The Iron LeonardsDec 25th, 2008 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: Featured Articles, Questions & Ancestors
I really, really wanted to tell you about a wonderful old map of Leonard locations in the colonial town of Bridgewater, Mass., but I seem to have misplaced my copy and have to order another… as soon as I find out what it was called. How’s that for a back-door introduction to colonial confusion?Most of us are clear on the difference between the “Mayflower Leonards” and the “Iron Leonards,” but I still get questions and I need a point of reference, so here’s the skinny… There are two fairly distinct, albeit easily confused, Leonard lines in this country. Both lines arrived within a decade or two of the Pilgrims.
This Web site, as most of you know, focuses on the family commonly known as “The Mayflower Leonards.” That line starts with Solomon Leonard, who arrived in Plymouth Colony around 1629-30 and married the granddaughter of Mayflower passenger James Chilton. The “Iron Leonards” are actually better documented, in some ways, beginning with brothers James and Henry Leonard, who may have arrived in what would eventually become Providence, Rhode Island, as early as 1645.
Now, to make matters a little more confusing, the two families may actually be related, as they came here from two English/Welsh towns less than thirty miles apart. Solomon is said to have been born in environs of the town of Bristol in Monmouthshire, England. James and Henry, on the other hand, are said to have been born in or near Pontypool, Wales, just a stone’s throw across the Bristol Channel. We’ll leave the relationship discussion for another day.
To find Solomon, one must dig and scratch and rustle about in musty old colonial books and records. To find James and Henry, one need only drive to the present-day city of Taunton, Massachusetts. Their names are emblazoned on streets and buildings and historical monuments as far as the eye can see. One of their homes, built in 1682, is still standing. The “Iron Leonards,” you see, got very rich establishing America’s first iron smelting plants in New England. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
I try not to get distracted by my wealthier cousins, given the hundreds yet to investigate on this side of the family… but I have to admit there are some fascinating stories on that side. The Iron Leonards, it seems, found a particularly iron-rich strip of land that belonged to an Indian tribe headed by a chief oddly named “King Phillip.”
King Phillip willingly granted the land to the Leonards and got along handsomely with them right up to and through what became known as “King Phillips War.” Do a Google search and you’ll find it quite easily. King Phillip specifically forbid his warriors from doing any harm to the Leonards, even as they readily slaughtered other whites in the neighborhood. In the end, however, King Phillip was killed and there’s one story that contends his head found a home in the Leonard basement until a proper burial could be arranged.
Did I mention that Bridgewater and Taunton, Massachusetts are less than ten miles apart? No? Well, they are, and you just know the Leonards would have to make things even more complicated by intermarrying, right? Yup. Levi Leonard, great-great-grandson of James Leonard, married Anna Leonard, great-granddaughter of Solomon Leonard. There were also a couple of near-misses, like Benjamin Leonard, grandson of Solomon, marrying Hannah Phillips, whose sister married a great-grandson of James Leonard.
It’s quite likely there are more intermarriages to be discovered… beyond, I mean, the obvious brother marrying his brother’s widow and vice versa. We’ll save those ramblings for another day, too. In the meantime, if you’re still wondering why some members of your immediate family may be just a leetle, uh, unusual… blame it on the Iron Leonards.
For those interested in pursuing the Iron Leonards further, I would refer you to William reed Deane’s A genealogical memoir of the Leonard family : containing a full account of the first three generations of the family of James Leonard or Stephen Banks Leonard of Owego, Tioga County, New York, 1909, both available online courtesy of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. James Leonard’s family tree, compiled during a Leonard family reunion in 1901, is online here.