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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


WILLIS EDWIN LEONARD, builder and real estate man of San Bernardino, is a very signal example of what a man can accomplish who makes his work of paramount importance and who is temperamentally gaited to do things on a big scale. It is claimed that every man has some project that to him is of cardinal importance. Mr. Leonard's interest has been in building, for which he has a singular aptitude and in which he has made a signal success. He has been a builder of homes, houses which are the homes of hundreds of happy families, many of them architecturally beautiful within and without but, whether large or small, built upon honor and contributions to the progress of the city and to the happiness of its inhabitants.

In his building Mr. Leonard is master of every detail, and he is meticulously careful that there shall be no slip-shod methods of loose ends and and his business policy has always been against the too prevalent idea that whatever is profitable is right. Builders of homes which can be placed within reach of families promote the welfare not only of the people interested, but are vital factors in the upbuilding of the city at large. A city of homes is a city which will grow and expand, for a man who owns a home, or who is buying one, is always interested in anything and everything which affects his city and takes an active part in its affairs, where renters and apartment house dwellers have no interest whatever in municipal affairs.

Mr. Leonard was born in Waterton, Wisconsin, January 27, 1863, the son of Ira E. and Maria (Shepherd) Leonard. Ira E. Leonard was probably the most popular and prominent man of his home city in Missouri. He was an attorney and was born and educated in New York state, moving to Waterton, Wisconsin, in 1862. Sometime later he moved to Missouri, where he was Judge of the District Court during the stirring Ku Klux troubles. So successful was his administration of his office that he was nominated for Supreme Judge of Missouri. While he received the largest vote of his ticket he was defeated because he was a Republican. While in Missouri, where he moved in 1866, he was also attorney for the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad. His health failing he decided to go to Colorado, resigning his offices and settling in Boulder, He practiced there for some time but finally he decided to try the climate of New Mexico and selected Socorro in that state for a home. Here he practiced until his death in 1889. His wife was also a native of New York and she recently died in San Bernardino at the age of 90. While Judge Leonard was in Boulder, Colorado, he was one of the Regents of the State University.

Willis Edwin Leonard received his education in Boulder, Colorado, first in the public schools and then in the University of that city. At the age of 19 he moved to the city of Socorro, New Mexico, remaining there for eight years when he came to San Bernardino, where in 1889 he was in the stationery business with Mr. Barnum for one year. At the end of the year he returned to Socorro and was in the real estate and insurance business for four years, but he could not forget San Bernardino and her attractions and in 1894 he returned here.

For several years he was in the department store business and then commenced his real life work, handling of real estate and building homes. In the latter work he specializes and he has placed homes within the reach of many by selling them on the installment plan. In San Bernardino he has built and sold over two hundred homes, while in the city of Long Beach he has built and sold several homes on one tract, in addition selling 40 lots in the same tract.

Mr. Leonard is a republican in politics. While in Socorro, New Mexico, he was County Superintendent of Schools, 1893-4. He is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, being an elder of that church.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011