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Madera Biographies: LEONARD

   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 itís 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 fatherís 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. Cassell of Los Angeles; Edwin James of Madera; and Mrs. Mary Kuhnan 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. Leonardís uncle Judge James Grant, being financially interest n the project In 1881 he left Colorado for California and settle 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 Grubgulch, Madera County, but after working the claim for three years he sold out.

   The marriage of Mr. Leonard united him with Melvin Oxendiene, who was born in Calaveras 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 1993, 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.

Guinn, J. M., History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the San Joaquin Valley, California, (Chicago: Chapman Publishing, 1905), page 530.

Transcribed by Harriet Sturk.

Last update: September 16, 2000
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