Partner: CROOKS, William
in Miami Sawmill
The present county recorder of
Madera County is a descendant from the
very earliest settlers in America, for the
Leonard family was represented among
the pilgrims on the Mayflower and was of
English extraction. Both in times of
war and peace it’s members have proved themselves
worth citizens of our
republic.They built the first iron foundry
in the United States, thus inaugurating an
enterprise that has since become of vast extent and importance. During the Revolutionary war was one of the family bore arms in defense of independence and liberty. James Leonard, who was a son of this Revolutionary soldier, was himself of loyal and patriot spirit, which he showed during his service in war of 1812. During the next generation James Edwin, a son of James, became a soldier in the Black Hawk war and proved himself the possessor of true Revolutionary courage.
James Edwin Leonard was a native
of Norwich, Conn., and grew to manhood
upon his father’s farm. When Iowa was
still an undeveloped region he identified
himself with its pioneer farmers. Settling
on a rich tract of bottom-land
five miles from Sabula, Jackson, Jackson
County, within close proximity to the
Mississippi river. He witnessed the growth
of that locality from its raw and
crude primeval condition to one of the most fertile and valuable sections of the west. Residing there during by far the greater part of his life, he naturally had a circle of acquaintances that was limited only by the number of pioneers in the county. At the time of his death, which occurred at seventy-six years, in 1900 he was the oldest surviving settler of the entire county. His wife, who was born Maria Higgins, was a native of Jacksonville, Ill., and died in Iowa. Her father, James Higgins, who was a native of Nova Scotia, removed to Illinois and settled on a farm near Jacksonville, Morgan County, where he died.
Four children comprised the family of James Edwin and Maria LEONARD, namely: Henry who still lives near Sabula Iowa; Bessie, wife of M. H. CASSEL; of LosAngeles; Edwin James of MADERA; and Mrs. Mary KUHNART of Davenport, Iowa.
The third of these, Edwin James, was born
near Sabula, Iowa, August 19,
1860, and during boyhood years worked on
the home farm during summer months and studied in country schools in winter.
Further educational advantages
included attendance at the Davenport high
school and two years in Cornell College, where he took the studies of the
freshman and sophomore classes. Leaving college before entering upon
his junior year, in 1879 he went to LEADVILLE, Colo., to assist in the
GRANT smelter under ex-Governor J. B. GRANT of Colorado, Mr. Leonard’s
uncle Judge James GRANT, being financially interested in the project.
In 1881 he left Colorado for California and settled in MADERA (then FRESNO) County,where he became interested in the sawmill business. One of his earliest ventures was the building of the MIAMI sawmill in MARIPOSA County, where he engaged in the manufacture of lumber with William H. CROOKS as a partner. In 1883 he built a new mill with a larger capacity and continued to manage the same with his partner until 1891, when he sold his interest. He then purchased the OAK PARK ranch of four hundred and eight acres, which he improved by building an excellent system of ditching for irrigation. Making his home on the ranch, he engaged in the raising of Holstein cattle there until 1900, when he moved into MADERA, and has since disposed an interest in the GAMBETTA mine at GRUB GULCH, MADERA County, but after working the claim for three years he sold out.
The marriage of Mr. LEONARD united him with Melvina OXENDIENE, who was born in CALAVARAS County, her father, Meldred OXENDIENE, having been a pioneer of this state. Mr. and Mrs. LEONARD are the parents of two children. Mamie and Mart. For several years Mr. LEONARD was a member of the state Democratic central committee, and he has also served on the county central committee. In 1902 he was the Democratic nominee for County Recorder and won the election by a majority of one hundred and fifty-four, taking the oath of office in January 1903, for a term of four years. In fraternal connections he is identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, having been initiated into that fraternity in the MADERA Lodge.
From: Guinn, J. M., History of the State
of California and Biographical
Record of the San Joaquin Valley, California, (Chicago: Chapman Publishing, 1905),
Transcribed by Harriet Sturk.
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