The Leonardi Story

by Eleanor Barnes

As one of the early Menorcan researchers, Mrs. Eleanor Barnes did wonderful work. However, the work presented here is dated and has a few inaccuracies. The genealogical database on this site corrects some of the genealogical inaccuracies —-the Editors.

St. Augustine FL
July 11, 1960

Dear Lenora and Marie

I promised when I broke the case I would send you a copy of the direct line digest to you. I am not having it mimeographed this tine as the client in Chicago will do that herself and the only copy I have is my own but I will include here the things you want to know.

Yesterday in the Court House I found the proof positive I had to have to make the full family story. It was a 1902 Indenture which gave the descendants living of the first Celestino Leonardi, father of Celestino Jr. (Lenore’s grandfather and Wallace’s).

It mentioned Miss Tardy. her mother, the Jane Theresa Leonardi, sister of Celestino Jr. and it also mentioned my client’s grandmother. And others, Kate Desselberger was the youngest sister of Celestino Jr.

So I give you this background now and each of you can Make your own copy.

A brief excerpt from the analysis by E. P. Barnes: Documented.

Giovanni Leonardi and Jacoba Beauchant were of Modena Italy. Their son,, Roque Leonardi , born about 1742 in Modena in the place called Granella de la Garsona, was one of the colonists who joined with Dr. Andrew Turnbull In 1767 In the Mediterranean and made the journey to the Island of Minorca, from thence to Florida April, 1768.

It is a certainty he married on the Island as his first wife was Esperanza Noll or Valle, and she was his wife pre-1770. It must be remembered that Florida had been a Spanish Provence for 198 years from 1565 to 1763 when the British came into possession. It must be understood also that it was the British who began this colonial experiment which turned into the Minorcan colony in 1768. England came into the town of Spanish San Augustin, and then it became British Augustine in 1763. 5 years later the 8 little ships brought over 1400 colonists, among them Roque Leonardi, the founding father of every man and woman in Florida originating in Saint Augustine bearing that name.

In August 1768 Roque settled in New Smyrna, He and Esperanza had a child there recorded in Father Camps register, called Jacoma, a variation of her grandmother Leonardi’s name (Jacoba) born Feb. 23, at 6 o’clock in the morning. Baptized the next day. year 1771.

New Smyrna was called “Les Mesquites”, the mosquitoes… It was 1772. on the 15th of august at 3 in the afternoon, Maria Rosa, another daughter was born to these two people. Then Esperanza evidently died.

Sometime in 1773 Roque Leonardi took to wife another Minorcan girl, Agueda Coll (your direct ancestor) She was a widow, Mrs. Chato with one son, Juan.

She was the daughter of Bartolome Coll and Josefa Ponz, Minorcans. She was born about 1750 according to the various census records later, and came with the Colony in 1768.

Roque and Agueda had 11 children! The first two were born down in Smyrna or Les Mesquites. the next 5 in British St. Augustine after they settled here and the last 4 in Spanish San Agustin during the 2nd Spanish Regime.

1st, Josepha Clorinda, 1775
2nd, Juan, 1777.

Then when Juan was 6 months old the colony rebelled and the few left, scarcely 500 of the original 1400, came to British Augustine. Roque made the trek with the remaining few. Agueda with her son, Juan, and their two children, walked with him. Arriving in St. Augustine they were all quartered for a time in what has ben referred to as the Greek settlement. It extended from about Hypolita street to the City Gates, from the Cordova area to the Bay. The little British town was bulging with Loyalists from the Colonies for it must be remembered that the American Colonies were beginning their fight for Liberty, but Florida, the newest colony, remained loyal to the King.

Here Roque settled with his little family and waited out his chance to get land. He must have been a man of some ambition and great energy as from the poverty of Les Mesquites, through no fault of his own he rose in 5 short years to be called Don Roque Leonardi, Wine merchant. This is a title bestowed upon those of prominence distinguishing them from the plain “Senior”… Ever after Roque was called Don Roque.

It is plain that Roque’s first two children by the first wife died before coming to St. Augustine. They were never mentioned after their birth records. And he and Agueda repeated the name, Jacoma, for their next child, born 1778. Both Jacoma and little Juan died leaving Roque with only one child of his own, Clorinda.

