LEONARD, ELIJAH, ironmaster; b. 1 May 1787 in Taunton, Mass., son of Samuel Leonard and Sarah Williams; m. 13 Oct. 1811 Mary (Polly) Stone, and they had four sons and three daughters; d. 18 Dec. 1855 in London, Upper Canada.
Elijah Leonard’s ancestors emigrated from Wales to Massachusetts about 1650, and he was a member of the sixth generation of the family to engage in the iron industry in North America. Leonard apprenticed in the iron-forging business at Taunton with his father but reputedly ran away before his apprenticeship was completed. He subsequently worked in various ironworks around Lake George and Lake Champlain in New York. Following his marriage in 1811 he settled on a farm near Syracuse, N.Y., but, dissatisfied with farming, he became involved in the operation of a furnace for smelting iron at Taberg, northeast of Syracuse. Leonard’s later purchase of a furnace at Constantia, N.Y., led to a legal dispute with the former owner, a “New York firm”; the resulting proceedings, although decided in Leonard’s favour, ruined him financially and he was forced to return to his farm.
Around 1829 Leonard was induced to join the firm of Joseph Van Norman*, co-owner of the ironworks and foundry in Charlotteville Township, Upper Canada, near which the village of Normandale soon developed. In this pioneer era the number of ironmasters in western New York was small and from his earlier involvement in the iron industry there Van Norman probably knew Leonard. Although the Normandale works had operated successfully for several years, an experienced furnace superintendent was apparently required and Leonard accepted that position. In 1830, with his eldest son Lewis, he returned briefly to Syracuse to arrange for the remaining family members to join them in Upper Canada.
Located at the mouth of a small creek on the shore of Lake Erie, the simple furnace which Leonard operated was typical of those used in the early 19th century. It consisted of a brick stack built on a hillside and charged from above with iron ore and charcoal. To facilitate the proper burning of the charcoal an air blast was supplied by a water-powered bellows. The resulting heat in the furnace reduced the ore to molten iron and slag which were drained off at the bottom of the furnace. According to his son Elijah*, who worked with him and learned the foundry trade at Normandale, Leonard’s main responsibility was supervising the mixing of ore and charcoal in proper proportions.
The Leonards soon sought to establish their own foundry. Realizing that opportunities for developing a second operation at Normandale were limited, they looked elsewhere for a site. In 1834 Elijah Jr visited Hamilton for that purpose, but finding that there was a foundry at nearby Ancaster, he and his father decided instead upon St Thomas. On 7 May 1834 they formed a partnership with Philip Cady Van Brocklin (who had also worked at Normandale) to operate a foundry at St Thomas for the production of ironware. They did not manufacture pig-iron for this operation but for a while purchased it at Normandale. The partnership was short-lived, and the reasons for its dissolution on 4 September are not clear. Although the business was continued by his son, Leonard evidently retired at this time.
After 1834 he virtually dropped from sight. In 1840 Elijah Jr established a second, larger foundry in London, leaving his brothers Lyman and Delos in charge of the St Thomas operation. Through his father’s efforts, Elijah secured a contract in 1853 to build 200 boxcars for the Great Western Railway. This was probably the last important business transaction in which Leonard was involved before his death in London.
BLHU, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 19: 43. Old Colony Hist. Soc. (Taunton, Mass.), “James Leonard of Taunton, Massachusetts, ironmaster,” comp. E. C. and G. M. Leonard (typescript). PAC, RG 1, L3, 298: L3/49. UWOL, Regional Coll., Leonard family papers; [R.] A. Trumper, “The business policy evolution of E. Leonard and Sons” ([1935?]). Woodland Cemetery (London, Ont.), Records of burials, December 1855. Liberal (St Thomas, [Ont.]), 18 Dec. 1834. Annals of the Leonard family, comp. F. L. Koster (New York, 1911). Canadian biog. dict., 1: 594. W. R. Deane, A genealogical memoir of the Leonard family; containing a full account of the first three generations of the family of James Leonard, who was an early settler of Taunton, Ms., with incidental notices of later descendants (Boston, 1851; [new ed., 1853]). Vital records of Taunton, Massachusetts, to the year 1850 (3v., Boston, 1928–29), 2: 298. Hist. of Middlesex, 885. Elijah Leonard, The honorable Elijah Leonard: a memoir, [ed. F. E. Leonard] (London, ), 3–5, 9–11. E. A. Owen, Pioneer sketches of Long Point settlement . . . (Toronto, 1898; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972), 456–57. R. A. Trumper, “The history of E. Leonard & Sons, boiler-makers and ironfounders, London, Ont.” (thesis, Dept. of Business Administration, Univ. of Western Ont., London, 1937). F. E. Leonard, “The Normandale furnace, 1829,” OH, 20 (1923): 92–93. W. J. Patterson, “The Long Point furnace,” Canadian Mining Journal (Gardenvale, Que.), 60 (1939): 547–49. Thomas Ritchie, “Joseph Van Norman, ironmaster of Upper Canada,” Canadian Geographical Journal (Montreal), 77 (July–December 1968): 47.