1844, at age 21, Clark Lane came to Hamilton to do the iron work on
50 farm wagons. They were to be completed for the coming spring trade.
His boss was wagon builder John H. Brown whose one-time establishment
still stands on the northeast corner of Main and D Streets. But in
1844 there was a presidential election: James K.Polk, Henry Clay and
James G. Birney, the latter being the Liberty Party candidate, who
advocated abolition. Clark Lane recorded that he was a confirmed abolitionist
since the age of 16. Day following said election the smoke and
flame and cursings of pro-slavery wrath burst upon me with such threatening
of violence... that my contract though but half done had to be abandoned....
In Hamilton, or more specifically, the town of Rossville, he was denounced
as an abolitionist, an idiot, fool and traitor to his country.
He decided to seek opportunities and residence elsewhere and booked
passage for Dayton, Ohio, via
the Doyle and Dickey line of canal packets.
Lane's determined belief on slavery, the burning issue of its time,
was shared by other members of the Lane family. According to One Square
Mile, a history published by the Mt. Healthy Historical Society in
1992, the Lane home was said to
be a station on the so-called underground railroad. Feelings
ran so high in Mt. Healthy that the Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ) closed its doors for five years over the question of slavery.
During this time Isaac Lane and his wife Margaret worshipped every
Sunday on the church steps.
Lane quickly found work in the shops of Lemmon and Ross. He began
work there on edge tools and machine forging, a new branch of smithing
for him. He was quite accomplishedthe equal of the oldest and
best workmen in Dayton. After about a year he began a partnership
for the production of edge tools. In picking his partner he turned
out not to be quite so accomplished.
wrote, Returning to the partnership, I will say that its effect
was disastrous. My partner
was an easygoing man. My labor alone could
not pay rent and much of useless expense, and support two men, a little
family and accumulate a surplus. The
partnership failed and although the partner acknowledged that he was
responsible for all debts, he never paid a dollar.
on Christmas Day 1845, Clark Lane and Sallie Coriell were married.
Their prospects seemed bleak. How he viewed his condition at the time
follows: She was a poor penniless girl endowed with a store
of good sense, of love for me and of charity and good-fellowship for
all. I in wealth unless it lay in masterly use of the hammer,
was totally bankrupt and still poorer than she as the sequel will
show. For after marriage we lived scantily indeed until we had through
day labor earned the money and paid the last dollar (near $300) of
the partnership debt, which my deadbeat friend did justly owe but
failed to pay.
released from his moral financial obligation, Clark Lane, with a wife
and sons, returned to Hamilton on 20 November 1846. A note on the
family is in order here. To Clark and Sallie were born nine children.
Six did not survive childhood.
Lane's first job was to put up the iron and stone cells in the Butler
County jail. The jail was, historically speaking, one of Hamilton's
most important public works and one that well over a century later
was so well constructed that the wreckers noted that it did not want
to come down. Lane became owner of a shop 14' x 6', almost exactly
in the center
of what would later become the Hooven, Owens & Rentschler machine
works. With one man helper he made the ironwork for the
McGuire, Kline and Ervin paper mill. Afterwards he furnished ironwork
for the Beckett and Rigdon paper mill. It was William Beckett who
lent Clark Lane an unsecured $1,000 when the young blacksmith first
launched his Hamilton shop.
1849-1850 saw Clark Lane enduring more trials. During the cholera
season he witnessed the loss and burial of two children as well as
having a sick wife at home. There was also a two-month trip east to
New York and New Jersey. The shop was closed at this time and the
financial record stood All paid inAll paid out.
But upon his return from the East there were better times. Mills were
being built throughout Butler and adjoining counties. Fortunately
for me he wrote, I had the good will, the confidence of
and the patronage of all resident millwrights of that period. Much
more work came to me than I could possibly accept and execute.
He chose the best paying and prospered.
Lane visited the Crystal Palace Fair in New York City. While he was
in the East the Hamilton City Council had empowered him to go to Pawtucket,
Rhode Island, to buy a Jeffers Fire Engine. Such an engine
was bought and shipped to Hamilton and served the city for many years
before a paid fire department came into service. Correspondence reportedly
exists that tells that Clark Lane gave land to Hamilton for fire stations.
He was not amused when the city sent him a tax bill for property he
donated. He was one of five men who bought and platted the Mechanics
Addition to the city, formerly a farm in the area of Greenwood and
Reservoir Streets. He would also, with seven others, plot the South
Addition to Hamilton.
Clark Lane's return from the East he began work on a new smithing
shop, built of brick and threestories
high. It was called Clark Lane & Company. Job E. Owens, Jacob
Ebert and Elbridge G. Dyer were partners with one-half interest. Sometime
in 1854 Jacob Ebert died and Lane bought the Ebert interest from his
heirs for nearly $10,000. At this time the firm of Owens, Lane &
Dyer was formed. They had a large foundry business and did work for
saw mills and paper mills.
the company started to build agricultural machinery. At this time
it employed 100 men and was working at full capacity. In 1857 the
company built 350 large threshing separators which they sold at $300
each; in 1859 they made 1,100 threshing separators. The Lebanon Western
Star described the company as one of the most extensive in the West.
During these years, few if any companies outside the large cities
of Ohio had a higher credit rating. The company introduced the threshing
machine with separator (for threshing and cleaning grain in a single
operation) into Kentucky, Tennessee and other southern states.
recorded, The claim is not positive we were the first to introduce
nor the best (for of this I do not know) but it certainly is true
that the bulk of this class of machinery carried into those states
was from 1855 to 1860 made at our works. And that the annoying and
difficult labor of first convincing the Master and of learning the
Slave of that period to operate the machinesfirst to do the
work and then learn them how to properly care for their machines was
the work of Owens, Lane & Dyer. While Lane modestly hesitated
to claim that the company's machinery was the best, it was widely
recognized for its superior quality.
the company began to market portable wood steam engines for farm and
road work. These engines were used primarily with threshing machines.
As early as 1858-1860 it shipped its first steam engines to California
and Oregon. The company also made and introduced the wire-spring toothed
riding or horse-rake throughout the West. It was with this piece of
farm equipment that Clark Lane felt the company dropped a fortune.
Production of the rakes stopped during the Civil War as the demand
for saw mills, steam engines and heavier class machinery was so great.
At war's end other manufacturers had taken up and perfected this farm
1854-1863 the companys sales of its products ran between $130,000
and $350,000 per annum. For the next 12 years sales averaged $400,000
or more. The zenith, at least as far as employment, was during the
decade 1863-1873, when the enterprise gave employment to between 500
and 800 persons.