Thomas and Jane Leonard of Syracuse
Jane and Thomas Leonard were part of the small African American community of Syracuse. Likely they came from Maryland, seeking freedom and settled in Syracuse. To hide their origin they gave in different census different places as their birthplace (New York in the 1855 census, Virginia in the 1860 census; and Maryland in the 1865 census). They came to Onondaga County about 1830 just after the end of slavery in New York State. Barring a few years in the 1850s, they worked and lived in Syracuse until they died. Thomas Leonard worked variously as a waiter, cartman, boatman, and laborer. Jane Leonard worked as a cook at the Exchange Hotel and probably elsewhere. She may also have been a member of the AME Zion Church. Leonard was a member of the Freedom Trail network, helping others escape, including Harriet Powell in 1839. They lived on the south side of the Erie Canal, in the center of the Eighth Ward, where many freedom seekers settled and purchased property. He and Jane probably also offered their home as a safe house to freedom seekers.
Thomas went to Canada right after the rescue of William "Jerry" Henry in 1851. He returned sometime before 1855. In the 1850s, African Americans William and Martha Sidney lived close to the Leonards, at 179 East Fayette Street.
In 1865, the Leonard household included African American boarders who listed their birthplaces as Canada, South Carolina, and Virginia. Nearby was his siter Matha Sidney who listed her birthplace in the 1855 census as Canada .In 1855, two of Martha and William Sidney's children (Helen and Sarah) lived with the Leonards. In the 1850s, William and Martha Sidney lived close to the Leonards, at 179 East Fayette Street. Matha was Thomas Leonard's sister. In 1855, two of Martha and William Sidney's children (Helen and Sarah) lived with the Leonards.
Jane Leonard died on March 9, 1873, aged 67 years. After a funeral at Zion's Methodist Church, she was buried in Rose Hill on March 11, 1873. As noted in the Syracuse Journal, May 1, 1877, Tom's funeral was at the home of his sister "Mrs. Sidney," at 226 E. Water Street.
Slave Story of September,
1839, Which Awakened Many Abolition Feelings
Back to African American History of Western New York 1830 to 1865.