Biography of Thomas Leader
Iowa County, IA Biographies





Thomas Leader, a citizen of Marengo, Iowa, was a self made man whose record was a credit to humanity and whose life was a factor in the growth of his community. He was a native of England, born in Norfolk on the 10th of August, 1825, a son of William and Anna (Lawrence) Leader. His father, William Leader, was a soldier in the English army and captain of an English man-of-war. He participated in the battle of Waterloo, receiving a number of saber wounds and being one of twelve of his regiment that survived. His vessel was transferred to Gibraltar, where he was stationed for some time and where he met his wife, Miss Anna Lawrence, a Spanish lady, who was born and reared in that place. They were romantically married on the rocks of Gibraltar. He remained in the English army for a number of years, proving to be a brave and loyal soldier. When he retired to private life he took up the business of a glover. He lived to the advanced age of ninety three years, longevity being a family characteristic, as his father lived beyond the century mark. His wife passed away at the age of ninety two years. They were members of the Baptist church and highly respected by all who knew them. They were the parents of sixteen children, thirteen of whom reached maturity and of whom our subject, Thomas Leader, was the third youngest and was the only one to emigrate to America.

Our subject was reared in his native town. As he was obliged to work and earn his own living when but eight years of age, he received limited educational advantages in his youth. His education was largely achieved from the school of experience and the actualities of lifa He was naturally very observing and by close application and contact with the business affairs of life, the channels through which comes the best of education, he became a well informed man. Although he began work at the age of eight years, he resided with his parents until the age of sixteen, when he left his parental home and boarded himself. At this time he was receiving twelve cents a day and when able to do a man's work he received but twenty four cents a day. He worked for a number of years on a fine old English estate.

While there Mr. Leader met Miss Anna Atkins, a daughter of the foreman of the estate and a native of Cambridgeshire, whom he married in 1847. Miss Atkins was a woman of sterling worth and character, loving everything good and uplifting, and beloved by all who knew her. She proved to be a helpmeet in the broadest sense of the word, always ready to bear cheerfully her part of the burdens of a pioneer life. They remained on this estate two years after marriage and then concluded that the prospects for a home of their own in England were not favorable. In the fall of 1849 Mr. Leader and wife bade farewell to friends and native land and embarked at Liverpool, England, on a sailing vessel bound for America. The vessel was shipwrecked off the coast of Wales and for three days the passengers were compelled to remain upon the wrecked vessel. At length they were once more on their way and after eighty five days landed in New York.

Mr. Leader immediately made his way westward to Elgin, Illinois, where he was employed during the winter on the Northwestern Railroad. In the spring of 185o he went to Medina, Ohio, where he worked for a year as a farm laborer, then rented land on shares and at the end of three years had saved enough to enable him and his wife to come to Iowa. In the autumn of 1855 he located in Marengo township, Iowa county, and in partnership with two other men who came to America with him purchased a quarter section of prairie and timber land bordering the Iowa river. They then built a log cabin, in which they lived for a number of years. They fanned and operated the land together for five years, at the expiration of which time Mr. Leader bought his partners' interests and began operating the land alone. The farm is known as "the old Leader homestead." Mr. Leader stocked his farm with high grade animals and for a number of years gave much attention to stock raising. That his efforts prospered is shown by his obtaining possession of hundreds of acres of land surrounding his home and elsewhere, all of which was well improved and comprised some of the best land in Iowa county, the land being rolling and well watered and thus excellent for stock raising. He raised Durham cattle, also some fine horses and did a great deal of riding and driving.

In 1889 Mr. Leader retired from active farm life and built a home in Marengo, where he resided until his death. He was quite prominent in financial circles, being an organizer, stockholder and director of the Marengo Savings Bath; a director and stockholder in the Victor Savings Bank, the North English Savings Bank and the Hartwick Savings Bank; was a stockholder in the Marengo Telephone and Electric Light Company; and was president of the Electric Light Company at the time of his death. He was also active and took an interest in other lines of business.

For six years Mr. Leader served as school director in his district and was an unusually efficient road supervisor for nineteen years. For three years he superintended the Iowa county farm, making it largely self supporting and bringing everything to a good condition. Mr. Leader was a stanch republican, espoused the principles of the party on all occasions and was many times a delegate to state and county conventions. He was active in political circles, as a bank official was at once judicious and enterprising, as a farmer and stockman was very prominent in his community. He always measured up to the highest standard of mankind. Integrity, intelligence and system are the characteristics that will advance the interest of any life or calling and these most essential attributes Mr. Leader possessed. His career throughout life was characterized by hard labor, earnest application and the desire to make the most of every opportunity for bettering his financial and social condition, but never at the cost of self respect. His career through life teaches a useful lesson and should be emulated by others who are desirous of obtaining wealth, happiness and above all a good name. He made a life and he left a good name without a single tarnished spot, and he left the memory of eighty two honest, industrious, faithful years.

Nine times did baby fingers place the crown of parenthood upon Mr. and Mrs. Leader's brow. To them were born the following children: Sarah J., deceased; Eliza A., the widow of George Royal, Sr., and the mother of three sons; Leader G., Joel T. and William S.; Pauline M., a physician in the Clarinda State Hospital; Jennie H. Harlow, who is deceased and who became the mother of four children; Mildred, Mona, Ethel and Thomas; Sarah A., who resides in the home and looks after the estate; Mrs. Belle Royal, who became the mother of five children; Ethel (deceased), George E., Everette, Max and Kenneth; A. T., who has passed away and who was the father of five children; Ralph, Marie (deceased), Esther, Ruth and Anna; L. C., who is the father of seven children; Irene, Pauline D., Thomas, Lester, Helen, Dorothy and James; Ethel D., a trained nurse by profession, who is now the wife of Dr. J. H. Fowler and the mother of three children; Catherine, Sarah Louise and James H. John B. Fry, now deceased, was made a member of this family circle when a small boy.

Mr. Leader was reared in the Episcopalian faith but in his last years was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. Mrs. Leader was a Presbyterian from childhood and always remained in the church of her choice. Mr. Leader passed away on the 31st of May, 19o8, while his widow was called to her final rest on the 23d of February, 1912. They were excellent people and the world was happier and better for their having lived and heaven richer for their having died.

From:
History of Iowa County, Iowa
And its People
By: James C. Dinwiddie
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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