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New Lisbon and its neighborhood could be cheaply transported both to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and to Cleveland and Buffalo; and New Lisbon would not only hold its own, but become a populous thriving city.
Evidently, however, there were difficulties connected with the raising of capital for such a purely local enterprise. Probably it did not look as good to outlanders as it did to the people of New Lisbon. As an air line the distance between the terminal ports of the Sandy and Beaver Canal was some forty miles, but this stretch was increased to sixty by the necessity of following the watercourses and dodging hills. The engineering difficulties were serious. For eight years after the incorporation of the company the project languished, and it was not until the end of 1834 that ground was actually broken. In the meantime the Ohio Canal had been practically finished, and a large part of the state was entering upon a period of unprecedented prosperity. Wheat went up from twenty-five cents to a dollar a bushel, and corn and oats almost in proportion. Even potatoes, which previously had been too cheap to have a price, brought forty cents a bushel.
It was with high hopes, consequently, that on the 24th of November, 1834, New Lisbon celebrated the beginning of the great work. It was essentially a local enterprise. Some help had been obtained in Philadelphia, where the merchants of New Lisbon had wealthy connections; but most of the money was subscribed by business men of the town and the other small places along the line of the canal. Benjamin Hanna was president of the company. Leonard Hanna was a director. The whole family invested liberally in its stock. They realized that the future of New Lisbon depended upon the success of the undertaking.
Even after ground was broken, however, progress was far from being uninterrupted. Work had to be suspended during the panic of 1837. Reorganization was necessary; and to facilitate it Benjamin Hanna turned over half of his stock in the old corporation to the new one. After a delay of some years work was resumed, and finally in 1846 the canal was actually finished. On October 26 the first boat made the voyage from the Ohio River to New Lisbon; and the jubilation of the citizens of that town was not apparently diminished by the fact that the boat stuck in the mud and had to be hauled to its dock, not only by horse and oxen, but by the willing arms of a large number of enthusiastic citizens. The event was properly celebrated in a spacious warehouse, which Benjamin Hanna had built on the margin of the canal, and which was filled with immense stores of grain, wool and produce for shipment to the Ohio.
The canal was a failure almost from the start. The section between New Lisbon and the Ohio River was operated with some success for a while, and large shipments of wool and pork were profitably made to Pittsburgh. But the rest of the canal was a frank fizzle. It was too difficult a problem for the local engineers. West of New Lisbon two tunnels had to be cut through the hills, one of which was three-quarters of a mile long. The number of locks made the cost of maintenance impossibly high, and scarcity of water rendered it necessary to dam several creeks and rivers and to build two large reservoirs. The work was hastily and badly done. The banks were always caving in, and the dams breaking. Water was frequently lacking. It is said that only one boat ever made the complete passage, and that boat was forced through by the contractors, so as to qualify for certain payments under their contract.
The effect of this failure upon the fortunes of New Lisbon and the Hanna family was disastrous. Not only was the country-side drained of its accumulated capital, but it was deprived of means of recovering from the loss. Two million dollars had been sunk in the ditch, of which, according to Kersey Hanna, his father and brothers had supplied no less than $200,000. All of this money was hopelessly lost. Even that section of the canal between New Lisbon and the Ohio was not operated for more than a few years. Its trade was killed by the competition of the incoming railroads — a form of transportation which the citizens of New Lisbon had resolutely and insistently diverted from their town. By 1852 the Fort Wayne and the Cleveland and the Pittsburgh roads were already being operated through Columbiana County, but at some distance from New Lisbon. The town was side-tracked. The canal of great hopes was abandoned. New Lisbon ceased to be the trading centre of the district. There was nothing for an ambitious man to do except to get out.
When overtaken by this disaster Benjamin Hanna was too old a man to move and make another start. He died in 1853, and left his children an abundance of land but very little personal property. His sons were young enough to begin again. Joshua Hanna moved to Pittsburgh and became a banker. Leonard and Robert Hanna started off in the opposite direction for Cleveland, where, in company with a fellow-townsman, Hiram Garretson, they founded a grocery and commission business. They were followed or accompanied by the other brothers. In a few years all the Hanna family had deserted New Lisbon. Mark, then a lad of fifteen, accompanied his parents to Cleveland, but after his removal he remained tied to New Lisbon by one of the strongest of bonds. He had asserted his independence and the maturity of his years by an engagement of marriage with a young lady named Mary Ann McLain. His suit was discouraged from the start by his own family; but his parents were apparently either unable or unwilling absolutely to forbid it. Mark certainly regarded himself as regularly and definitely engaged. During many years he often revisited New Lisbon, in order to see his sweetheart, and presumably to play around with his former companions. A boy who was so much of a boy was bound to have a love-affair; and in the case of a boy who was being treated by his parents as so much of a man, the love-affair naturally threatened serious responsibilities.
