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Leeper Family


John Palmer Leeper (1837–1889)

Edward Dingle Leeper (1861–1947)

Rosa M. Leeper (1863–1946)

John Bell Leeper (1865–1946)

Paul Waples Leeper (1873–1935)

At the founding of the town of Denison, Texas, several families arrived from Chillicothe, Missouri, founded businesses, intermarried, and flourished. Their family names were Leeper, Lingo, Platter, and Waples. Here we explore the activities of John Palmer Leeper and his immediate family.

John Palmer Leeper (1837–1889) was born in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, on June 6, 1837, the son of James Bell Leeper (1809–1872) and Elizabeth Kemper Palmer (1818–1872). By 1850, he was with his family in Callaway County, Missouri. He married Emily H. Dingle (1839–1881) in Livingston County, Missouri, February 22, 1860. Their children were: Edward Dingle Leeper (1861–1947), Rosa M. Leeper (1863–1946), John Bell Leeper (1864–1948), Rachel Bredelle "Dell" Leeper (1867–1946), Nina B. Leeper (1869–1871), Paul Waples Leeper (1873–1935); and Carl S. Leeper (1873), Otto P. Leeper (1874), and Alma Leeper (1875), all three of whom died in infancy.

The Census of 1870 found John and Emily in Richmond, Ray County, Missouri; John was working as a lumber merchant. Both John's parents died in 1872 and were buried in Chillicothe, Missouri.

The end of that year saw the first Missouri-Kansas-Texas train arrive in the new town of Denison, Texas. Three months later, Denison's Sunday Gazetteer for March 16, 1873, listed J. P. Leeper as a lumber dealer in the nascent city. The 1876 Denison City Directory listed John as partner in two companies, both located on the northwest corner of Houston Avenue and Crawford Street: (1) Leeper & Lee (with George H. Lee), owners of Denison Cement Works; and (2) Dickson & Leeper (with Thomas C. Dickson), owners of a saw and planing mill and cotton gin. John Leeper was living at the northwest corner of Gandy Street and Fannin Avenue. Living there, too, were Lizzie L. Leeper and Edwin [Edward] D. Leeper, clerk at the Drovers & Planters Bank.

The 1880 Census reported John living on West Gandy Street and working as a hardware merchant. With him were wife "Mima" and these children: sons Edward, 19, and John B., 14, clerks in store; daughters Rosa, 15, and Della [Rachel Bredelle], 12; and son Paul, 8.

In 1881 John Palmer Leeper faced a trying time as he was repeatedly tried for insanity.  His wife, Emily H. Dingle,died a week after her husband was declared sane (technically, not insane) in Sherman.

Rosa M. Leeper became the first librarian of the Dallas Public Library. Beginning in 1901, she organized the library and "for sixteen years directed its upbuilding."  She resigned from the Dallas Public Library in 1918, amid grateful praise for her achievements there. She traveled at length and then lived in Los Angeles, where she died in 1946. She never married, but the 1930 Census found her living with Josephine M. Wilson, whom she described as her partner.

The Denison City Directory for 1887 listed John P. Leeper as a lumber dealer living at 425 West Gandy. His sons Edward D. and John B. Leeper were living with him. Edward, now 26, was involved in two companies. (1) He had joined Levi Lingo, Andrew Fox Platter, and Edward H. Lingo in forming Leeper, Lingo & Co., "wholesale and retail hardware, stoves, tinware, agricultural implements, carriage and wagon woodwork, 100-102-104 East Main and 230 West Main at the corner of Rusk Avenue." The East Main Street location was the site where Waples-Platter Grocer Company had erected its large, elegant warehouse in 1885. (2) In addition, Edward was a principal in Hanna, Leeper & Co., "stoves, tinware, agricultural implements, [located at] 230 West Main at the corner of Rusk Avenue." His partner was Samuel Hanna, president of the First National Bank and at the time Mayor of Denison.

Two years later, in 1889, the City Directory of Birmingham, Alabama, listed John P. Leeper, "sash, door and blinds, 2301 Morris Avenue." He boarded at the Palace Royal. With him was Paul Leeper, a clerk in his father's firm. It is unclear why John moved to Birmingham, but he died there on January 15, 1889. He was buried in the Old City Cemetery at Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, as was his wife Emily, who had died in Texas in 1881. This is where their four children who had died as infants were buried.

On March 4, 1889, Edward D. Leeper married Margaret Alice Gilbert (1860–1942). John Bell Leeper married Cora Gertrude Shields (1868–1940) on October 30, 1892, in Taylor County, West Virginia. Finally, in 1924, Paul Waples Leeper married Stella M. Marratta (1887–1967) in Denison.

Following his father's death, Paul Leeper returned to Denison. The three brothers now joined forces to form a new company, Leeper Hardware, located at 100-102-104 East Main Street, at the corner of Houston Avenue. According to the 1891 Denison City Directory, the firm was incorporated on January 1, 1890, with capital stock worth $51,000. Edward D. Leeper was president; Levi Lingo was vice-president; John B. Leeper was secretary and treasurer; and Paul was a clerk. The company was described as "jobbers in hardware, stoves, tinware, agricultural implements, carriage and wagon wood work." John B. Leeper was boarding at the Thompson House, 400 West Main. Edward was living at 1200 West Sears Street, corner of Perry Avenue; this was where the State National Bank's president, G. L. Blackford, would build his Craftsman-style home later. Living with Edward in 1891 were his brother Paul and sister, Miss Dell [Rachel] Leeper.

