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Nettie Donnie King Neely Riley

  • Birth 29 May 1892 Robeson County, North Carolina, USA
  • Death 24 Mar 1958 Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA
  • Burial Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA
  • Plot Section L, Lot 355, Space 7
  • Memorial ID 5058454

Note: Her birth date on her tombstone is inaccurate. She was born in 1892 although she claimed she was born in 1900, dropping her age by 8 years. (The King family had a habit of changing their birth dates and birth places and sometimes their names, probably to conceal their relationship to their brother Earnest King who may have killed a man, then changed his name to Earnest Robert Cain, and gone into hiding.)

Born on Sunday, May 29, 1892 in Robeson County, North Carolina and raised along the South Carolina (Dillon County) and North Carolina (Robeson County) line, she was the daughter and one of eight surviving children of William Edward ("Eddie") King and Margurett ("Maggie") J. Edwards King. She was seventh in birth order. She had hazel green eyes and black hair like her son Joe and granddaughter Sharlotte. Nettie Donnie King Neely Riley was raised by her older siblings after the death of her mother. (The family had a habit of changing their birth dates and birth places and sometimes their names.) Nettie married Joseph Bowden Neely, Sr. sometime after 1910 probably in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina and moved to Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. They had met around 1910 while working at the cotton mill in Dillon, Dillon County, South Carolina. In 1916 they lived in Savannah at 411 Berrien. While living at 524 West York Street in Savannah, they had twin sons in 1920 who died in infancy. Later two surviving sons, Joseph Bowden Neely, Jr. (born at 524 West York Street) and James Robert Neely, Sr. (born at 309 East 35th Street), were born. Sometime between 1917 and 1920, her husband went from being called "Bowden" to being called "Joe." Sometime between 1916 and 1917, she went from being called "Donnie" to being called "Nettie." So Bowden and Donnie became Joe and Nettie. In 1925 and 1926 the Neelys lived at 315 York Street in Savannah. By 1927 they lived at 309 East 35th Street in Savannah.

Widowed in 1928 at age 36, with two young children, at the beginning of the Depression, she went to work for the Chatham County Democratic Party under Johnny Bowen and supported her family working in a soup kitchen. Years later she married Harry Riley (buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah). She and her first husband had three grandchildren, James Robert Neely, Jr., John Michael Neely, and Sharlotte Neely Donnelly; six great-grandchildren; and several great-great-grandchildren.

Nettie died of a heart attack on March 24, 1958 in Savannah at age 65, although she claimed she was born in 1900 and was only 57. She is buried next to her first husband in the Neely family plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. The birth date on her grave stone is inaccurate. Her ancestry was probably English and Scots-Irish.

Thanks so much to her sons Joe and Robbie Neely and her granddaughter Sharlotte Neely Donnelly for much of this information. Any errors are mine alone. Please go to the "edit" link on this site with any corrections or additions.


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  • Created by: Sharlotte Neely Donnelly
  • Added: 15 Sep 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5058454
  • Sharlotte Neely Donnelly
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Nettie Donnie King Neely Riley (29 May 1892–24 Mar 1958), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5058454, citing Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Sharlotte Neely Donnelly (contributor 19199118) .