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Friday, January 9, 2015

Leonard

Leonard on a USGS Map, 1914.
On the barren stretch of the Santa Cruz Coast between Aptos and Watsonville, a man named Thomas W. Leonard owned a farm. The farm was nothing overly remarkable, encompassing 515 acres of the San Andreas Rancho, but it had its merits. In 1878, small deposits of gold were found near the property. This mining continued into the 1880s. The farm also happened to sit directly in the path of the Santa Cruz Railroad as its plotted its course in the early 1870s. Leonard died in 1892, but his three sons maintained the property into the 1910s.

Leonard's property was located quite close to the beach and picked up a post office in March 1883 to service the local tourist crowd. The post office closed five months later but the miniscule community became known as "Leonard's", or rather "Leonard", as a result. Since the railroad passed directly through the property, it made sense to establish a stop nearby, which was built around the same time as the post office, located 450 away. The design of the station is unknown, but it appears to have been staffed, at least seasonally. By the late 1890s, it included a 291-foot spur and a freight platform. This suggests that there was at least some local use of the station as freight. It was permanently a flag-stop, which suggests it wasn't the most popular place in town, though it also implied that passengers could use the stop to pick up trains.

The station was located 10.7 miles from Santa Cruz, 109.8 miles from San Francisco via Watsonville Junction, and 89.7 miles from San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-Off. The stop remained in timetables until the early 1930s and stuck on agency books until World War II or later. The spur was lengthened into a 590-foot-long siding in 1912, a feature reflected on the map above. The siding was on the northeast side of the mainline track.

John Joseph Montgomery and his flying machine, 1905.
Leonard had a brief fame in 1905 when it Professor John Joseph Montgomery, a local university mathematics teacher, successfully flew the first engineless aircraft more than a year before the Wright Brothers had their flight in South Carolina. Three flights on March 16, 17, and 20th, 1905, were conducted on the property of the Leonard Family. The pilot of the flights would die the following month after a flight accident in Santa Clara. Montgomery himself died in a crash in 1911 when he hit what is today known as Montgomery Hill near Evergreen Valley College in San José. The legacy of Montgomery was quickly overwhelmed by the Wright Brothers and has yet to be adequately resurrected.

Leonard's Ranch was annexed to Seascape Beach Estates (later Seascape) in 1969, though there remains a small agricultural parcel near the station site today. The site of the station is near the end of Summer Avenue near Seascape Park.

Citations:

  • Clark, Donald. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007.

2 comments:

  1. I love your work. One typo. In the lsat paragraph the word "the" should be dropped before 1969
    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this website! Thank you so much for your informative articles and obviously thorough research.

    ReplyDelete