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As was natural in a community just emerging from the roughness of the frontier, the games of the New Lisbon boys sometimes took on a semblance of war, and the warring factions took their names and recruited their forces from different parts of the town. The nature and circumstances of these combats have been told in so lively a manner by Dr. Henry C. McCook, that I shall merely transcribe his account.
“The inherent tendency of men to divide into parties, factions, sects, and to contend with and for the same, often without the least apparent reasonableness, was well shown among our village boys. The town was divided into two great sections, known in the graphic rather than elegant diction of boyhood as Sheep Hill and Frog Pond. Between the two was a narrow belt called Mid-town or Middle-town, whose boundaries and subjects were determined partly by location and partly by natural and social selection. The Hanna boys, Mark and Melville, belonged to this section, and there the writer had his citizenship. For the most part the down-town boys went with the Frog-ponders, and the up-town boys with the Sheephillers. But there were not hard and fast lines, and the Middle-towners had recruits from both sections, determined by personal preference, special friendships and boyish fancy.
“The rivalries between these parties grew into feuds, and these were at one time so intense that individual fights and boy riots occurred, in which, as a rule, Mid-town and Frog Pond were allies. I remember one battle in which the parties met by challenge in a field and grove north of the Hanna place. The three clans marched to the rendezvous in companies, and after some preliminary skirmishing it was proposed to settle the controversy not by arbitration, but by the method of ancient chivalry, a fight between the captains of two of the factions. The Middle-town captain promptly accepted for himself and the Frog-ponders, and joined in fisticuff combat with the Sheep Hill captain, a stout and plucky lad called Loot Smith, two years older than he. Luther got the better of his opponent, and had him down, pummelling him badly, when the impatient partisans of the worsted Mid-towner broke bounds, and with a shout rushed into the fistic ring, rescued their fallen chief, and a general battle began over and around the two leaders. In this melée one of our side — he was a Frog-ponder — who carried a real sword, an ancestral relic of some war, badly hacked the arm of a young Sheep-hiller.” On another occasion the hostilities assumed such a serious form that a crowd of citizens, including the mothers of the combatants, gathered on the street; but in spite of weeping and imploring the boys were too excited to abandon their rough war game. It took John McCook, the father of Henry, a stalwart man, six-feet-two in height, to end this particular battle; and even he might have failed without the assistance of a “red rawhide, mighty as the sword of Gideon.” Thereafter the easy-going parents of New Lisbon decided to put an end to these puerile combats. Some witnesses assert that Mark Hanna was for a while captain of the “Sheep Hill” crowd, and that the “Mid-town” gang mentioned by Mr. McCook was also called “Dutch McCook’s” crowd — “Dutch McCook” being no other than Henry McCook himself. His crowd, while an independent command, usually fought with the Frog-ponders. Boys whose mimic battles could cause such consternation to their parents came of fighting blood; and indeed in no part of the country was a more manly, vigorous and sturdy lot of people gathered together than in this particular part of Ohio. The community subsequently proved its mettle in both peace and war. One family in particular of ScotchIrish Presbyterians, which was allied to the Hanna family by marriage, bore an extraordinary record in the war. Everybody has heard of the fighting McCooks, but everybody does not know they came from New Lisbon. George McCook and Mary, his wife, two of the early settlers of New Lisbon, had three sons. The first of these sons, Dr. George McCook, was the father of one son and seven daughters, two of whom married sons of Benjamin Hanna. It was this particular McCook who made the famous retort to a heckler, when he was urging his fellow-townsmen to enlist at the outbreak of the war. He was asked by an auditor, “Why don't you go to the War?” “Young man,” Dr. McCook loudly answered, “if this war lasts six months, there will be more McCooks in the army than there are Indians in Hell.” The boys who played and fought with Mark Hanna have almost as good a civil as a military record. There have been among them “two territorial governors, a secretary of the United States Senate, who had also been a representative in Congress, several clergymen of note, college professors, authors, and editors and many physicians, lawyers and successful business men.” The majority of them were picked men, – picked, that is, by the happy accident of birth and blood, a sort of a natural aristocracy.
