John Angus McNeil was the second of six children—four sons and two daughters— born to Donald “Brown” and Sarah (Grant) McNeil of Malignant Cove, Antigonish County, NS. Donald passed away around 1886 and the couple’s two youngest children—daughters Catherine and Isabelle—died before 1891, leaving Sarah to care for four young boys.
While Sarah’s eldest son, John Joseph, remained at Malignant Cove, the three others ventured westward sometime before 1911. John Angus worked as a foreman in a Vancouver Island logging camp, while his youngest brother, William Bernard—known to family as “Willie B.”—was employed as a labourer in the same camp. Alexander, the third sibling, toiled as a logger on nearby Thurlow Island.