Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thomas D. Leonard

My great great grandfather, Mathew John Leonard from Portraine, Dublin, Ireland was my first Leonard ancestor to set foot on American soil in 1881.  But he wasn't the first in his own family to arrive. His uncle, Thomas D. Leonard (nicknamed "Prod"), had already set up a successful florist shop, greenhouse and garden on 648 Congress Street, one of the many shops located on the land now containing the Lafayette Hotel, in Downtown Portland, Maine.  Prod (and his business rival, Patrick Duffy) won dozens of awards for their flower displays.  Prod's awards were published in the Horticultural Report of the Portland Daily Press from 1862-1870, while he was working at the shop under the ownership of Miss Mary Jones.  Then from 1875-1881, he completely ran the business himself.

(Prod's flower shop was somewhere near the corner of Park and Congress, in the prior building)

Prod's father Patrick was a tenant farmer in The Burrow of Portraine Ireland during the Great Famine, which must have ravaged the Leonard family badly enough for Prod to be the first in his family to seek a new life, and send money back home.  He set sail for America in 1850.  There are a few Thomas Leonard's to have landed on the east coast during that time period.

If he arrived in New York Harbor, then it was most likely on the ship Mississippi, which sailed from London (as there is only one Irish born Thomas Leonard who arrived in October 1851). The below naturalization card appears to be Prod's, and it is where I have discerned the arrival date of October 1851:

The ship manifest gives his ID number as 5631.

I wonder if the Patrick Sullivan who bore witness on his naturalization card was any relation to his second wife, Catherine Sullivan.

Prod was one of the many early Portland Irish who settled there during the Great Famine.  St. Dominic's Church served as a beacon to Prod, like it did for so many other immigrants.  At the time of the Church's construction in 1830, there were under 100 Irish immigrants living in Portland.  By the time of Prod's arrival, in 1850, it had already swelled to the thousands.  It had already undergone two expansions to accommodate the growing population.

Prod was part of the Parish Committee & Finance Committee, and was a long time communicant, for the church, as were all his descendants and extended family from Ireland when they moved to Portland's West End, near "Gorham's Corner" in the West End, where the Irish began settling as early as the 1820s.

St. Dominic's has a rich and interesting history.  It was the first Catholic Church in Portland, originally built in 1830, but by the late 1840's, it was clear that the Great Famine was rearing its ugly head enough to cause concern within the Portland Diocese.  They rebuilt and expanded the church's size at that time, moving the entrance to the church from the very busy State Street to the side street on its northwest corner, Gray Street.  The prevailing theory at the time was that the church didn't want controversy with great numbers of Irish pouring out into State Street, so they had moved the entrance to the side street to appease the growing racism towards the Irish.  The church closed in 1880 for renovation, and reopened in 1893.  It stopped performing masses in 1997, and as of 2003 it's home to the Maine Irish Heritage Center, in addition to other functions.

(with new Gray Street entrance)

For the 1893 re-dedication, the church asked wealthy parishioners to pay for the stained glass window displays.  Prod did his part and one whole tier of window glass was paid for by him:

Prod eventually bought the entire western block of Briggs Street (between Salem & Danforth Streets), and his extended family lived there, along with tenants, for an 80 year period. 

(Row of houses going up the left side of street on right side of the picture were all owned by Prod)

On May 14, 1855, he married Alice Wade, a fellow Burrow immigrant, in Portland, whose brother Patrick was also a gardener.  A couple weeks later, there was the Portland Rum Riot, which resulted from the "Maine Law" (prohibition), which many Irish believed was a thinly veiled attack on their culture.  I wonder if Prod was involved in this riot?  It's unlikely, given Prod's gentle reputation as a florist and gardener, and given that he was taking care of his newborn child Elizabeth.  But who knows?  I do understand that my Irish family were very typically Irish in their drinking.  I'm sure Prod wasn't a supporter of the Maine Law.

