolcottville (now Torrington), Connecticut, 1875-1876

2 diaries, 12mo, 111 and 98 manuscript pp., dated 1875 and 1876; pocket diaries; one bound in cloth, the other in thin limp leather, some chipping to spine of leather volume; 3 days entries per page; entries written in ink and pencil, in a legible hand; cloth bound volume includes inscription inside front flyleaf “Property of Chas. L. McNeil, Wolcottville, Conn.” Both volumes have additional manuscript pages at rear in the memorandum and cash accounts sections, the 1875 volume has a 25 manuscript pp., and 1876 volume has 5 manuscript pp.

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Charles L. McNeil (1855-1941)

Charles Leverett McNeil was born on 22 September 1855 in Wolcottville (Torrington) Litchfield County, Connecticut. He was the son of Henry L. McNeil and his wife Martha O’Dell. He attended public and private schools in Torrington and graduated from the Episcopal Academy of Connecticut in Cheshire in 1873.

On 2 October 1879, he married Mary L. Vibbert (1859 – d. aft. 1930), the daughter of Joseph Sharpe Vibbert and Emma Loomis Deming, both of Torrington. Together the couple had at least two children: Emma V. McNeil Lawton (1880-) and Martha McNeill Klein (1883-).

McNeil conducted an insurance agency for many years under the name of Brooks and McNeil, retiring from active participation in 1920. He was president of the Connecticut Association of Insurance Agents in 1910, at which time the Agents Qualification Bill was instituted. He was made a member of the executive committee of the National Association of Insurance Agents in 1908 and became an honorary life member of the Connecticut association in 1920.

McNeil was one of the corporators of the Torrington Water Company and was assisted in the organization of that company by O.R. Fyler, Isaac W. Brooks and Elisha Turner in 1878. At that time, he was elected secretary and treasurer of the Torrington Water Company and served in that capacity until his death.

On October 1, 1873, he entered the employ of the Brooks Brothers bankers, and was appointed cashier in 1876, at the age of 21. Brooks Brothers Bank was founded in 1872 by John W. Brooks and his brother Isaac W. Brooks. McNeil served about 25 years in that position until he was elected cashier of the Brooks National Bank in 1899, and later of the Brooks Bank and Trust Company in 1917. Upon the death of John W. Brooks, McNeil was elected president. In 1923, after 50 years of service with the Brooks organization, he was elected chairman of the board of directors. He was also formerly clerk and assistant treasurer of the Torrington Savings Bank for many years, and was vice-president since 1902 until his death.

Besides his banking and insurance activities, he was a trustee of Cheshire Academy, member of the AF&AM, life member of the Shriners, member of the Torrington Club, the Torrington Country Club, the Torrington Lodge of Elks, amongst other organizations. McNeil once served in the Connecticut State Legislature and was probate clerk for the town for 25 years, and a former selectman. At his death he was the oldest member of the Trinity Episcopal Church having served in many capacities for this church.

Charles L. McNeil lived in Torrington (Wolcottville) all his life; he died there on 2 February 1941 at the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.

       Description and Sample Quotations of Diaries:

   These two diaries were kept when McNeil was 20 and 21 years of age, and shortly after he started working for Brooks Brothers Bank. There are many entries mentioning the bank and its founders, Isaac W. and John W. Brooks. The diaries show that the brothers gave McNeil many responsibilities for a 20-year old. McNeil was not married yet, so the entries describe his socializing, going to dances, parties, sleighing, fishing trips, as well meeting his future wife Mary L. Vibbert, who he marries in 1879. In 1876, he takes a train trip to Philadelphia for the Centennial celebration, which is described in entries over the course of a week in June 1876.

“Fri, Jan 22, 1875

IWB went to Waterbury and JWB to Goshen. Snowed two or three inches. Played checkers with J. Palmer and was badly beaten.”

 

“Sat, Jan 23, 1875

Brooks Bros went to Goshen early. A German living on High St hung himself this P.M.”

“Mon, Jan 25, 1875

Mrs. Messinger paid rent to date also note of $225 and gave possession to Mrs. D.W. Clark Jan 27.”

 

“Fri, Jan 29, 1875

I & JW Brooks went to Hfd on 11:20 train left me to run the institution alone, which I did & closed at 5 P.M. JWB came home on 7:30 train.”

 

“Sat, Jan 30, 1875

Brooks Bros left about 3 for Goshen. Homer Thrall & I played checkers until 11 P.M. R. Scoville brick building on Litchfield St was burned at 2 o’clock this morning, supposed to be incendiary.”

 

“Mon, Feb 1, 1875

Took trail balance and started well on my balances. Brooks Bros came down about 10 A.M. Heavy snow storm last night. Brough tickets for calico supper.”

 

“Tues, Feb 2, 1875

Worked hard all the morning. IWB went to N.Y. on 2:30 train. JWB went some where at 3 P.M. been talking about it for over a year. Harry Hopkins died.”

 

“Tues, Feb 9, 1875

The coldest day of the season. We have had extreme cold weather for over a month. We have had for the past month the coldest spell of weather known since 1857.”

“Wed, Feb 10, 1875

Isaac W. Brooks & E.A. Baldwin started for Washington, D.C. to spend a week or more. Our well was frozen this morning never had it so before. Frost 5 or 6 feet deep and terrible walking.”

 

“Thurs, Feb 11, 1875

Snowed all the morning commenced raining at noon and continued till dark, froze in the eve made it awful traveling. Mother run sewing machine needle through her finger and broke needle off, very sore.”

 

“Mon, Jun 19, 1876

Woke up in New York at 4:30 waited a short time and then started for a breakfast, had to wait until 6 for that, finally started for Central Park spent 4 or 5 hours there met Lockwood at depot and then started for Philadelphia reached P at 6 P.M. …”

 

“Tues, Jun 20, 1876

Took rooms last night at ‘Grand Exposition Hotel” think we can do no better. We pay 2.50 ea. for breakfast, supper & lodging. Big hotel. Spent the day on the grounds and did not get thro Main Building, danced in evening.”

 

“Wed, Jun 21, 1876

Finished hastily the Main Building, the Mach. B – and part of art gallery, Huke and I stay together, first rate hotel, has 1375 rooms. Met C.H. Seymour staying same hotel. Never was so tired.”

 

“Thurs, Jun 22, 1876

Strolled around visiting State Buildings, Horticultural Hall and minor buildings. Visited Fairmount Water Works, very fine, 300 young ladies from Elmira College came Monday evening, Gay oh my.”

“Fri, Jun 1876

Visited Independence Hall and looked upon the original Dec & C also went into the U.S. Mint and saw them manufacture silver. Visited the grounds in the P.M. Went to theater in Eve. Had a fire not on the bill. Huke & Lockwood left at noon.”

 

“Sat, Jun 1876

Took brkft at G.E. Hotel then took my baggage and bade good bye. Left my bag at the Globe and went into the grounds, purchased a few mementos, spent most of the day in Mach. Hall & Art Gallery, most interesting building to me, started for St. Louis at 9:15.”