JOHN THOMAS LEESON, a grocer of Abilene since July, 1896, with a business that is indicative of careful management and methods that are satisfactory to his patrons as well as a source of profit to himself, was born in Iowa. His father, Richard Leeson, was among the early settlers of Abilene. He was a native of Ireland, while his wife, Annetta, was a daughter of the Alps, having been born in Switzerland. Both, however, were of Scotch-Irish lineage. Richard Leeson removed at Georgetown, where he lived for two years, and in 1882 he came to Texas, settling in Abilene, then a town in the midst of a wild and unsettled prairie country which was just awakening the attention of the civilized world because of its rich possibilities and natural resources. Abilene at that time was largely made up of tents and other temporary contrivances to afford shelter and protection for the inhabitants. Some of the more pretentious dwelling places had board sides and canvas tops, but all sheltered people of determination, who had resolved to make homes in the embryo city and become factors in its business life and as soon as possible arrangements where made to erect more substantial residences. In 1883 Richard Leeson aided in carrying on a brick yard wherein was manufactured the brick used in the construction of the Cameron & Phillips building, now known as the Paxton building. His health failed him, however, and he died the same year, being survived at the present time by his widow, two sons and two daughters.
John Thomas Leeson acquired his early education in Georgetown, Colorado, and in the schools of Abilene. During the early days in this country and especially in a growing young town everybody is busy, employed at one thing or another. There were no easy positions at which one could draw a salary with little labor, but anybody desiring employment could obtain it and secure good wages for his services. Mr. Leeson started out to make a beginning in the business world and in 1883, following his father’s death, engaged to drive the horse used in hauling Front street. He worked also in a similar way on the D. W. Wristen building, which as erected about the same time. In 1884 he entered the employ of the firm of McKean and McCabe, grocers, conducting business on Pine street at the corner of Third street and with them he remained for five years. At the end of that time they sold out to the firm of Spaulding & Copper, who continued the business for about six months, when they in turn sold to Roberts & MacKechney, Mr. Leeson remaining in the employ of each successive firm. In 1889 he secured a position with J. M. Radford in the retail grocery business and with him remained until July, 1896, when in connection with Charles Ebersoll he purchased the stock of goods from Mr. Radford and they continued the business under the firm style of Leeson & Ebersoll. This relation was maintained until January, 1900, when Mr. Leeson bought out his partner’s interest and from that day has been doing business under his own name. His store is located on Pine street at the corner of North Third and he carries only the best line of staple and fancy groceries. A liberal patronage is accorded him and his trade is constantly increasing, so that he is now one of the prosperous merchants of Abilene.
In 1888 Mr. Leeson was married to Miss Nellie E. Lathrop, a native of Monticello, Illinois, and they have three sons, namely: Richard, Hazen, John Thomas and Earl Jones. It is a pleasure to record the life record of such a man as Mr. Leeson, whose success is the legitimate outcome of persistent and unremitting diligence. The best capital he ever had was his indomitable determination to succeed, and his pluck and energy coupled with a disposition to bide his time has wrought for him the prosperity which he is now enjoying.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 560-561.