James Neilson devoted himself to his New Brunswick farm and estate—Woodlawn—which today houses Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics. He studied agriculture and applied what he learned to benefit the local farming community. He was one of the first to introduce the breeding of Holstein-Friesian cattle in the United States, and he was a pioneer in soil improvement, drainage, and the use of chemical fertilizers. He was impressed by the cultivation of soybeans while touring Bavarian farmsteads in 1870 and introduced the first crop to the United States. In 1880, along with George H. Cook, Neilson was instrumental in founding the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and served on its board until his death in 1937. He was active in New Brunswick civic affairs: he and his wife founded a charity organization, a penny savings bank for public school children, and New Jersey’s first free public library. He was a Rutgers trustee for 51 years, serving on the trustees’ committee on the New Jersey College for Women, to whose students he opened his home. His bequest to the university included vast tracts of his family’s land, his home, and his library.