Oregon Pioneer Biographies



"Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley - Oregon," Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1903

Benjamin Austin Leonard

A history of Marion county were indeed incomplete without due mention of two of its most venerable and honored pioneers, Mr. and Mrs. B.A. Leonard. Though the husband is now past eighty-three years of age, and his wife but five months younger, each continues to perform the duties which from long experience have become second nature, the husband still caring for his farm, and the wife performing her household work. The Leonard farm consists of two hundred and eighty acres, and general farming and stock-raising are engaged in, particular attention being given to fine Durham cattle.

A native of Bradford county, Pa., Mr. Leonard was born November 15, 1819, and is one of ten children born to Abel and Abi (Leonard) Leonard. His father, Austin Leonard, who was born in Massachusetts, was of Scotch or English descent. Preserved Leonard, who was probably a brother of Austin Leonard, served with the Continental army in the Revolutionary war. Abel Leonard, a tanner by trade, removed, in 1804, to Bradford, Pa., and, with the family of which his wife was member, founded Leonard’s Hollow, now known as Leona. He was engaged in business there until 1829, when he removed to Ashtabula county, Ohio. In 1852 they started across the plains, intending to join their son, B.A., who had gone the year before; but the deprivations of the journey were more than they could stand. Arriving at the Missouri river they gave up the trip, as too exacting, and retraced their steps to Ohio, where they passed the remainder of their lives with their son, Horace. Their children, named in the order of their birth, were as follows: Junietta, wife of Asaph Blanchard; Leicester Upham; Harriet, wife of Philemon Guthrie; Horace F.; Laura, wife of William Glenn; Rosamond, wife of Hiram Belden; Benjamin Austin; Sallie, Mariah, and Abigail. All are deceased, excepting the subject of this review.

Naturally Benjamin Austin Leonard took to the shoemaker’s trade as a boy, working with his father, and eventually serving a regular apprenticeship. He attended the public schools as opportunity offered, and worked at his trade for many years in Ohio. November 9, 1840, in Caldwell county, Mo., he married Jane Soaps, who was born in Campbell county, Tenn., February 24, 1820. Thereafter the young couple went to housekeeping in Caldwell county, Mo., where they lived until 1851, and then outfitted to cross the plains. They were six months on the way, and at the end of their journey, September 6, 1851, found themselves in the Waldo Hills, where Mr. Leonard took up a donation claim of three hundred and thirty acres, upon which he lived until 1867. This was all wild land, but he succeeded in improving much of it, and in acquiring fair success in general farming. He then bought the place where he now lives, four miles southwest of Silverton, and has made all of the improvements.

While conducting his farming enterprises, Mr. Leonard has taken an active interest in Republican politics, although he has never desired official recognition. Eight children were born to himself and wife, the order of their birth being as follows: Abel Brower, operating the home farm; Horace, deceased; Thomas Benton, living at Ritzville, Wash.; Mary A., widow of Hiram Smith Reed, of Salem, and Lucinda, deceased (twins); Ellen S., wife of Jefferson Scriber, a banker at La Grande, Ore., and Jennette, wife of Jefferson Pooler, of Salem. Mr. Leonard has many friends in the vicinity of his home, and his long association with the county has been a prolific of the best possible good feeling among all with whom he has been associated.

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