When John Leisenring’s eldest son, John, a tall and rangy youth of seventeen, went to work for the LC&N in 1836, few people could boast a better coal lineage. John Leisenring Jr. had been nine years old when his parents moved to Mauch Chunk in 1828. As a boy he was on hand when Josiah White and Erskine Hazard built their first canal from Mauch Chunk to White Haven and then the gravity railroad linking White Haven to the anthracite fields at Summit Hill. Instead of serving an apprenticeship under his father or another local merchant, when he was seventeen his father utilized his nascent web of family connections to find a better opportunity. Of John’s seven grown children, three married children of Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co. officers, including the general foreman and the chief bookkeeper. These blood relationships created the nucleus of what became one of the two major business factions in Mauch Chunk (the other revolved around Asa Packer, who founded the Lehigh Valley Railroad).
From young John’s perspective, the most important match was his sister Mary Ann’s marriage to the coal operator Andrew Douglas, whose older brother Edwin A. Douglas was the LC&N’s chief engineer. Edwin Douglas, who came from upstate New York, had begun his career some years earlier under the great canal engineer Canvass White (no relation to Josiah), who beginning in 1816 had worked on the seminal projects of the canal age: the Erie, the Union, the Delaware and Raritan and ultimately Josiah White’s own Lehigh Canal in 1827. Canvass White had studied canals in England and patented hydraulic cement. By 1834 he was dead at the age of forty-four, but his legacy was being carried on by