But on June 6, 1779 they had another boy whom they re-named Juan. This was their fourth child. He was born at 9 in the morning and is your DIRECT ancestor! Born in British Augustine close to the city gates.

The 5th child was Pedro born in 1781 and dying soon after. Then in July of 1782, Bartolome Leonardi was born. In 1783 in August, another Maria Rosa, (his 2nd child by his first wife had been a Maria Rosa too) Roque, Jr. made his entrance the 17th of April 1785 but he soon passed on. With the advent of Maria Rosa and Roque the town had become Spanish again. England left in 1783 and Spain reclaimed the presidio de San Agustin.

Meantime the first Spanish Census was taken, 1783.

Roque was listed as of Granella, Italy, a Wine Merchant, Catholic. with wife, and only three children (Clorinda, Juan, Bartolome). two and a half acres of land with a house upon it and another house in the city which he inhabits in the little Plaza of the Quarters. He had five slaves, cattle. . . (p.1, Ph. 10).

The house in the town was on Charlotte Street on the corner of Bridge, west side. In the Spanish Deeds, (Escrituras) he is listed as purchasing 1784, 2 stone houses on Hospital Street (Aviles today). these would be today on the corner of Aviles and Bridge, Convent backyard. Also he purchased the lot and house where the Convent kindergarten is today. St. George Street.

All the children he has had except the above three and Agueda’s son, (who was absent when the Census was taken) had died. Then in June of 1786 another Jacoma came into the world. He was BOUND to have one named for his mother. She was really Jacoma Antonia. She was child No. 9.

This year another census was made, 1783, called Fr. Hassett’s Census. Page 25

Roque Leonardi, Italy, 44 years old.
Agueda Coll, his wife, Minorca, 36
Josepha Clorinda, 11
Juan, 7 (your ancestor)
Bartolome, 5
Jacoma, 5 months
Juan Chato, son of Agueda by another husband

The very next year another full Spanish Census was made and Don Roque was coming up in the world!

He was listed as “Don.” From Modena, Catholic, wife, three sons, and 2 daughters. (Note above) slaves, 4 houses on the Street of the DOCTOR! (Hospital Street) (Note: Dr. Bernardo de la Madrid lived near the hospital which was across from El Patio restaurant of today on Aviles.)

Of the 4 houses he owned, he lived in one. He had 12 horses, 50 acres of land and desires more. A Hamlet? and shops in the Plaza. This was quite a GUY!

In 1788 Margaruete came along, the 10th child. and the 11th and last was Manuel, born in 1791. he died soon after. He was born on Christmas Day and by the next Christmas his father had been granted part of a proposed 2000 acres on the North River.

Years later in the Spanish land Grants when the heirs were petitioning for title it states that in Dec. of 1792 the 1st grant was made, another in April 1793, the last in Jan. 1799, giving him full 2000 acres. He planted grapevines and became famous for his vines and his wines. (Spanish Land Grants. Vol. 4, Page 48. L-9).

Another census was taken in 1793. Roque, while in town, was still living on present day Aviles Street Corner of Bridge (Cunningham Lane then). The Census repeated the name of his parents, listed his age as 51. It gave Agueda, her parents and her age as 41. Clorinda was 17 years, a young lady. Juan was 14 (your ancestor). Bartolome was 9. Jacoma Antonia was 6 and Margaruete was 3. They had a slave in town (evidently to distinguish those from the plantation) and 3 negroes (house servants).

Don Roque wa the Ensign of the Militia, appointed one of the valuators of the Fish Estate (on Anastasia today). He had 4 houses in town and a large wine plantation on the North River.

On December the 18th, 1796, he gave his first daughter away. Clorinda married Don Mariano Moreno, who owned for a time the famous old 1st Spanish house called Llambias today. They settled finally in Cuba!

Then your ancestor married young Catalina Rogero about 1801 (Nov. 10, 1802. I’m still not positive about his date. Catalina Rogero (your ancestress) was born July, 8 1783, baptized Catalina Maria, daughter of Don Alberto Rogero and Antonia Villa, Minorcan Colony.

Within months of this 1801 marriage Don Roque died. He was drowned according to the burial records. (Rosello, p.4). His sons, Juan and Bartolome carried on the work of the plantation until ordered out during the insurrection of 1812. It was stated later that Juan served from “call to arms” during that insurrection and petitioned for 160 acres of his own after it. Service Grant. After the war they returned to the plantation, however. . .