Mark Hanna did more than hold his own among his vigorous playmates. He was one of their leaders — although not any more of a leader than were a dozen other boys. All accounts agree as to his disposition and behavior. He was active, willing, sociable, generous, friendly, mischievous, high-spirited and aggressive. He did not shirk any task which could be properly laid upon him, and he eagerly sought all sorts of games, amusements and contests of skill and strength. He learned his lessons, but he was not studious. He did his chores, but during their performance he was always planning some other and more amusing occupation. In short, he was thoroughly a boy — wise not beyond his years, but according to his years.
His behavior as a boy was not, however, entirely a matter of the natural and wholesome inconsequentiality of youth. His nature was not cast in any special mold. It was not biassed in favor of any single expression. He passed easily and freely from one occupation to another, and did not linger long over any particular task. What gave singleness and wholesomeness to his personality as a boy and later as a man was not the possession of any special faculty or interest, but an all-round adaptability and humanity. From the beginning his great gift was a gift for good-fellowship. According to the unanimous testimony of those who knew him as a boy he was expansive, good-natured and sympathetic — claiming friendship and fidelity and returning all that he received with abundant interest.
BENJAMIN HANNA and his sons were so prosperous in New Lisbon that had the town itself continued to prosper, most of the family, including probably Mark Hanna, would have remained there indefinitely. But New Lisbon suffered one of those set-backs to which our rapidly changing economic conditions subject many American towns and cities, and from which it never fully recovered. Inasmuch as this set-back was chiefly due to the failure of an enterprise which involved the business and the capital of the Hanna firm and resulted in the dispersal of the family, its causes, incidents and consequences must be described in some detail.
The great need of the pioneer communities was cheap and adequate means of transportation. In its absence they were confined to local markets. They could do little with their corn except feed it to their hogs, and not very much with their hogs except eat them. Without transportation the very fertility of their lands and their own energy and hard work merely increased the local congestion of agricultural products. With transportation their farms doubled in value, and they could sell their superabundance of commodities for a relative abundance of cash. The consequence was that the pioneers hankered after improved means of transport very much as their forbears had hankered after salvation.
Early in the nineteenth century the cheapest and most efficient means of transport was by water. Of course road builders were active; but in the West the distances were too great to permit of the economical transportation of freight in wagons, and the country was too sparsely settled to support really good roads. The markets they wanted to reach were hundreds of miles away. Waterways were the thing; and the invention of the steamboat increased suddenly and enormously the commercial value of navigable streams. Ohio was bounded on the south by one of the greatest navigable rivers in the country; on the north by one of a string of navigable lakes; and it was cut up by a system of smaller watercourses which could be used for scows and flatboats. Those parts of the state which enjoyed immediate access to such means of transport profited enormously. The other parts of the state languished. Cincinnati was the commercial metropolis. In 1840 it possessed almost seven times as many inhabitants as Cleveland. The only way to make up for the lack of natural navigable waterways was to build canals; and after some years of hesitation Ohio took to building canals in earnest. Between the years 1825 and 1842, when the system of state canals was completed, there were constructed in Ohio some 658 miles of canals at a total cost of nearly $15,000,000; and of these the most important was the Ohio Canal, which ran from Portsmouth on the Ohio River across the state to Cleveland at the mouth of the Cuyahoga on Lake Erie. “The effect of these improvements,” says the historian of Ohio,” “upon the growth and prosperity of the state can hardly be exaggerated. They opened to her farmers and merchants the markets of the Ohio, the Lakes and New York. They enhanced the value of the lands and of the products. They not only united a long segregated people, but made them prosperous.” New Lisbon, however, was not properly situated to obtain any benefit from the system of state canals. It was separated from the Ohio River on the east by a dozen miles of rough country, and from the Ohio Canal on the west by several times that distance. Its inhabitants realized, as soon as the canal building began, that it would lose its standing as the busiest trading centre in the interior of eastern Ohio, unless it could obtain thoroughly good water communication with the local and remoter markets. As early as Jan. 11, 1826, the General Assembly authorized the incorporation of a company to construct the Sandy and Beaver Canal, which was to run from a point on the Ohio River through New Lisbon to a point on the Ohio Canal in Tuscawaras County. In this way the products of