Taylor County, Iowa History of 1910 by Frank Crosson
(transcribed and submitted by: Rick Leonard - rick@rickleonard.net)

Daniel Leonard

Few men of Taylor County have endured greater hardships in the early settlement of this part of the state or have born their expectations with greater courage and derived from them a larger share of the prosperity of the world and the gifts of spirit than has Daniel Leonard, who for more than half a century has farmed in what is now Holt township. The memories of the day on which he arrived here and of the struggles and discouragements of the first few years are still vivid, and sometimes, as he looks back over the past he wonders not so much how he surmounted them, but how his loyal wife, gently born and reared amid luxury, had the courage to brave conditions to which he all unwillingly had to submit her. He was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in June 1830.

His father, William Leonard, was a farmer throughout his live and five years prior to his death moved to Ohio, where he passed away at the advanced age of 80. His mother, who had been Miss Mary Van Ort before her marriage, was a native of Pennsylvania and lived to be sixty years of age. The family of Leonard was of English decent and Daniel can remember that his grandparents frequently spoke of the "log book," from which he infers that his ancestors were sea-faring people, though he was too young to find out at that time. However that may be, they were able to transmit to their descendent strong qualities of character which have been the making of him.

About three miles from the birthplace of James G. Blaine, Daniel Leonard opened his eyes upon the world and there grew to maturity. His parents were very poor people and he was able to acquire but a limited education, though he was early initiated into the realm of toil. At the age of 22, he left his home and started life for himself. He went first to Delaware County, Ohio, where he remained for two years and was married, and then moved to Fulton County, Illinois, where he lived for about nine months.

In 1856, with a team of horses and all of their household possessions loaded on a wagon, he and his wife started on their journey across the country to Iowa. On the 25th of September, (he) stopped at the place where his home has been ever since and where he pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres of government land. No shelter of any kind was to be seen, so they took off the bows and the cover from the wagon, fastening them to the ground so that they would not blow away, for a storm seemed to be rising, and then inverted the wagon box on the ground. Under this the wife crawled, and after handing her a few clothes, Mr. Leonard crawled under himself. During the night, the threatened storm arrived and although the rain poured down harder than he had ever known it to do before or since, they were as dry and cozy under their improvised shelter as if they were provided with more comforts. Mr. Leonard had in his pockets only thirty-seven dollars and thirty-seven cents, but with that rare foresight which has distinguished him in his acquisition of land since, he traded his team for ninety acres.

For four years he managed to do without any horses, although he bought a couple of calves which he broke into work. They were well broken, too, as one incident will show.

In the early morning, Mr. Leonard would take them to the timber, fell a tree, trim it, put the butt and larger limbs together, fasten a chain about them, and then hitch the young oxen to the whole. Forthwith, they would "mozey" to the cabin, where Mrs. Leonard would "untoggle" the chain, turn them around and start them on the road to the woods which they would reach by themselves. On the next trip, Mr. Leonard would accompany them, as he went to his dinner, and in the afternoon would bring up the third load. They were also of value in plowing when they were fastened with a yoke eight feet long, and with them he was able to plant his corn. The animals grew to be oxen of mammoth size and when he disposed of them they brought a price of two-hundred and seventy-five dollars.

From the trees he felled, Mr. Leonard build a cabin sixteen feet square, and as the logs were short in this part of the state, he had to splice them to make the cabin large enough. In that rude home he and his wife lived for a number of years, until he erected his present residence, the lumber for which he hauled from St. Joseph, Missouri. But even when their cabin was built their hardships were not lightened very much, and many a time Mr. Leonard said he wept at the thought of the severity of the life to which he brought his wife so tenderly reared in her girlhood and now bearing the struggle of a pioneersman's wife cheerfully, without complaint.

On one occasion he came to the shanty from the fields and found her clad in her nightclothes, washing the only outside garments she had. She was using a brass kettle given her by her mother, the only utensil among the few possessions large enough for the purpose. Mr. Leonard returned to the fields, sat down in the furrow and cried, heartsick enough to commit suicide. But he thought to himself, "Leonard, you won't be such a coward. Get up, pull yourself together and get out of this condition." It was a long time, however, before ready money found a place in his pocket.

