When I first visited the Neely Mansion with my friend Inger Anne Hage it was a mere 71 years old – my age now. But now at 116 it looks considerably better than I. This improvement is the work of the many volunteers who have gathered around it for the restoration and maintenance of this national landmark.
Aaron and Sarah Neely completed the ornate farmhouse east of Kent in 1894. Aaron was seven when he crossed the Oregon Trail with his parents David and Irene Neely in 1853. The family came directly to the future White/Green River valley and was thereby among its earliest settlers.
One of the Neely Mansion volunteers, Karen Meador, introduced me to the historical photograph of the mansion and also took the “repeat” during a visit by Neely descendants. And this would be the proper place to name them.
First the visitors in the “now” photo, left to right. Left to right, Ken Beckman, Aaron Beckman, Grant Beckman, Howard Elliot Neely, and Jane Neely Beckman. Howard is the 93-year-old grandson of the Aaron Neely who built it. Understanding the difficulty of “reading” the faces of the six figures posing in the “then” we will note two with reserved confidence. The young boy, third from the left, is – or seems to be -Howard Elliot Neely’s father Aaron Neely Jr., and the woman, far right, his mother Sarah Graham Neely, Aaron Senior’s wife.
The photograph is almost as old as the house, for by 1900 the family missed the social excitements of town life and moved to nearby Auburn. According to Meador “Through the next several decades the mansion and its 200 fertile acres were leased variously to Swiss, Japanese and Filipino tenant farmers.” Sometime in the 1960’s it made a transition to disrepair. That is how we found it while on our way to the Black Diamond bakery. We peeked in a front window and found a mess. Now thanks to the Neely Mansion Association this classic Victorian is open and operating.