Canal Builders – The Labor Side
We have written about men who came to this area to contract or manage the building of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Canal laborers, mostly Irish, are often depicted as drunken, brawling and poverty stricken; perhaps even expendable laborers. We have long suspected that this view only represented a minority of these men and offer the story of Irish immigrant Daniel Hartnett. Daniel was born in Ireland about 1795. He moved to Canada at some point and married Mary (1807-1885) about 1837. In 1840 Daniel, Mary and two young sons were living in Waterville along with four young men, assumed to be other canal workers. Daniel must have been able to save some money as when the canal was finished he purchased forty acres in Washington Twp., Henry County, close to the canal and near the Lucas County line. He thus became like many other immigrant pioneers, working to clear his land and support his family by subsistence farming. In 1850 he had cleared only 10 acres and added three more children to the family. Ten years later most of the farm was cleared and the family raised potatoes, corn and wheat along with livestock. The family thrived, his children married into neighboring pioneer families and his youngest son, Daniel A. Hartnett, served in the Civil War. The devout Irish Catholic family attended church at St. Patrick’s in near-by Providence and when Daniel, Sr. died in 1861 he was buried in the church cemetery.