‘Till Death Do Us PartAug 12th, 2009 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: Real People, Real Stories
A quick glance at Leonard Statistics shows us to have a fairly decent record for longevity. We have no fewer than a dozen ancestors who lived past the age of 95. Pretty incredible, when you think about it, given that most of them lived when life expectancy hovered around 35.
This might be a good time to mention that the title “Till Death Do Us Part” has nothing to do with weddings and love songs and 60th anniversaries. (Are you new here?) No, my friends, today we’re going to discuss the many and strange ways our brave ancestors died. Thanks in advance to our friend and fellow researcher Allan Vaughan for the many contributions.
Let’s start with Accidents shall we?
Spend any amount of time browsing old newspapers, and by old I mean pre-internal combustion engine old, and you’re bound to come across a “runaway accident” or two. Seems horses get a little skittish around crowds and noise. In my own line, thirteen-year-old Harry Leonard (1870-1883) was “killed by a horse” right on Main Street in Corning, Iowa.
David Leonard (1816-1884) died in a buggy accident while delivering his two grandchildren to school. The kids came away without a scratch, but Grandpa David didn’t fare so well after landing on his head. Newspapers of the day had a propensity to provide TMI. Said the Burlington, IA. Hawkeye, “Blood flowed from his mouth, nose and ears and his face was mutilated in a shocking way.” Ew.
Horses weren’t the only four-legged threat. The Honorable Abner Leonard (1823-1886), US Representative from the Great State of Colorado… was gored to death by a bull. Again the newspaper provided a tad Too Much Information. Said the Fort Collins, CO. Courier, “The (pitch)fork, with which Mr. Leonard attempted to defend himself, was broken and the ground for several yards around showed evidence of a desperate battle.”
Death came just as easily from inanimate objects. William Finley Leonard (1825-1902), for example, was killed by a falling tree. According to the Tiffin, OH. Daily Tribune, the 78-year-old had gone out with some timber cutters to make sure they cut the right trees. And again with the detail… “his body was nearly severed, a little above the hips.”
And perhaps the weirdest, or at least the saddest accident befell His Honor William Hatfield (1804-1871), father-in-law to Edmund Leonard and noted Justice of the Peace. A blacksmith by trade, William was the first to offer to help a neighbor install a new pump at the bottom of his well. Unfortunately, as the neighbor lowered an ax to William in a heavy iron pot, the rope slipped and the load struck William on the head. The 67-year-old died a few hours later.
Which brings us to the category I like to call “death by stupidity.” George B. Leonard (1840-1872) and a friend set out for a neighboring town to retrieve a little whiskey. The New Lisbon, OH, Journal reported, “After filling their jugs and their bodies with the hellish beverage, they started home quite intoxicated.” The friend passed out in his mother’s barn. George was found in the buggy the next morning, in the newspaper’s words, “..lying with his head out of the buggy, quite dead.”
As suspicious as that was, there are even more suspicious deaths, like that of William Leonard (1784-1814). William went from good health to quite dead so suddenly most people believed he was poisoned by his wife. Both parties were apparently cheating on their partners, though it’s not clear whether Mrs. Leonard knew that. Yeah, the speculation was, she killed him to cover up HER affair. Thanks, Annie, for THAT story.
Disregarding the Revolutionary, Indian, and Civil wars… that brings us to another classification that is neither funny nor rare. Mary (Van Ort) Leonard (1804-1868), mother to Edmund, Isaac, Daniel and six others, was just one of many who fell victim to Typhoid Fever. Only three of her children lived nearby and the rest were notified, weeks later, by mail. ONE of those letters still survives and with luck, I’ll be able to share it with you next week.
And speaking of next week, I regret to inform that I will be reentering the workforce on Monday, which will undoubtedly impact the important things in life, like family history. I may, or may not, be able to post with the same frequency. The good news is, as far as I know, that there are no reports of any Leonards being worked to death.