Hiram through History

In 2011 we began to feature the diary entries of Hiram Leonard, highlighting the life of a Warrenville resident during the American Civil War years. This glimpse into local life 150 years ago continues, and as we all see the community through Hiram’s eyes it is hard to not notice how hard life was for him in those days. The Civil War years were hard for everyone on both sides of the fighting, but Hiram had a hard life that left him sick and tired before the War broke out as well. Learn a little more about Hiram and then read some earlier June 5th entries from Hiram’s diaries here.

Hiram Leonard, born in 1810, was from the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts and arrived in Warrenville in the fall of 1835.  His diaries are an almost continuous record of his Warrenville residency.  More than likely, he kept diaries prior to the March 1843 entry, the first entry the Museum has in it’s collection, but it is doubtful that they were preserved.

Hiram E. Leonard

Hiram E. Leonard

Hiram was a farmer, druggist, broom manufacturer, merchant, a justice of the peace, and Warrenville’s Postmaster from July 1, 1861 until his death November 6, 1878—a man of importance in the village.  His home at 3 S 381 Winfield Road still stands; the Leonard Store was located at 28 W 180 Warrenville Road.

Hiram turned 53 in 1863, so although it is unlikely that his age accounted for his constant illness, he lived a hard life and his sickness was most likely caused by the large amount of stress in his life.  He was running multiple businesses in the growing community of Warrenville, including his position as postmaster, and for many years took care of his sister, who was mentally unstable.  There have been a few entries about his sister being “sick” or “unwell.”  She was generally irrational and oftentimes violent, which was a lot for Hiram to deal with by himself as no other family lived in the area.

Hiram also took on other taxing responsibilities in his personal life.  He had a live-in housekeeper, Mary Wray, who was divorced with two children.  Hiram was not married at the time and cared for Mary’s two kids after her death, and later the William Wray Jr.’s (Mary’s son) family as well.  Hiram was most likely completely exhausted each night from fulfilling all of his duties.

William Wray Jr. left Hiram to care for his family when he went off to fight in the Civil War.  William Jr. died in battle in 1864 and his 34 year old widow, Caroline, later married Hiram in 1874.  Hiram was 64 at the time of the wedding and died 4 years later.

June 5, 1846: “5th Friday  A cool cloudy damp morning & rather a cold squalley disagreeable day, several sprinkles with conciderable wind, more pleasant in afternoon & quite fine in the evening, the ground wet & roads bad, I run round conciderable in the morning to the post office store etc & then worked in my orchard a grafting & trimming, was tiard at night, George Hull & wife called at Carpenters & his sister called here & took tea, & then he came after her. Bridges & another person called a short time as the were on their return from Bristol from the Association.”

June 5, 1851: “5th Thursday  A warm cloudy rainey morning the thurmometer stood at 52 degrees above zero in the morning 76 at noon & 60 at night, rather a cloudy damp day but the sun shone out some, a tremendous heavey thunder shower in the night with wind, I choared round, & started about 10 for Joliet with Raynoldses folks, got to Joliet abut 6, stayed at Inghams all night & went to bed about 9, tiard & about sick.”

June 5, 1853: “5th Sunday  A warm & some cloudy morning the thurmometer ranged at 60 degrees above zero in the morning 88 at noon & 74 at night a warm pleasant day with some cloudy & showers round us, a fine evening, fine growing weather  I did my choars fixed some upstairs was at home all day did my choars & went to bed at 9 tiard & nearly sick, George & his wife, Mrs. Wray & Sol Williams went to Mr. Hovarths on a visit & got home before sunset.”

June 5, 1855: 5th Tuesday  Rather a fine cool day & evening, I did my choars & was at the shop all day & evening came home about 9 & went to bed verry dry weather  Mrs. Hammond took the cars in Chicago for the East about 6 A.M.”



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