Before all this happened, about 1 year after the death of Don Roque Agueda wanted to marry again. In the proceedings called the MATRIMONIALS, or MATRIMONIAL LICENSES, her oldest son, Juan (your ancestor) objected to this. There are pages of all this in Spanish. He stated that his father was Don Roque, Ensign of the Militia, greatly respected. He objected to the man, Juan Sanchez. Said he was from Mexico, and half Indian. Quite a number of other things, including the fact that this Juan Bernard Sanchez (no relation to the Sanchez here who are a 1st Florida family) was living with a “robo” with some married woman. In other words, not good enough for his mother! Despite that Agueda married him Jan 20, 1803. What a sensation this must have caused. Of course, Juan, was acting as his position. . . HEAD of the FAMILY, eldest son. . etc.. after death of the father.

This mother, Agueda, was quite a GAL! After the rigors of the Atlantic voyage, the poverty of New Smyrna, a dead husband, a child, a 2nd marriage, 11 children, some sort of social position, a woman of no little means, now a man, younger, whom her children object to.

Margaruete married Don Jose Ugarte, a gentleman of means, 1803. Jacoma married William Hossendorff in 1802. And Bartolome married Antonia Paula Bonelli in 1808. Here was another famous story. Antonia Paula married your Uncle Bartolome after a series of hair-raising incidents. She was the daughter of Joseph Bonelli of Italy, a compatriot of Don Roque. In 1802 the Mickasuky indians raided her father’s plantation on Matanzas, scalped her oldest brother, Thomas, left Joseph the father for dead, and took off for Mickasuky town in North Florida and South Georgia, with the mother, and all the children. Antonia Paula was 16. the Indian Medicine man held her for himself. They were held for ransom. months later, the father sold his Matanzas holdings, gathered together the needed ransom, sent Payne the Interpreter for the Indians and chief of the Seminoles with Thomas Pacetti to get the family. They let the mother and three of the children go. Kept the boy, Joseph, who finally escaped to New Orleans, then to Havana, where he saw the ship of his godfather, Stephen Benet. All of this from the American State papers. Public Lands Deposition.

Antonia Paula was kept until months later when she was released to her brother in-law, Pacetti, for $200.00.. She was with child. her daughter was born, baptized, and died at the age of 9 or 10. In time Antonia Paula got over this horrible experience and married Bartolome Leonardi, 1808.

So all the families settled down to having children.

Your direct line is Juan and Catalina Rogero Leonardi. Of all their children, which included as far as is known now, 3 sons, Celestino was the 2nd son. he was born in 1907 (from census records) married 10/11/1834 Rosa Noda, daughter of Don Jose Noda and Agueda Villalonga. Noda from the Canary Islands and Agueda descendent from Minorcan Colony. Celestino and Rosa had 9 children:

Rosalia (age 14 in 1850) mar. 1855 Matias Andreu
Jane Theresa, (11 in 1850 and 20 in 1860) mar. John Tardy.
John, (8 in 1850)
Joseph, (7 in 1850, 16 in 1860) mar. Flora Russell.. No date of marriage yet, must be about 1867.
Maria, (3 in 1850) Mar. James McMillan (MY CLIENT’S ANCESTOR)
Carolina, (20 in 1860) mar. (a man named DeFrees) Lived in Washington.
Louis, (8 in 1860)
Catherine, b. 1854, Mar 1875 Will Desselberger.

Naturally yours is Celestino, Jr b. 1845, mar. flora Russell. Her record of license is not in the Court House. Is it possible they were married elsewhere than the city of St. Augustine? From the dates I know, 1878 for Rosa, Lenore’s mother, and 1876, Wallace, Sr, (cemetery Records) with other children older and some younger, I would say they had to be married 1867/1868.

Lenore gave me:

Wallace 1876 from Cemetery records
Rosa 1878 from Cathedral

If any of you wish copies of the Indian story raid, or the Census records, I can have copies Photostatted of all for about $8.00. Cost of photostats. If you want the license of your great grandfather the first Celestino, 1834, add another $1.00. . . I will be glad to do this for you when I go the the Court house.