Robert Leonard was an carpenter who designed and built a lot of homes and some businesses in Tulia. His daughter, Cora Leonard Speck was in Tulia’s first graduating class and became a teacher at Tulia Public Schools. Robert’s grandson, Jon Speck, just submitted a wonderful collection of his photos to the site! Click the photo to view a slideshow! If you are from the area, you may recognize some of the homes and businesses in some of the photos.
Robert with a young tung tree
Robert McDonald LEONARD
“My great-grandfather, Robert McDonald Leonard was born in Ellis County, Texas, in January, 1858. On December 14, 1883, he married Adella Patterson (1864–1957) in Johnson Co. The couple had six children, Ethel (b. 1887), Cora Roberta (August 1890–1968), J. Lamar (d. December 9, 1934), Andrew Berry, (b. June 1897), Raymond (b. July 1898), and Alberta (b. July 1903).
Robert’s parents, John W. Leonard and Martha Elizabeth Berry Leonard (married in Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Ovilla, in 1856), moved from Ellis County to Johnson County between 1870 and 1880, and then by 1900 moved again to Randall County.
Robert’s family followed his parents to the Panhandle, settling in Tulia sometime in 1907. They joined First Presbyterian Church of Tulia where Robert was ordained Elder and served as Clerk of Session. He was elected delegate to Presbytery in Childress, 1911. In 1908, Adella was named the first president of Tulia Presbyterian’s Home Missionary Society. Robert was a carpenter, designing and building houses and other structures. He also served as Swisher County Tax Assessor. He made a formal appeal to the state Controller and Attorney General in 1909 to uphold his assessments when the Board of Equalization drastically cut the values of properties in Swisher County (Dallas Morning News 8-1-1909) . His daughter, Cora (my grandmother) was a member of the first graduating class of Tulia High School, 1910, along with Carl Hale and Velma French. Cora attended West Texas State Normal School in Canyon, and taught public school in Tulia. The family left Tulia for Tarrant County in 1914. Robert moved to Dowling Park, Florida. He built the first building for Advent Old Folks Home, an institution still in operation as Advent Christian Village. In 1924, he raised tung oil trees developed by the Experiment Station (University of Florida). After his death the trees were considered a noted success (Suwannee Democrat, 1-31-1930). Robert returned to Texas and died in Grand Prairie in 1929.”
Jon Speck, April 16, 2012
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