Joseph O'Neil was born in 1891 , the sixth of seven children of Thomas and Margaret Jones O'Neil and the fourth son. The WWI draft registration card , dated 05 June 1917, describes him as short, stout, with gray eyes and dark brown hair. His photographs show Joe as looking more like his father than his mother and in later years appeared to be slender rather than stout. This was probably due in large part to the fact that Joe's health as an adult was poor and he suffered from headaches and severe stomach pain.
"My dad was well liked by all who knew him well. He was witty, good natured and fun to be around - except when his headaches were severe. He liked baseball and boxing and would listen to the games on radio when we were in Ferndale and would try to find a place with a radio when we were without electricity. He would take me and George with him to hear the fights. He preferred the “scientific” boxer over the “slugger” and Gene Tunney was his favorite. On Sunday afternoons he would come and watch George and me play baseball." (Harold O'Neill, from 'Harold & Betty, Their Stories...')
Joe grew up during the last decade of the old century and the first of the new. He attended school, went swimming and hunting and worked on the family farm, living the typical farm life of that period.
"Dad was a good swimmer, having learned to swim in the creeks near home. He would hunt rabbits, taking me and George with him. Rabbits liked to stay under the rail piles so George and I would go over and move the rails and chase them out and dad would shoot them. He was good at hitting rabbits but never was very good at hitting pheasants." (Harold O'Neill, from 'Harold & Betty, Their Stories...')
When he was only three or four years old the house was built on Shock Road. This same house that would be his home from the time the family returned from Ferndale in 1930 until his death in 1940.
In 1910 Joe and his younger sister Margaret and his parents were living on Purdy Road on the farm that would later be the home of his older brother Tom. It was shortly after this that Joe went to work as the hired man on the Artman farm. George Artman died in 1912 when Frances Artman was eighteen and Joe was twenty-two. Joe and Frances fell in love and married in 1913.