Monday, March 26, 2012

Tom & Agnes Leonard

My paternal great grandparents were Thomas Mathew Leonard (1891-1943) of Portland, Maine, son to Mathew John Leonard and Lizzie Howlett, immigrants from Portraine, Dublin, Ireland and Agnes Thalia Peterson (1898-1934) of Westbrook, Maine, daughter to Christian Petersen, immigrant from Ålborg, Denmark and Lena Mortensen, immigrant from Skrøbelev, Denmark.

Tom was named after his uncle Tom, the first Leonard immigrant from their famine-starved family to arrive in Portland.  Young Tom was a bit of a wayward soul. He worked as a janitor, cook, a fireman, a novelty supply shipper, and later as a porter at an advertising company, also having served for about a week in the Army at the very end of WWI, in the 8th Company, 2nd Battalion, 151th Depot Brigade out of Fort Devens in Worcester.  It's unclear not sure why he was discharged, but it's likely that the Brigade had disbanded in the final days of the War.  He purchased 8 Briggs Street from his father, and two months later married Agnes T. Peterson, born in Westbrook, Maine to Danish immigrants, in 1916. They had one child, Thomas Edward Leonard (who was actually born Thomas Mathew Leonard Jr., but for whatever reason his middle name changed). Thomas' father Mathew, as well as his brother Mathew, lived at 8 Briggs Street with the family.  His wife Agnes died there in 1934, and his father died there in 1939.  At that point Thomas was stuck paying rent to his aunt Annie (who had managed to get herself named executrix of his father's estate, and had left nothing to either of his sons).  He was unemployed for a few years at that point, but managed to get a part time job as a caretaker at a girls private school (probably the school affiliated with St. Dominic's).  He remained at 8 Briggs Street until his death from emphysema on October 15, 1943, at age 52 (the anniversary of his mother's death).  He was described to me as a tall, lanky man, with dark blue eyes who always carried a pipe to smoke with, and was a heavy drinker.

Agnes met Thomas around 1914, while Agnes was working as a laundress out at Levinsky's Plaza in Portland. They married in 1916, two months AFTER giving birth to Thomas Edward Leonard (my grandfather).  I imagine that there must have been some scandal there.  Not only was the child conceived AND born out of wedlock into an Irish Catholic family, but Agnes was Danish, not Irish like the rest of the family's in-laws. I wonder how Agnes was treated by Mathew Sr. Well, the whole family ended up living together on 8 Briggs Street in Portland, so it must have worked out ok.  From what I understand, everyone loved Agnes, especially Old Matt.  In the winter of 1933-1934, Agnes caught a terrible cold, which led to an ear infection.  Very shortly thereafter she developed purulent meningitis, and died five days later, at the very young age of 38 just a few months before her sister Julia died.

The above grave was ordered by my grandfather, Thomas Edward Leonard ("Tommy"), in 1968...25 years after his father passed.  He did it at the demand of his cousin, Matthew John Leonard, Jr., who was aware that Tommy had received the bulk his own father's estate, yet had done nothing about a grave to date. 

What's had seemed like a great shame to me is that for the other five people buried here (Matthew John Leonard, Sr., his wife Elizabeth, their daughter Sallie, her son Leonard Petroski, and Annie Batchelder), nobody bothered to pay for an engraving of their names too.  I did so myself in 2015, and I'm hoping that the contrast will even out.

Below are Tom & Agnes' pedigree charts.  Tom was 100% Irish, and Agnes was 100% Danish.

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