Prod and Alice had five children, four grandchildren, one great grandchild, and all are deceased, with no further descendants:

1. Elizabeth Ellen Leonard (also known as "Eliza") (1855-1927), was born three months before Prod and Alice married.  Eliza married John Edward Graney in 1881.  John had migrated to Maine from Galway in 1864.  I've yet to establish the link between this Graney and the Patrick Graney that fathered Lizzie Graney-Leonard (who married Prod's grandnephew Matthew John Leonard Jr).  In any case, Patrick is old enough to be John Edward's brother, but they don't share any census records.  They might be cousins.  Eliza was a member of the Hiberian Order of Portland and served as its Secretary.  Eliza was accused of embezzling from her father Prod's estate when he died.  When confronted, she complained that Matthew John Leonard, Sr., Prod's nephew (aka "Old Matt") and executor on the estate, was taking too long to settle everything.  The result was that a third party lawyer and friend of the Graneys became executor on Prod's estate, just in time for Old Matt to begin to take ill and show signs of dementia, and the estate was liquidated in favor of Prod's children (and Old Matt's own estate was embezzled by his sister Annie).  Eliza & John Graney had four children:

--Alice G. Graney-Whalen (1882-1941) married Charles Augustine Whalen in 1910.  It seems unlikely that they had any children.

--John Edward Graney, Jr. (1884-1920) fought in WWI.  He was briefly married to a woman named Winona George prior to the War, but it's unlikely that he ever had children.  He worked as a railroad clerk, lived at 254 Danforth Street, and died of heart disease at 35.

--Thomas Leonard Graney (1887-1972) married Sarah Joyce in 1942, and lived on Peaks Island.  No children.

--George Edward Graney (1895-1925) worked as a policeman, married Helen Church and had one child, George Jr., who died at age 21.

2. Mary Alice Leonard (1858-1930) married John Haley in 1903.  They had no children.  John died in 1916 of myocarditis, and Mary in 1930, after a nine month illness.  John worked on the railroad as a brakeman, and Mary was a member of the Evangeline Auxiliary of the Brotherhood of Trainmen.

-The last three children of Prod and Alice died in infancy:  Charles, Thomas & Margaret.

This means that Prod had no descendants who lived past 1972.  It's too bad, because it's likely that some of his descendants might have kept some of his memorabilia, and would also likely enjoy the extensive research I've compiled on him.  I've managed to scrape together this information on him based on family lore, census and church records, as well as Portland directories, newspapers and Portland probate records.

Prod was drafted into the Civil War in 1863, but it's unclear whether he had to fight, since there appear to be a number of records of him living in Portland during the War. 

Here is a timeline of certain events in Prod's life:

In 1863, at age 35, he started developing his reputation for being a skilled gardener, winning the first of many awards for his fine roses and grapes.

In 1865, Alice died of consumption.  Prod married Irish born Catherine Sullivan a couple months later.

In August of 1865, Prod purchased a lot on Salem Lane from Cornelius Devine, who was a likely cousin to James Devine, who had married Thomas' niece, Elizabeth Leonard 20 years prior.

In 1866, Prod and his family rented 8 Briggs Street from Bill Lindsey.  The Great Fire of Portland that year, on July 4th (stemming from a firecracker) didn't affect any of Prod's property, but the blaze five blocks away was likely smelled throughout the block.

December 13, 1867, Prod purchased 2 Briggs Street from Bill Lindsey, which was dry land that Prod planned to build his own house upon.

December 18, 1867, Patrick Wade (Alice's brother) bought 8 Briggs Street, and enabled Prod and his family to remain living there while they built out 2 Briggs.  Prod & Catherine lived there, and later moved to 14 Briggs once Prod saved the money to buy it. 

In 1869, Prod opened up a shop on Westbrook Point.

In 1872, in reaction to a fire across the street from him, Prod ran in a panic and ended up having a fall over an embankment, injuring his spine.


In 1873, Prod purchased 39 Salem Street for $1,575.00.  This was across the street from 2 Briggs.  Prod never moved in, but rented it out.

In 1875, Prod took over the flower shop on 648 Congress Street (corner of Park Street), and was apparently very successful.

In July of 1877, there was a fire on Briggs Street, causing damage to his and his neighbors' homes.  His claim for damages was $115 ($2,836 value in 2020).  Insurance picked this up.

In 1879, Prod & his family moved from 8 to 14 Briggs Street, just after the house was built (he may have had a hand in building it).  This was next door to 16 Briggs, where the Currans lived (who were in-laws to Prod's niece Nellie Leonard-Smart).

In 1880, Catherine died at 14 Briggs Street of cancer.

In 1881, Prod closed the flower shop yet retained his private gardening business (more on this below).  The flower shop was then reopened by Oscar Sturdivant in 1882.

In 1883, Prod donated $7.25 ($204 value in 2020) towards the "Soldier's Monument". This was likely the 1812 Soldier Monument on Munjoy Hill (which I've done a lot of research on myself).  It was this same year that he was elected Warden of Ward 7.

In 1886, Prod was elected Constable of Ward 7.

In 1888, Prod's nephew, Mathew John Leonard, moved into Prod's house on 39 Salem Street.