Also around 1891, J. T. Boldrick and one or more of the Leeper brothers (most likely Edward) partnered in constructing the eye-popping Leeper-Boldrick Building, later known as the Leeper Building or Security Building. The 1891 City Directory listed John Boldrick as a clerk at Leeper Hardware, and Thomas Boldrick selling boots and shoes at 226 West Main. Located at 331 West Main Street, at the corner of Burnett Avenue, the five-story "skyscraper" was designed by French architect Pierre Lelardoux.

Leeper Hardware House
Denison City Directory

Leeper Hardware Company
Denison Sunday Gazeteer
22 November 1891

Initially, The National Bank of Denison, recently organized under president Charles S. Cobb, occupied the ground floor of the new building. Soon, however, that bank seems to have merged with the First National Bank, which under its president J. M. Ford had just completed the fine Ford or National Bank Building at 231 West Main. 

Leeper & Boldrick (Security) Building
331 West Main Street
Source: Art Work of Grayson County (1895).

The newly merged bank occupied the Ford Building. By 1896, Leeper Hardware Company had moved into the vacant space left at 329–331 West Main.

Leeper Hardware Co.
1896 - 1897
Denison City Directory

Here is how the 1896 City Directory described Leeper Hardware: "Established 1872; incorporated February 1890. Paid-up capital, $75,000. Edward D. Leeper, president; J. D. Garner, vice-president; W. F. Haynes, secretary; John B. Leeper, treasurer. Shelf and heavy hardware, agricultural implements, guns, cutlery, buggies, carriages, wagons, farm and mill machinery, etc. 329–331 West Main." Paul W. Leeper was a salesman at the firm. Edward lived at 1200 West Sears. John lived at 829 West Bond. Paul lived at 425 West Gandy.

In 1900, the U.S. Census listed Edward as a hardware merchant. He, Alice, and daughter Aline B. Leeper (1890–1928) had moved to 930 West Sears, the home of Alice's father (the attorney and judge, Samuel A. Gilbert), mother Martha, and brother Samuel A. Jr., 26, clerk in a hardware store.

By 1901, a new bank took over the Leeper Hardware space in the Leeper/Security Building. The 1901 City Directory carried this listing: "Brooks, Bass & Johnston. Hiram Brooks, president, Denison; Lawrence Bass, Ashland, Mo.; John T. M. Johnston, St. Louis, Mo.; Benjamin M. Seward, cashier; bankers, 331 West Main, corner of North Burnett Avenue." A grocer by trade, Hiram Brooks was described as "President, Bank of Brooks, Bass & Johnston; treasurer, Gate City Hosiery Mill." This bank had a relatively short life, but later other banks took over the space.

Around the same time, a new firm replaced Leeper Hardware Company. Called Hall-Leeper Hardware, it moved two blocks east, to 129–131 West Main. This was where the Original Star Store had been located.  The new president was George T. Hall of Kansas City, Missouri; Paul W. Leeper was vice-president; Edgar C. Waples was secretary-treasurer; and John B. Leeper was manager. The firm handled "shelf and heavy hardware, iron, steel, agricultural implements, farm and mill machinery, wagons, etc." Still living with Paul was his sister Dell [Rachel] Leeper. 

"Hall-Leeper Hardware Company. Everything in Iron and Steel."
Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 72.

Edward left the company to become a traveling salesman. In the next few years, he would sometimes appear in the Denison City Directory at 930 West Sears, and sometimes not. John and Cora moved a growing family from 829 West Bond (1903) to 931 West Gandy (1907) to 1016 West Morton (1913). By 1915, their son John Palmer Leeper (1894–1967; named for his grandfather) was a salesman at Hall-Leeper Hardware.

Much remained the same as years passed. By 1917, Paul and sister Rachel had moved next door from 425 to 427 West Gandy. Aline Leeper became a teacher at Central Ward School (1921). In 1919, John Palmer Leeper married Mary Anne Platter (1899–1933), daughter of Harry Clark Platter and Clara Jane Lingo. Soon they would move to Dallas. By 1925, Paul W. Leeper had married a stenographer, Stella Marratta; moved to 709 West Gandy; and become president of Hall-Leeper Hardware.

The 1934 City Directory had no listing for Hall-Leeper Hardware; neither Paul nor John listed any occupation. Bredelle [Rachel] Leeper offered "furnished rooms" at 427 West Gandy.

The 1934 directory also recorded the formation of Burton-Lingo Company, "lumber and building material," at 607 South Mirick Avenue, with Edward D. Leeper as manager. In the 1930 Census, Edward had listed his occupation as "lumber yard manager." By 1938, at age 77, he listed no occupation.

Burton-Lingo Lumber Company, 1954
607 South Mirick Avenue

The 1946 City Directory reflected the disappearance of Leepers from Denison. The only ones remaining were Bredelle [Rachel] at 427 West Gandy, Edward at 930 West Sears, and Paul's widow Stella at 709 West Gandy. John died on January 29, 1946; Rachel on October 7, 1946; and Edward in November 1947. Stella lived on for another twenty years. Many Leepers are buried in Denison's Fairview Cemetery.




Elaine Nall Bay

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