John McNeese came to Louisiana with a few other men, planning to sell cattle in New Orleans. However, drought meant that most of the cattle were dead by the time the men reached Lake Charles. They sold the rest and McNeese began teaching in the Lake Charles area, at Hickory Flat. He also started studying law. He enrolled in Tulane Law School in 1886, and after receiving his degree, he returned to Lake Charles to practice. Very soon, however, he began teaching again and getting involved in education. He served on a committee to organize high schools, was elected to the examining board for qualifying teachers, and served as a principal in Lake Charles. In 1888 he was elected Superintendent of public education for Calcasieu Parish. Very few public schools existed in Louisiana at the time. His work on a system of organization and supervision was copied by many other parishes. He made a huge amount of progress with the building of the school system in the twenty-five years that he acted as superintendent. By the time he reached the end of his time as superintendent, Calcasieu Parish had voted in taxes to fund public schools, constructed school buildings, and increased teacher qualifications, student enrollment,and public interest in education.