It speaks well for his fidelity in his personal relations that this pseudo-engagement lasted for nine years. During that whole period he continued to go to New Lisbon whenever he could; and whenever he came, he brought with him an armful of presents — including, so it is said, dresses. Evidently after living in Cleveland he was not satisfied with the fashions of New Lisbon or Mary's ability to live up to them. His ideas about the apparel and the behavior of women were presumably changing; and his attachment to Mary, which dated probably almost from childhood, was being strained. He was always gay and sociable, and he always instinctively sought the society of people of the same temper and habit. Mary apparently was shy, awkward and not at all lively. The relation could not last.
But the way the end was reached testifies both to the good judgment of Mark Hanna's mother and to Mark's own frank courage. Mary was invited to pay a visit to the Hanna home in Cleveland. She accepted and it proved to be her undoing. Mary felt uncomfortable and out of place in the brilliant society of such a metropolis as Cleveland. She either refused to bear Mark company in his engagements among his new friends, or if she did she made an indifferent showing. It is said that when Mary returned, she realized that she and Mark could never be married; and New Lisbon firmly believed that Samantha Hanna had arranged the visit, in order that both of the young couple might have their eyes opened.
Whether the event was due to diplomacy or accident, the inevitable result soon followed. Mark made up his mind that an end must be made of it; and when his decision was once reached, he did not shirk its unpleasant consequences. He went to New Lisbon and told Mary face to face that it was all over. The poor child took her sentence hard, but she is said to have admitted its justice. As for Mark, a boy could hardly have behaved better than he did in the matter of an early and mistaken attachment to a girl. He was faithful for many years; he was both kind and generous; he evidently tried hard to make a place for his boyish attachment in the midst of a new and different life; and when he failed, he got out of his false situation as manfully as' he could. Evidently his parents respected his attachment, and instead of arousing his resentment by uncompromising opposition, they had enough confidence in his good sense to allow him to extricate himself. Even at the age of eighteen or nineteen he was evidently very much his own master, and had won the right to take care of himself. His self-assertion when a schoolboy against the excessive authority of his teacher, Miss Converse, was bearing its natural fruits.
None the less the incident did not leave a pleasant impression on Mark Hanna's mind. The visit during which he broke with Mary was his last appearance in New Lisbon in almost thirty years. He did not return until 1890, and since this next visit was a sort of memorial pilgrimage of a successful man of fifty-three to the haunts of his youth, some incidents connected with it may be mentioned here. Mr. Hanna was accompanied on the trip by his wife, his mother, his daughter Ruth, his sister Miss Lillian Hanna, now Mrs. S. Prentiss Baldwin, his sister Mrs. Henry S. Hubbell and her husband, Miss Helen Converse, his mother's sister, and Howard Melville Hanna. They came in a private car, and occupied pretty much the whole of the inn kept by an Englishman named "Billy" Bradbury. They visited the old house on the hill, found that to their recollection the rooms had shrunk in size, and discovered a closet, in which Mark had been confined by his mother for some boyish misdeed until his father returned and released him. While near the house they came upon an aged man who was holding his horse while it grazed upon the grass back of the old homestead. Thinking that he looked like the man who used to drive the stage between New Lisbon and Wellsville, Mark Hanna called to him and asked, "Do you remember me?" The man looked at him indifferently and replied, "No, I don't." Not to be discouraged, Mr. Hanna continued, pointing to his brother, "This is Melville and I am Mark Hanna." "You don't say so," the old man answered without the slightest trace of interest. "And how's business your way?"
"Billy" Bradbury, the hotel-keeper, was something of a character, and he and Mr. Hanna evidently soon became great friends. "One day," says Mr. Bradbury, "Mr. Hanna was sitting in the office, and eight couples in single rigs drove up. They had come from Salem, ten miles away, to see the new railway bridge. Three of the young fellows put their horses in the barn; the other five were not so particular and contented themselves with any post they could find vacant in the street. Presently the whole eight couples walked into the hotel, and sat down upstairs in the parlor; but when supper was ready, only those who had their horses in the barn came down to eat. 'Say, landlord,' one of them asked, 'do you know why those fellows and their girls aren't eating? Because they have not got the price.' Mr. Hanna heard what was said, laughed and said to me: 'Billy, go upstairs, and bring them all down to supper. Bring the boys and the girls, and if the boys won't