The family, originally consisting of two brothers, emigrated from Wales, England, to the colony of Massachusetts Bay, in the year 1632, and have ever since been identified with the production and manufacture of iron. His grandfather, Samuel Leonard, of Taunton Massachusetts, is said to have made the first spade or shovel manufactured in the United States. His father, Elijah Leonard, settled in Onondaga county, State of New York, in the early part of the present century, where he engaged in the production of iron, and subsequently married Miss Mary Stone. Senator Leonard was born on the 10th September, 1815, on a farm adjoining the city of Syracuse, where he received a good common school education, and in 1830 removed with the family to Long Point, Upper Canada, where he and his father went to work in the then celebrated Long Point Iron Works of Joseph Van Norman. Subsequently, in 1834, he and his father settled in St. Thomas, and with P. C. Van Brocklin, entered into partnership for the manufacture of agricultural implements, consisting chiefly of plows and other casting suitable to the primitive circumstances of the country. This firm possessed a cupola furnace, it being one of the five such existing at that period in Upper Canada. The year following he bought out his father and Mr. Van Brocklin, and continued the business on his own account. In 1839 he removed to London, then a town of some 1,200 inhabitants, and now a city of nearly 30,000 as offering a wider field for his particular line of business. Upon the construction of the Great Western railway, he built extensive shops for the manufacture of railway rolling stock, and with upwards of one hundred and fifty men employed in the works, he successfully filled some large contracts for the Great Western, and the London and Port Stanley railway companies, but latterly has confined himself to the manufacture of steam engines and boilers, which he has continued to make a specialty of. The business is now carried on under the firm name of E. Leonard and Sons.
He married 15th June, 1847, Emmeline Woodman, daughter of Mr. Elijah C. Woodman, originally from the State of Maine.
He was an alderman for London from 1853 to 1857 inclusive, and for the latter year, was elected by the council as mayor of the city, and required also to act at the same time as recorder; when it was observed by those who were his cotemporaries, that whether in a charge to the Grand Jury, or in summing up the evidence for the Petit Jury, or passing sentence on convicted prisoners, his remarks from the bench, were ever distinguished for clear, practical. common sense, and a thorough appreciation of the high duties he was called upon to discharge.
He took a prominent part in originating the Great Western and London and Port Stanley railway companies, being for the latter one of its first directors, and at one time vice-president of the same. He was one of the original incorporators of the Huron and Erie Savings and Loan Society, in 1864, and has remained continuously a director to the present time.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for the representation of London in. the House of Assembly at the general election in 1857, and successfully contested the “Malahide” division which consisted of East Middlesex, the city of London, East and West Elgin, for a seat in the Legislative Council in 1862, and was returned by a majority of two hundred and nineteen out of a total vote of 7,969, and sat for that constituency until the Confederation in 1867, when he was called to the Senate by Royal Proclamation in May of that year. In politics he is a Liberal.