On one occasion, he wrote a letter to his people in Ohio, but could not send it for lack of the price of postage, which in those days would have been fifteen cents. Nor could that amount be found in Taylor County. At different seasons of the year, hogs were gathered together at some place and driven to Ottumwa to be sold. One time Mr. Leonard had twelve to dispose of, but they weighed three-hundred pounds and were too heavy to drive. Accordingly he butchered them himself and sold the hams in Bedford for two and a half cents a pound, could not sell the shoulders at any price. So he left two with a blacksmith and said he would take their value out in work, later receiving for them a pair of hinges, which anywhere today could be procured for a quarter.

That these conditions have passed and that Mr. Leonard is in the enjoyment of a handsome income are due not only to his capacity for work and his determination to get ahead, but equally to the native sagacity which enabled him to discern the increase in the value of land, for besides the location he chose for his own home, whenever he saw the opportunity he bought land until at one time he held over one-thousand acres, of which he gave generously to each of six sons, whom he assisted in improving their farms and in stocking them. His own farm is situated on an elevation, from which, before the trees were so thick he could look southwest into Missouri, west into Page County, northwest into Montgomery County, north into Adams County, northeast into Union County, east into Ringgold County, and southeast and south over Taylor County, obtaining a beautiful view in whatever direction he gazed. In addition to his purely agricultural interests, for more than fifty years Mr. Leonard has given special attention to the breeding of sheep, and with his sons under the name of Daniel Leonard & Sons, became the pioneer importers of Shropshire sheep, and they are now noted all over the southwest for the quality of their animals. Farm work and the air from his fields are his life, as he learned when at one time he retired to Corning. It was not long, however, as he was not made for a life of comfort, and he came back to the farm, determined not to relinquish its cares until the last moment.

In 1853, Mr. Leonard married Miss Jane Heath, who was born in Washington County, Ohio, in 1833, and for fifty-six years she was his companion. With the courage that some loving women possess, she never faltered before the difficult life to which her husband brought her, but without complaint assumed her duties. Her example of hard work and her cheerfulness were the encouragement for many, while her virtues and the Christian spirit which prompted her many acts of kindness made her well beloved by all, but especially by her own family.

Nine children were born to them: Mary, who died at the age of eighteen months; William, who is living in Grove Township; Guy, a resident of Holt Township; Charles, who is at home; Arthur, Smith, and J.W., who are living in Holt Township; Luzanne, who died at the age of 14 years; and Harry, who as killed when fourteen years old. Mrs. Leonard was taken from this world June 23, 1909, but her memory is still a strong factor for good, although she was never a member of any church.

In the early days, Mr. Leonard had helped organize a Methodist church in the neighborhood, of which he became a member and class leader. There were but five professing Christians in north Taylor County then, and his descriptions of the first meeting house contrasts strangely with the edifices prepared for worship today. He says, "It was a log building, one end out for the chimney, the other end for the door, the sides out for the windows. Split lean tree logs on pegs formed the seats." Four fourteen years he regularly attended the services at that church, but his ideas gradually broadened and today he would be considered liberal, subscribing to no creed. His rule of life has always been, "Do as I would be done by," and he says repeatedly, "That if people would follow the Golden Rule, they would need no other religion." It has profited him well in a worldly way and three years ago he was able to take a trip to California and the Pacific Slope, on which his wife accompanied him.

Politically Mr. Leonard is a Republican, attending and participating in the first convention held in Taylor County. Indeed, he has always wielded a wide influence in shaping the public opinion of this section of the state and has been active in the local affairs for time and again he has held township offices and has served on the Board of Supervisors for two terms. Having seen the county grow from its earliest days, it is but natural that he should be actuated by a large public spirit for its welfare. Times have advanced since pioneer days, and he has been largely instrumental in bringing about progress.