Monday, May 26, 2014

Jay Leonard of Allison

As some of you readers may remember, in December of 2013 this blog published pages from the ledger of Jay Leonard’s store at Allison showing what the families in that neighborhood might have received for Christmas.
Jay and his brother, Joseph’s biography, printed on page 25 of the 1875 Atlas of Lawrence County, for which they must have provided the information is interesting, not just for the local history involved but also because of Jay’s service in the Civil War.

“LEONARD BROTHERS.  Joseph and Jay Leonard, the subjects of this sketch, were born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1824 and 1840 respectively.  They came to this State, Joseph in 1856, and Jay the following year.  Joseph became a teacher soon after his arrival, and continued to follow that as part of his employment until 1872.  Altogether, before his immigration hither, and since, he has been a teacher for twenty years.  He commenced the manufacture of sorghum molasses in 1862.  In this he has been successful, benefiting the community in which he lives, as well as laying the foundation pecuniarily for other successful enterprises.  He has held several offices in the township where he resides.  Jay Leonard remained in this County nearly three years; part of the time he attended his brother’s school, and part taught himself.  In 1860, he returned home, where he lived with his mother until her death, in 1861.  He then worked at farming and milling until 1862, when he answered his country’s call and enlisted in the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers, and with his regiment served under General Sedgwick.  He now took part in the numerous and hotly-contested battles of the Army of the Potomac, and during the last year of the war held the honorable position of one the color-guards of his regiment.  On the 6th of April, 1865, under General Sheridan, in a fierce engagement at Sailor’s Run with General Lee’s rear-guard under Fitzhugh Lee, Jay was shot through the right thigh, the ball carrying away two inches of the bone.  For three days he was without medical attention.  But he was a Christian, and bore his sufferings with fortitude.  When the surgeons did finally get round to him, they at first decided to cut his leg off, but fortunately changed their minds, and it has now got as well as the other.  This he ascribes to the powerful effect of the religion of Jesus Christ over mind and body.  In 1866 he attended a commercial college at Cleveland, Ohio, at which he graduated in the fall, when he returned to this County, and engaged in teaching.  Jay is now Justice of the Peace, which office he has held for the last four years.  In 1872 he married Miss Mary C. Bible.  The two brothers entered into a partnership under the name of Leonard Brothers, in the fall of 1868, and went into merchandizing at Allison.  Their capital was small, and they were without previous experience, but by making “haste slowly,” and by careful attention to business, they are now to be counted among the successful.  Their partnership included sorghum making, and later has been extended to farming, in all of which departments of labor they are making headway.”

At the time of the biography, Jay had been married about three years to Mary who was 14 years younger than he was. Details of their life after 1875 were learned from the Pension Files both Jay and Mary filed until their deaths.

They lost their first child, Aratine Leonard who was born June 1873 and died April 25, 1875. (But for the pension files there would be no public record of the birth and death of this child.)

They had 5 more children: Mary Ellen born June 1876; Joseph J. born February 11, 1878; Philip B.  born May 26 1880; Ethel born February 25, 1885; and Mabel E. born June 29, 1891.

 Four years later on February 5, 1895, Mary filed for divorce, alleging that without any provocation Jay struck, beat, kicked and pushed her in a rude and violent manner and was guilty of extreme and repeated cruelty. Her attorneys were McGaughey and Bradbury.  The divorce was granted on May 2, 1895 and she immediately married Joseph Hill, one of Jay’s farmhands; he was 6 years younger than she.  

However that marriage didn’t work either and she divorced Joseph on May 2, 1898 using J E McGaughey as her attorney again. She and Joseph had no children.

The very next month she remarried Jay Leonard, apparently forgetting that she had once said he beat, kicked and pushed her.

Any researcher doing the genealogy of this family would have found the 1880 census which named Ella, Joseph and Philip as the children of Leonard and Mary living together as a family. Since the 1890 census had been destroyed the researcher would have once again found the family living together with two more daughters Ethel and Mabel in the 1900 census.  There would be no hint of the marital problems that had transpired without the pension file.

In 1878 Leonard, at age 37, stood  5’8” and weighed 125 pounds with a fair complexion, grey eyes and black hair.  He received a pension of $8.00 a month due to the gunshot wound received in the war.  The biography was written in 1875, ten years after Jay had been discharged for the leg injury he describes. 

Although Jay proudly states then that his injured leg was a good as the other, when he wanted to have his pension increased, the story was slightly different.

Several documents in the file attest to his physical problems.  He asserted that he had to use a cane to walk and the disabled leg affected his whole nervous system.  By 1890 the pension had been increased to $16 monthly, and by 1891 to $24.

Dr. J A Emmons of Pinkstaff was the family physician who attended Jay.  Jay died October 7, 1918. The doctor last saw him alive on October 6, 1918 and he attended his funeral on October 9, 1918.

Mary Leonard filed for a widow’s pension after his death, becoming entangled in ‘red tape’ trying to prove to the pension bureau that she had been his first wife and also his second wife.  She died in 1925. Both are buried at Centerville Cemetery.

Save the Date:  June 1-- 2 pm  Sunday afternoon  
Memorial Service at Sumner Cemetery for George Bopp,
 the only County Police  Officer ever killed in the line of duty.  
Watch for more details.