How Leon was Named


Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, January 28, l904

'How Leon Was Named'

'Some Interesting Facts Regarding Our City as Told by I.N. Clark and H.S. Miller.'

The item in last week's Reporter asking how the town of Leon received its name attracted the attention of MR. I.N. CLARK who enjoys the distinction of being the oldest resident in this city now residing here, and he called and told us all about it.

MR. CLARK came to Decatur County in May, l852, and ran the first store in this part of the county, which was located at what was known as the ONEY corner, a mile and a half south of what is now Leon, which was before there was any settlement at all, where Leon now stands. When the town was first started in l853 it was called Independence, and MR. CLARK in partnership with T.H. WINN, opened a store under the name of T.H. WINN & CO. In l854, he moved to Decatur City and opened a store under the firm name of CLARK, WINN & CO., which he conducted for thirteen months and then returned to Independence and again engaged in business in partnership with WINN. At that time there was considerable trouble over the mail getting mixed with mail for Independence, a town in Buchanan County, and to avoid this the name was changed to East Independence. About the time of the county seat fight which was won by this city, the county seat being moved here from Decatur City, there was talk of changing the name to something shorter. One night a number of the business men got together to talk over the matters and select a new name. Among the number was GEORGE MOORE, of the firm of RICHARDS & MOORE, and while discussing the matter he kept talking of Leo, the lion, and finally suggested that the town be called Leon. This seemed just to suit every one present, so it was decided to change the name to Leon and the change was made at once.

Editor Reporter: -- Having read in last week's Reporter an inquiry about the naming of our county seat, I will endeavor to give a few facts relating to the matter for the benefit of your readers.

I have been a resident of this county for fifty years. Some of these facts are taken from the historical record, the others from memory. The site of Leon was first surveyed for a town called Independence. There being another town of that name in Iowa the name was changed to South Independence. This was its name when it became the county seat in May, l853. In the winter of l854-5, the name was changed to Leon in compliance with a petition of the citizens. The petition was drawn up by a committee consisting of DR. J.P. FINLEY, S.C. THOMPSON and GEORGE L. MOORE, who were appointed by the citizens of South Independence. Several names were suggested, among them the name of Leon by GEORGE L. MOORE, who had been to California and became familiar with the name while there. Leon was the name selected by the committee and they petitioned the legislature which granted the change.

It is said THOMAS H. EAST owned the land and had built a house on the town site before it was laid out for a town. S.C. THOMPSON was the first to build after the location of the village. The next building was put up by W.W. ELLIS and he sold the first goods in Independence. The next mercantile firm was CLEVELAND, WINN & CO. I.N. CLARK sold goods for the firm.

I remember a little incident that occurred at their store when fire broke out in the building. MR. WINN, being somewhat excited and water scarce, thought of the barrel of whiskey in the other part of the store, drew a bucketfull and threw it on the flames to put out the fire. As it blazed up he ran to MR. CLARK with this exclamation: "Clark! Clark! D--m, h--l, makes it burn worser.

Another little incident, relating to CLARK and WINN, occurred at the Patterson Hotel where they boarded. "Uncle Ike", no doubt remembers it well.

Leon never had a boom, but has grown slowly and surely. Its population in l856 was about 600.


Editor Reporter: -- You ask some of the old settlers of the county to answer the question, "Why was this city called Leon?" The word Leon is an abbreviation of the word Leonin which means, "resembling a lion or partaking of his qualities" (Leo) hence it would mean strong, powerful, great; Leon, a great and powerful city, as the man who suggested the name supposed it would some day, and of course it is.


Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, February 4, l904

'More About Leon's Name'

Pawnee, Mo., Jan. 25, l904
Editor Reporter: -- In your issue of Jan. 2l, I saw the query as to why Leon was called Leon. Away back in the early 50's, when there was considerable talk of moving the county seat from Decatur City to the center of the county, and it was finally brought to a vote to be moved to its present location, the election was held at Uncle JOHN JORDAN's farm, four miles south and a little west of Leon. By some fine electioneering scheme the east side beat the west side by one vote and secured the county seat. As it was no nearer the center than Decatur, they couldn't call it Center so they called it Independence. When they began to cast about for a post office and pitch iron wedges to see who would be postmaster, they found out Iowa had a post office by that name and they had to find some other. About that time, a newcomer dropped in, a man who had traveled some and somewhere in his travels had seen a beautiful little city called De Leon, or Ponce de Leon, and he proposed the name for the new town. The committee said we will strip it of all superfluous abreviations and call it Leon. Lee-on not Linn.


Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, February 11, l904

'Early Reminiscenses'

Emporia, Kansas, Feb. 6, l904.
Mr. O.E. Hull,
Dear Sir: -- The reminiscences in The Reporter concerning the name of the dear old town Leon, calls to mind the day of ratification of the name. It was on July 4, l855 or possibly l856, but I am almost positive of the first date. A great dinner was spread on a long table, with a roof of bows of trees carried from the RICHARDSON and STOUT pastures. People drove in from all over the county with oxen and horses, many arriving the evening before and camping over night.

The chief adornment of the table, (where several hundred ate at one time) was a cake 2 l/2 feet high, gaily candied and frosted, with a candy lion at the summit, in whose mouth was a flag staff, the flag bearing the words "Leon the Lion." The cake was baked by MRS. HAWLEY, wife of a lawyer. The candy and flag were given her by THOS. WYNN. The usual primitive 4th of July celebration speeches were made, the "boy speaker" being FORREY, the late Judge FORREY, so well known in Iowa. But nothing attracted us, the little ones, liked that cake. The "Kid" crowd was at that time composed of MARY KNAPP, MARTHA JORDAN, LOUISA WELDON, CAROLINE RICHARDSON, NANCY SALES and myself, all bout 7 years old, also a few boys in the WELDON, JORDAN and RICHARDSON families. Ever since then, no matter where I live when I think of Leon, it is "Leon the Lion" in my memory.

I might say right here that the cake was divided so that each person had a slice. Auntie PATTERSON cut and handed it out to the satisfaction of everyone present. No 4th of July since, has been remembered like that one, which not only celebrated the independence of the Union, but the new name of the town where I lived for so many years.


Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, March 3, l904

'Reminiscences of an Early Resident'

Editor Reporter: After reading MR. CLARK's article in The Reporter on the naming of Leon, which is correct, it reminded me of how the town came to be located here and called Independence. MR. PETER STEWART called at our house on Saturday before the election day at which the question of locating the county seat was submitted. I asked him if the east side of Little River had selected a point yet. He said, "No, they have not." I then with no idea whatever that my suggestion would be acted on said you might do as they did in Davis County, which was to select a point, also a suitable man for each precinct, and say nothing about it until the morning of the election, then boom the point selected. I was doing some work for MR. STEWART for which he had to wait, so he went down to the settlement as we called the few families living on the DR. BAKER, MCELVAIN and BRADLEY places. A MR. EAST lived on the claim where Leon now stands. He was delighted and said they could have his claim and that they would call it Independence, which would insure the location as there were a goodly number of roughs who would come to the polls full, swearing their forefathers had fought, bled and died for Independence, and they would vote for it, which they did to a man. So the county seat was located and my husband being county judge made it necessary that the office should be held in the county seat. So the neighbors joined, (some of them living seven and eight miles distant) and put us up a sixteen foot square hewed log house, which we moved into as soon as it was raised and a floor laid. 'Tis true we had no shutter for our door or glass for our two windows, yet we lived and transacted the business of the office after rather a primitive style until a proper building could be put up. Our house was the first one built in the city of Leon, others soon following. MR. CLARK and MR. WINN started the first general store. MR. CLARK and myself are the only two now left of the first settlers of the town.


Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
"With permission from the Leon Journal Reporter"
February 27, 2003

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The 1875 Atlas has this to say about the name "Leon." ... jack (Jack Scott)

The Legislature in the winter of 1854-5 changed the name of the county seat to Leon, in compliance with a petition of the citizens. The petition to the Legislature was drawn up by a committee of the citizens of South Independence, consisting of S. C. Thompson, J. P. Findley and G. L. Moore. Different names were suggested, and among others that of Leon was proposed by Mr. Moore, who had been to California and became familiar with it there. The committee manifested good taste, as well as sense in adopting a named both short and musical, if not original.

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