In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World

By Dan Rottenberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

Boy Wonder of the Anthracite

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

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In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Leisenring and Givens Family Trees ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Part I 11
  • Chapter 1 - A Rock That Burns 13
  • Chapter 2 - A Passage from the Mines 21
  • Chapter 3 - Holy Trinity 29
  • Chapter 4 - Boy Wonder of the Anthracite 37
  • Chapter 5 - Souls in Darkness 47
  • Chapter 6 - A Road Not Taken 57
  • Part II 65
  • Chapter 7 - The Ambitions of Henry Clay Frick 67
  • Chapter 8 - At War in the Coke Fields 75
  • Part III 99
  • Chapter 9 - Starting Over 101
  • Chapter 10 - The Rise of John L. Lewis 115
  • Chapter 11 - Utopia Goes Union 135
  • Chapter 12 - Be Careful What You Wish For 165
  • Chapter 13 - Prelude to Murder 187
  • Part IV 207
  • Chapter 14 - The Age of Uncertainty 209
  • Chapter 15 - Riding the Roller Coaster 231
  • Chapter 16 - Nowhere to Hide 245
  • Principal Characters 267
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 315
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Index 321
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