George Leonard, Sr. arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1849. His father Bradford Leonard was a blind man who made his living as a merchant. Bradford brought three wagons full of merchandise with him when he came west with the Ezra Taft Benson wagon train.
Bradford’s wife Ann Elizabeth Janes gave birth to their first child George Bradford Leonard, Sr. on 27 May 1842 in Des Moines, Iowa, where Bradford operated a mercantile store and owned various properties. This is where they converted to the LDS Faith and made the decision to move west to the Territory of Utah. They entered the valley on 27th of October 1849. George Leonard, Sr. was 7 years old but drove a wagon full of merchandise across the plains to his new home.
George grew up in the Salt Lake Valley near West Temple and Second North streets. George married a neighborhood girl named Julia Hillock in March of 1857. Julia was originally from Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Edward Hillock, an Irish emigre from Dublin. When very young, her parents died and she was adopted by the Snider family, who brought her to Nauvoo where she played with Joseph Smith’s children. The Snider’s were among the first to cross the plains and settle in Salt Lake.
When, in 1860, the company which received the contract to operate the Pony Express between Missouri and California asked for young men to come and work for them. George and another neighbor by the name of Thomas O. King were hired to stock the new Pony Express stations with fresh horses. The area needing horses stretched from present day Echo Junction north of Coalville, Utah to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. The two young Pony Express employees then became Pony Express riders. Thomas rode from Echo Junction up Echo Canyon and over the hill to the Bear River Crossing station. George rode from the Bear River Crossing to Aspen Grove to Muddy Creek Station and then on to Fort Bridger. Both of their names are memorialized at the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. Take a look here for the links between Kamas Valley and the Pony Express. Soon the Pony Express was replaced by the Telegraph service and George would take another big step in his life.
By the year 1863 George moved his wife and first two children to Kamas, Utah. George found another Pony Express rider living in Kamas named Newton Myrick. The Leonard family built their first home just South of Rocky Point where the North bound Beaver Creek turns Westerly and crosses the dirt road adjacent to the West Hills. George owned about 120 acres there.
During 1867 George Sr and Julia helped build the Fort in Kamas, and George and his Wife and four children moved into the Fort. During the time they lived in the Fort George B. Leonard, Sr. became the third Postmaster for Kamas area. The records of the Summit County Recorder state his tenure as Postmaster was from 3 July 1867 until 19 September 1869. He was renamed Postmaster 17 December 1869 until 6 November 1887. The County Records also reflect that George assumed additional duties in service of the residence of the valley: On 8 January 1868 George became the Principal Justice of the Peace, 2 December 1868 he became a School Trustee, 29 September 1869 He was appointed “Pound Keeper”. On June 1871 he was again appointed to the position of School Trustee, George was renamed Justice of the Peace September 1871, and again in 1874. In 1880 George served as an enumerator for the U.S. Census in which he identifies himself as a Druggist.
Les Davies of Marion was born about 1890 and he remembered George, Sr. He also remembered his father James Davies going to see George to have him pull some teeth which were giving him so much grief he could not do his work. Tim Miles a descendant of George B. Leonard, Jr. has in his possession many items from George, Sr’s store including graduated glassware and weighing scales needed to make ointments, salves and other medications. This tends to support George, Sr.’s statement on the 1880 U.S. Census that he was also a druggist.
When the old Fort became abandoned, both George Sr and Julia helped tear it down, and George used the opportunity to build a new home, this time in the settlement of Kamas proper, located on the South East Corner of the intersection of Main Street (Highway 32) and 2nd North. His home, Mercantile store and hay yard occupied the whole North half of the block. He maintained his original farm over near the West Hills.
According to the records of an early resident of Kamas named Inez Hoyt the first 4th of July celebration was held July 4th, 1868. Part of the celebration was a parade. The parade
included a two man band consisting of a flute player, George Leonard, and a drummer, Tommy Davis. They wore old suits and hats and Mrs. O’ Driscoll furnished hat bands by taking off her garters.
George Leonard, Sr. was, among the many other things he did, the leader of the musicians who played music at dances and for the various productions in the local Opera House. The day in 1896 when Kamas heard that Utah had achieved Statehood, George and his band played for the gathering crowd in front of J. W. Carpenter’s Opera House on Main Street.
George Bradford Leonard, Sr. ’s brother John Taylor Leonard joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was assigned to a Infantry Unit in Ft. Ruby, NV whose purpose was to continue to keep what had been a Pony Express route open for travelers and supplies to be moved to and from California. After the Civil War John T. Leonard moved to Kamas and lived with his brother for a time and together they built the Leonard dry goods store on the Southeast corner of Main Street and Second North.
George Bradford Leonard, Sr. and Julia Hillock had seven children, all of them boys. George died 17 August 1899 and Julia died in 1911. Both are buried together in Kamas Cemetery.
Most of George’s descendants live outside of Kamas Valley but many families in South Summit County who know what their family tree looks like can trace at least one of their branches to George and Julia.
Written by Phil Leonard