LEONARD G. FOSTER. With an active life of labor covering many years, largely concerned with the tilling of the
soil and the handling of its products, Leonard G. Foster combined gifts and insight for the life of nature about
him, and has expressed this talent and experience through poetry and song that have stirred and brightened all
who have read his poetic selections. While he has been successful in business, his permanent place in the history
of Cleveland is that of a nature poet.
He was born in Brooklyn, now part of the City of Cleveland, September 10, 1840, son of Ebenezer and Elmyra (Williams)
Foster. His father was born at Stonington, Connecticut, April 19, 1810, and his mother, at Elmyra, New York, December
12, 1812. Ebenezer was twelve years of age when the Foster family came to Ohio by wagon and team from Connecticut
and settled in Brooklyn Township, acquiring land there at seven dollars an acre. Ebenezer Foster pursued the lifelong
vocation of a market farmer, tilling his own land. He died in his eighty seventh year and his wife, in her eighty
Leonard G. Foster was educated in the common schools, in the old Brooklyn Academy, and in Baldwin University at
Berea. His last formal schooling was in Humiston's Cleveland Institute. Following that he was principal of the
Tremont Public School, and left that work in 1863 to go with the Eighth Ohio Battery into active service during
the Civil war. The war over, he resumed teaching at Tremont for about a year, and then purchased a part of the
old home farm. Mr. Foster continued garden farming actively until 1918. In that year he turned over the management
of his affairs, including the farm, a number of rental properties and a plant for the manufacture of building blocks,
to his only son, Lawrence. Mr. Foster married Lyde Holmden, a native of Pennsylvania. Mrs. Foster is deceased,
and of the three children born to them the only survivor is the son Lawrence.
Mr. Foster is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Brooklyn, was a member of the school board and examiner
of the teachers for several years, also clerk of the Brooklyn City Council for years.
Mr. Foster was only eight years old when he composed his first poem, consisting of less than thirty words. Since
then he has been a constant and prolific writer of poems and gem thoughts, the total of which runs into many hundreds.
His published works include "Whisperings of Nature," which ran through five editions; "Blossoms
of Nature," one edition of 500 copies; "The Early Days," one edition of 500 copies; "Songs
of Nature," 100 copies printed in sheet music and in periodicals. Of his songs "Old Glory" and "Little
Brown Brown Button" are the most widely known. Now, in his eighty third year, he is still writing with all
the ease and ability of former years. Each year he attends the Lake Geneva Chautauqua, and recites his poems. He
has been on the program there for many seasons. During 1922 he composed 100 poems for delivery for the forum at
His permanent fame is in the realm of poetry. As a poet he has given distinction to the City of Cleveland. Consequently
it is appropriate to conclude this brief sketch of his life with an appreciation written by one of America's most
widely known lecturers and writers, Dr. James Hedley. What Doctor Hedley says of Mr. Foster and his writings is
contained in the following four paragraphs:
"In these days when the material of life seems to absorb human interest, to the exclusion of the ideal, it
is refreshing and comforting to know that the divine fire of poetry still burns upon the altar of an occasional
soul. He who by the touch of the wand of romance, or the gentle lure of fancy, can make us forget money and houses
and lands, and cause us to walk with willing feet and happy hearts in the realms of the dreamer and the singer,
is a benefactor of his time. When we are brought face to face with a poet, to whom the ring of a woodsman's ax
in a forest aisle is a choral, and the whirl of the wheel of an old mill is a symphony, we must concede the quality
of genius. When our spiritual senses are wakened to the perception of the presence of God in the temples of Nature,
and are made to feel the grasp of His hand, and to hear the call of His voice, we must recognize the presence of
a preacher who is above human creed, and beyond the pale of human dogma.
"These thoughts came to me with masterful strength after reading two volumes of poems, 'The Early Days' and
Blossoms of Nature,' by Leonard Gurley Foster. 'The Early Days' is a tribute to the brave, unselfish, sturdy men
and women who transformed the wilderness into the civilization we enjoy today. It turns back the clock of Time
and paints upon the canvas of the imagination faithful pictures of old fashioned Yesterdays. It is a sweetly simple
book; but its simplicity is its sublimity.
It is so true, so clear, so photographic, that it lingers like the echo of a loved voice, or the glory of a long
sunset. The vision of the early days is transparent; it shines with the clearness of a diamond. The clearing, the
cabin door, the calm eyed oxen, the old grist mill, the flying flail, the sweetheart at the rail gate, and the
dear old mother with her spinning, are all actually seen as one reads. The songs of robins and bobolinks, the call
of the whippoorwill, the joyous voices at the singing school, and the low toned benediction of the young minister,
are heard as distinctly as if the reader were present with them. 'The Early Days' should be read in the quiet of
the evening, with curtains drawn, and before an open glowing hearth, if its sweetful spirit is to be caught. It
is a book for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am glad Mr. Foster has given us this book. It is a teacher of contentment,
and an evangel of peace in these days of contentment and voice.
"'Blossoms of Nature' is a more pretentious volume, and treats of more pretentious things. With some few exceptions,
it has to do with phases of thought which pertain to the philosophical, the scientific, the theological, the sociological.
It is, all in all, a volume for the student. There is a spirit of reverence in this book, which is strong, and,
on the whole, unusual, in these days. Every 'blossom of nature' leads the reader to the garden of God, and one
stands knee deep in fields of asphodel, by crystal streams, while following the 'author's pages, especially in
the poem entitled 'Nature,' which perhaps is the strongest composition in the volume. All in all it is a noble
conception, broad, comprehensive and convincing.
"The 'Rally Song' is sweet and reverent, and should be set to music. It is worthy a place with the best hymnology.
There are 'passages in 'Blossoms of Nature' worthy of Wordsworth and Thomson. There are bits of philosophy of which
Pope would be proud. Many will greatly enjoy this creation of Mr. Footer's even more than his 'Early Days.' For
myself, my heart goes out to the latter book. I am happy in its possession. Mr. Foster's books should be read widely.
All discriminating readers will be grateful for what he has done. He has given a distinction and a dignity to the
old Brooklyn Village portion of Cleveland of which the residents are proud, and has contributed much that is worthy
of poetic literature."
A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924
Cuyahoga County, Ohio Biographies
Names A to G
Names H to P
Names Q to Z
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