Leroy R. Hawthorne – Captain (Brevet Major), United States Army

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  Leroy Hawthorne was born August 9, 1829 in Morgantown Virginia (now West Virginia) to Robert Hawthorne and Nancy Kiger.  Harry's grandfather, Robert was a native of Londonderry Northern Ireland.  Robert came to America in the early 1800s, settled in Virginia married Nancy Kiger and moved to Morgantown.

Robert Hawthorne was a farmer and manufacturer credited with starting the first nail factory west of the Allegheny Mountains.  He and his wife lived out their lives in Morgantown.  Leroy spent his childhood in Morgantown but went to the larger community of Wheeling to learn business under the guidance of an uncle, Jacob Kiger, who had a store there.  After four years, Leroy moved to Kentucky to stay with a brother in Newport.  He worked as a book keeper and attended Bartlett's Commercial College.

Leroy married Louise Smith of Boone County on December 26, 1855.

Children of Leroy Hawthorne and Louise Smith

Harry L. Hawthorne, born in 1855 in Winona Minnesota, died Portland, Oregon, 1948
Winona born 1857. Married W. L. Buck, who served as a Major in the 10th Infantry.

Before the Civil War, Leroy worked at the Spencer House hotel and the experience led him in 1856 to run a hotel in Winona, Minnesota, then a thriving town on the Mississippi River. Business prospered and so did Hawthorne for three years. Then two lean years brought Hawthorne back to Newport in 1861. In Newport talk centered on the prospects of war. When fighting broke out, Leroy was among the early Kentucky volunteers. He joined the Union Army and because of his background he was made quartermaster for Company B of the 23rd Kentucky Volunteers.

The volunteers became part of the Army of the Cumberland and later joined the troops of General William Tecumseh Sherman on the “March to the Sea.” The regiment fought in battles that included Kenesaw Mountain, Nashville, Atlanta, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.  Hawthorne rose to the rank of brevet Major and became Chief of Commissary of Substances for Kentucky.

While Hawthorne was in the military, Republicans in Campbell County elected him to the state legislature as a representative.  In the fall of 1865, Hawthorne, still in the military, ran for re-election, but the governor nullified the election results.  Democrats claimed voters were intimidated into not voting by accusations they were Southern sympathizers.  Hawthorne won a second election.

Hawthorne left the military on March 17, 1868 at the rank of brevet Major.  He returned to Newport where he worked as a clerk on the steamboat United States that made daily runs between Cincinnati and Louisville with passengers and cargo. His job on the packet lasted until on December 4, 1868 the steamer collided with its sister ship near Warsaw.  He was unhurt but 162 people were killed.

During this period he also became secretary for the United Life Insurance Company of Covington, a position he held until 1870.  Leroy also worked for a while on the steamer Western World and later with the Southgate Co. where he became friends with Nathaniel Southgate Shaler.

Shaler wrote a history of Kentucky in 1884 and quoted Hawthorne as the source for information on the number of Kentucky battles during the Civil War.  In March Leroy Hawthorne returned to politics and was elected Newport city clerk.  He was elected again in 1876.  The Daily Commonwealth newspaper in 1879 termed Hawthorne on of Newport's most prominent men “distinguished by honesty, sobriety and truthfulness.  As a public officer he is painstakingly methodical and correct.  He is modest and unassuming, even to reticence.”

Hawthorne also served for a while as clerk of the Newport waterworks and secretary-treasurer of the Covington and Newport Bridge Company.  In 1883 he won the Republican nomination for state auditor, but lost in the general election.  He became secretary of the Newport Light Company and one of the promoters of the Central Bridge.

Leroy was visiting his son Harry in Portland Oregon where he had retired from the Army, when Leroy died January 12, 1908.

  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/12/1908


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