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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



When the news concerning the discovery of gold in California reached the eastern states a multitude of aspiring Argonauts at once sought of destiny the fortunes to which very few ever attained; or which, when acquired, were found to emanate from other sources than those anticipated in the first alluring visions of the mines. Among the young men to whom the news changed all of their future activities was Albert Leonard, who was born in Massachusetts in 1826 and who at the time of the great discovery at Sutter's Camp worked in an humble capacity in New York, having lived there from boyhood. Immediately he began to plan a trip to the Pacific coast. Joining with a party of one hundred picked young men who chartered a large ship in New York and outfitted with provisions sufficient for three years, he sailed around the Horn during 1849 under the leadership of a captain especially engaged by the expedition. The company entered San Francisco through the Golden Gate and proceeded to Sacramento, where a division was made into squads of ten and in that way they pushed forward to the mines.

Not finding any encouragement in his attempts to mine, Albert Leonard secured employment as mail carrier for other miners and for some months he continued in that position, by no means an easy task at that time and in that place. Soon afterward he decided that the taking lap of land would offer a more congenial field of labor and accordingly he bought a tract, which he commenced to develop and improve. During 1851 he was united in marriage with Miss Cordelia Merrill, a native of Ohio and a daughter of Isaac Merrill, an honored pioneer of California. It was during the eventful year of 1849 that the Merrill family crossed the plains to the gold mines. The trip occupied seven months and was filled with dangers and hardships, but found a safe termination in little more than the time ordinarily required for such an arduous enterprise. For years Mr. Merrill made his home in Sacramento county and at his death in 1870 many tributes of praise were bestowed upon his memory by the pioneers who long had labored at his side in the upbuilding of the community and commonwealth.

Eventually giving up ranching pursuits and disposing of some of his landed estate, Mr. Leonard embarked in the real estate and insurance business, which enterprises took up his time and attention throughout the remainder of his useful career and until his death in 1892. Meanwhile he also had been a local leader in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and a participant of the meetings of the Association of California Pioneers at Sacramento. No movement for the advancement of the county failed of his support. It was one of his chief joys in life to witness the steady and permanent growth of the state to which he had come prior to its admission into the Union, which always had received his unfailing loyal devotion and in which he had risen from poverty to independence, from obscurity into local prominence. There were fifteen children born of his marriage, but five of these died at an early age. The ten own living are as follows: Mrs. Alice Scott, of Fresno; Carrie, who resides in Philadelphia; Benjamin and Charles, both of whom are industrious and capable citizens of Sacramento ; Jessie, who is married and makes her home in the capital city; Irene, Joseph, Albert, John A. and Harry W. Until her demise, January" 6, 1912, the widowed mother made her home at the family residence, No. 3520 Seventh avenue, where she was surrounded by the comforts accumulated by the wise management and frugality of earlier years and where she enjoyed the affectionate ministrations of her children and the warm esteem of old acquaintances. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011