by Carol Withington
The village of Leesville was once situated at the head of Bear Valley, 22 miles northwest of Williams. Leesville was named after Leander "Lee" Washington Harl, a Mexican War veteran who served as Justice of the Peace from 1869-1874 for the Leesville District.
Although background information is lacking regarding Harl, what is known is that he was born on September 5, 1817 and died September 21, 1892 and is buried in the Colusa Community Cemetery. His brother John Lewis Harl was a Civil War Confederate veteran. Born on July 8, 1828, he died on May 30, 1912 and is also buried in the Colusa Community Cemetery.
A Post Office was established in Leesville on June 24, 1874. According to the San Francisco Bulletin newspaper, Elias C. Peart was the first Postmaster. A native of Nova Scotia, Peart arrived in California in 1868 at the age of 19. After a few years of working at various general merchandise stores in Knights Landing and Eddy's Landing on Grand Island, Peart began a venture of his own during the Fall of 1871.
Upon his arrival in Bear Valley, Peart partnered with J.W. Graham and opened a general merchandise store near Leesville. From the onset, trade was deemed "most satisfactory". However, a year later, fire destroyed the store along with its entire stock of merchandise. It seems insurance was not sufficient enough to pay off the San Francisco creditors. Yet, together, the partners faithfully paid off their debts over time.
Peart and Graham then opened a store in Colusa. But, due to heavy competition, the partners decided to close the establishment. Peart then bought out Graham's interest and returned to Leesville where he opened another general merchandise store. During that time, other businesses had developed in the community. They included a livery stable, a wagon shop and blacksmith along with an assortment of other shops which filled the needs of Leesville and the surrounding area.
Much of the land around Leesville was low and kept wet until late Spring which made for ideal conditions for growing grass. The soil was also considered one of "the best" in Colusa County.
In addition, limestone was discovered two miles north of Leesville in 1878 by the Rathbun brothers. Located on Indian Valley Road, the brothers erected a limekiln and reportedly burned lime of "very good quality". However, due to lack of demand, operations were suspended.
Stages for the Lake County hot springs also passed through Leesville where connections were made for Cook's Springs, eight miles distant. At one time, there were daily stage rides from Sites to Leesville. Again, interest in hot springs later faltered and the routes to these destinations ended.
By then, some residents began to look for other areas for more opportunities. Elias C. Peart was one of them. Although he was successful with his Leesville merchandise store, his eyes were on Grand Island, particularly the community of Grimes where he would serve as Postmaster in 1883.
Grimes, along with Sycamore and Eddy's Landing, will be featured in the last of the series of Colusa County Cameos in December.