In Opinion

Elias Leonard, hotel keeper for over 30 years at the building we now call the Sovereign, was always ready to lure in business. The Leonard House, the name he gave to his hotel, advertised having “electric lights and bells throughout the house and stables giving it the air of a city hotel.” A few years later he had a bath house built, “a great convenience,” it was reported.

Mr. Leonard’s enthusiasm for business sometimes went beyond the legal bounds. For example, it was reported that he appeared in a court in Alliston for selling larger quantities of beer than the law allowed.

Newspaper editors in the years before 1900 had no qualms about reporting incidents that today would be considered libellous. One report in a 1890s Creemore Star gives the play-by-play details of a quarrel between Leonard, standing in front of his hotel, and a woman on the opposite corner.

Her cow had spent that day grazing the grass on the sides of the streets, as did all the other cows in the village. As she brought it home from milking, the Leonard dog ran after the cow, nipping at her heels and tail. This was not good for a milking cow. The exchange of insults was provided in detail.

Another story from the Leonard House comes from a time when a man by the name of Montgomery operated the hotel for a short time. The incident reminds me of the Wild West. A young man was working in the bar room at the north-west corner of the building. He picked up a gun, which was lying on the floor (why was a gun lying on the floor?!) and wondered if it was loaded. He pulled the trigger. The bullet went through the window glass and across the road embedding itself in the wall of the drug store. Two men were sitting on a bench in the sun and narrowly escaped losing their lives.

As you see, the editor of the Creemore paper was always ready to find a newsworthy story at the Leonard House. The following story reveals his tongue-in cheek humour:

“Elias Leonard was the possessor of two very fine hogs which he was feeding up in elegant style prior to having the two transformed into choice breakfast bacon and spiced roll with which to tickle the palate of his guests at his well kept hostelry. Evidently, presuming that such would be their fate and desiring to postpone the inevitable to a later period as they could, Messrs Hog decided to lengthen their career by a trip to the city. On Thursday last they espied a drove of their kindred wending their way to the station under the superintendency of drover Hershey. Without ever saying as much as by your leave, they joined the party and soon were snugly aboard the car. On reaching Toronto, however, they were early made aware of having made a grievous mistake and their shoulders and hams now find a resting place in the pickling vats of Davis packing house.”

Elias Leonard surely made his mark on our world during his many years as a hotel keeper. And his hotel we now call the Sovereign continued to make history for Creemore in all the ways it has served residents and others over the years.

Elias Leonard married Isabella Royal. They had five children. Isabella died in 1879 a year after the family moved to Creemore. Elias later married Minnie Clark. They are buried in Creemore Union Cemetery. One of the sons, John Joseph (Joe), wrote long affectionate stories of his youth in Creemore. He was living at the time in Seattle, Washington. Joe is also buried in the local cemetery.

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to The Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

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