In 1889, Prod was permitted by the City to build additional dwellings on his property on Briggs Street.

In 1890, Prod moved from 14 Briggs Street to 2 Briggs Street.  His two daughters and their families lived next door at 4 Briggs.  At this point in time, Mathew John Leonard moved into 14 Briggs Street, where he and his wife Lizzie raised their three kids.

In 1892, Prod was elected City Forester, and again in 1894.

In 1894, Prod was named Administrator of his niece's husband, John H. Devine's, Estate.

In 1897, Prod demolished 2 Briggs Street, and rebuilt in Victorian style (see photo below).  I'm assuming he lived at 4 Briggs during the rebuild.  During this year, he was named Administrator of John McLaughlin's Estate.  It's unclear what his connection was here, as it wasn't a relation.  McLaughlin's death record does state he was born in Dublin, Ireland, so that is a clue.  Also that year was another fire, this time on 12 Briggs Street, occupied by the McQuade family:

Portland Daily Press
July 17, 1897

By 1900, Prod was now retired from the flower business altogether.  He rented out 8 Briggs Street to the Johnson family of Ireland, 10 Briggs Street to the Silk and Smith families from Ireland, and 12 Briggs Street to the McIsaac family from Ireland.  He got deeper into local politics at this time, and at the age of 72, Prod was elected Councilman of Ward 7.


By 1910, Prod was renting out 12 Briggs Street to the Canurchewitz's, a Polish family (the first to arrive on the block).

In 1910, Patrick Wade was going senile, so he gifted 8 Briggs Street to his daughter, Margaret Wade-Lee.

In 1911, Lizzie Howlett-Leonard died at 14 Briggs Street.

In 1912, Prod died of a pulmonary embolism at 2 Briggs.  His estate took over 30 years to settle.  But the Will named Mathew John Leonard as Executor, and also gave him 14 Briggs Street.  The Will gave his two surviving daughters the properties 2, 4, 10, and 12 Briggs Street.  4, 10 & 12 remained rental properties; Elizabeth & Mary remained at 2 Briggs.

In 1914, Margaret Wade-Lee sold 8 Briggs Street to Mathew John Leonard.  He and his children moved in immediately, then turning 14 Briggs into a rental property for the Quinncannons.

In 1916, John Haley, Prod's son in law, died at 2 Briggs Street, leaving behind his wife Mary.

By 1920, Prod's estate was renting out 10 Briggs Street to the Coyne and Foley families from Ireland, and 12 Briggs to the Silk family from Ireland, and 14 Briggs to the Concannon family from Ireland.

In 1927, Prod's daughter Elizabeth Leonard-Graney died at 2 Briggs Street (her husband had died there one year earlier).  Their children were already grown up, so that left Mary Leonard-Haley.

About 1928, the Sabasteanski family from Poland purchased 10 Briggs Street from Mathew as Executor.

About 1929, the Huszcza family from Poland purchased 14 Briggs Street from Mathew.

By 1930, 4 Briggs Street was being rented out to the Savage family from Lithuania

In 1930, Mary Leonard-Haley died in hospice.  She had left behind 2 Briggs Street a year prior, which made this a rental property.

Around 1931, 2 Briggs Street was sold off.

In 1934, Agnes Petersen-Leonard died at 8 Briggs Street, leaving behind her husband Thomas Mathew Leonard & son Thomas Edward Leonard.

In 1939, Mathew John Leonard died at 8 Briggs Street.  His sister Annie had defrauded his will, and got herself named owner of everything, which would include 8 Briggs Street.  Thomas Mathew remained in the house by himself, however, paying rent to Annie.

In January 1943, 2 Briggs Street was sold to Veronica Danilewicz via Trustee Sale upon judge's orders.

In October, 1943, Thomas Mathew Leonard died at 8 Briggs Street.  His only survivor was his son, Thomas Edward Leonard, who was living in California and fighting in WWII, serving the Navy.  This was the last presence of Leonards on Briggs Street.  Harold King moved in to 8 Briggs Street within a year of Thomas' death.


2 Briggs Street (built in 1897)

4 Briggs Street (built in 1844)

8 Briggs Street (built in 1834)

10 Briggs Street (built in 1854)

10 Briggs Street (side view)

12 Briggs Street (built in 1854 - same time as 10 Briggs, but then rebuilt in 1897 due to a fire)

14 Briggs Street (built in 1874)

Block was condemned in 1975, taken by eminent domain (Urban Renewal),
razed, and rebuilt as a housing project with parking lot and playground.

