By Ellen Knoernschild
Leonard Harold, who founded Augusta, was a man embroiled in controversy during his life -- lawsuits, family disputes, accusations of forgery and land speculation. He is also a mysterious figure -- we don't know where in Virginia he came from, the dates he was born and the exact date he died, or where he is buried (probably in an unmarked grave.)
Leonard appeared in this area in 1810. He married the daughter of Henry Crow, who had a Spanish land grant. During the War of 1812, there was a lot of worry about Indian attacks. Daniel M. Boone (son of Daniel) raised a company of rangers who went to “Sioux Pointe,” 18 miles north of Augusta, and watched the Miami Indians and the British. Leonard served for two weeks in 1813 and six weeks in 1814. He spent many years trying to get a pension for these two months of military service. He filled out affidavits, obtained character witnesses and appeared in court at least four times. But as he had lost his discharge papers, he never got a pension.
Leonard did a lot of land speculating after the war. He first bought Spanish land grants. He purchased land 14 times, and 64 land sales are recorded in St. Charles County. In 1821, shortly after Missouri statehood was granted, he purchased 360 acres from the federal government and sold lots in his town of Mount Pleasant in 1836. The purchasers all had English names.
By the 1850s Leonard was one of the wealthiest men in the county. His assets totaled $5000, even though he had given large acreages to his children. Then Leonard, in his 70s, married Clarissa Presley, a widow in her 30s. According to survey records, Leonard's children, who were still living at home, moved out, and Clarissa's children moved in. Clarissa encouraged him to sell his property and give the money to her. Eventually, he moved to Troy, Clarissa's hometown. The marriage must have been stormy. Leonard moved back alone less than a year later; in a few years, Clarissa returned, and Leonard “lent” large sums to her sons. The flood in 1872 destroyed the house, resulting in Clarissa and her son packing up all the furniture, including Leonard's “pants and boots” according to probate court records, and left the 87-year-old man lying on the floor. Leonard rallied and went to Troy to get his things back, but Clarissa said everything had been stolen and talked him into giving her more money.
Leonard moved in with a son, then a daughter, and then a granddaughter, but they couldn't get along. He died in 1875. Clarissa reappeared, suing for her “widow's dower,” even though she had applied for a divorce. She got $400, half of what was left after all the suits, counter-suits and uncollectible loans to relatives. It is sad that someone to whom we are indebted for the town we live in ended his life in petty squabbles and left an angry family. Stay tuned for more stories from Ellen!