It's interesting Prod had the means to make it to the USA, take care of his family, have a servant (Johnnie Murray), and own the entire Briggs Street block, all on a florist's income.  His Will required upkeep of this family headstone and ten high masses in his honor, once monthly.  He had also named his niece Annie Leonard-Quinlan (then living in Portraine) in the Will.  Annie had taken care of her nephew, Frank Devine, Sr., for nine years, since he was orphaned at age 9.  Frank went back to America in 1903.

Annie showed up in 1913 to claim her inheritance from Prod's estate ($100.00), and stuck around to get herself named on her brother (Mathew John Leonard)'s will, wiping out all money (save $1.00) that was to go to his own children.  She reportedly pulled a fast one, and managed to get lawyers to declare Mathew mentally unsound, and got him to sign everything over to her.

Calvary Cemetery, South Portland, Maine

As for the flower business, I understand that the newspaper, Portland Argus, has some tribute advertisements in favor of Prod (who was Mary Jones' gardener) and his rival Patrick Duffee (who was J.B. Brown's gardener) being promoted for their award winning floral displays.

Portland Daily Press 
November 12, 1870:
"Portland Horticultural Society....The committee on Garden, Green Houses and Graperies of the Portland Horticultural Society have made the following awards for the season of 1870:
To Thomas Leonard, gardener to the Misses Jones, for the best managed and well kept green house,    $8.00"

But, a bit of research has shown me that both Prod and Duffee had a much bigger rival in the Portland floral market, who might have prevented them both from succeeding even more, one Will E. Morton, Jr., a florist and confectioner from Deering (Stevens Plains).


Will E. Morton Jr.'s parents had moved to Deering from New Vineyard (Franklin County, Maine) around 1835, and ran a family flower shop in Stevens Plains (then part of Westbrook/Saccarappa).

Morton Jr. had inherited the family business in 1878, and expanded it with much ambition, opening up greenhouses in Allen's Corner near his home in Deering, and a shop on 159 Exchange Street, with a summer store up in Bar Harbor.  Morton moved to Congress Street and set up the W.E. Morton Flower Shop and Confectionary downstairs from his home, right across the street from Prod's shop.  His shop became instantly successful and he also sold the "finest chocolates and bon bons in the world, made fresh every day", according to his regular advertising in the Portland directory.

Morton had the means to create his own newspaper, the Portland Floral Monthly, wherein the ads for his business (and no ads for competitors such as Prod) were naturally ubiquitous.  The newspaper served the latent function of advising horticultural enthusiasts on how to care for a variety of plant and flower species, with clever marketing built in which directed the reader to purchase the best of each varietal at his own shop on Congress Street, which catered to local patrons but also kept a thriving mail order business (not sure how the flowers stayed fresh when delivered by horse and buggy to other towns).  Naturally, Prod and his ilk were never promoted or mentioned at all in this popular publication.  See below for a couple of the regular advertisements from the Monthly.  One which features a sketch of the successful business, and the standard advertising, and the other is a direct appeal to potential funereal clients.



Not coincidentally, the year of Morton's move to Congress Street (1880) was one year before Prod's own flower shop folded.  Prod's shop was reopened in 1882 by Oscar R. Sturdivant, who held it for a few years, but then every successive year it was owned by a different entrepreneur who tried in vain to compete with Morton, until the very successful Harmon's Florist opened there (and became the leading floral business in the Portland area, and still is today).  


Morton suffered from Bright's Disease (of the kidneys) and died in March 1895 at 45 years of age, and his business across the street from Prod's old shop folded, leaving the market more open for Harmon's success, although Prod had aged and was then doing only private gardening until he retired in 1900, and passed away in 1912.  See table of ownership of Prod's flower shop below:

Owners of Flower Shop on 648 Congress Street:
1863-1875 - Miss Mary Jones
1875-1881 – Thomas D. Leonard
1881-1882 – closed business
1882-4 – Oscar R. Sturdivant
1885 – Thomas & Matthew Kane
1886 – John C. Alexander
1888 – William Crane & Peter Peterson
1889 – Peter Peterson
1895-1902 – EJ Harmon & Co.


Daily Eastern Argus

Portland Daily Advertiser

Portland Daily Press

US Census


Calvary Cemetery Records, South Portland, ME

1 comment:

  1. I find it shameful for man to work his entire life, pay his due, and then have the city take his property by "eminent domain". I knew of the flower shop when I was kid along with the barbershop close by, and of course the shoe shine man in the basement of the old Lafayette Hotel.