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Manuscript Group 182
207 cu. ft.

Thirty-four separate collections pertaining mainly to the history of Lebanon County, most prominent of which both in size (174 cubic feet) and importance is the Coleman Collection. It consists primarily of business records of the iron furnaces and ore hills operated by members of the Coleman family of Lebanon County, who figured very prominently in the eighteenth and nineteenth century history of the iron industry in the United States. The first Coleman to become involved in the iron businesss was Robert Coleman (b. 1748, d. 1825), who came to Pennsylvania from Ireland around 1764. He was employed by Peter Grubb at Hopewell Forge and by James Old at Speedwell Forge and Reading Furnace. In 1773 he married Anne Old, daughter of James Old, and for the next three years rented Salford Forge near Norristown. He rented Elizabeth Furnace in 1776, living there until his retirement in 1809, whereupon he took up residence in Lancaster. Robert Coleman served as an officer in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Revolutionary War and was a member of the state convention which framed the Constitution of 1790. He was a member of the legislature, a delegate to the convention to ratify the federal constitution, twice a presidential elector, and an associate judge for Lancaster County.

Coleman's will left to his four sons, William, Edward, Thomas Bird, and James, considerable holdings in property, which included his dominant interests in the Cornwall Ore Hills; Colebrook, Cornwall, and Elizabeth furnaces; and Hopewell, Martick, Speedwell, and Spring forges. William and Edward sold their interests in enterprises to their brother, Thomas Bird Coleman. Consequently, the collection records relate primarily to the business interests of the descendants of Thomas Bird and James Coleman. James Coleman had five children, Robert, George Dawson, Ann, Sarah, and Harriet. Thomas Bird Coleman had six children, Anne C., Margaret C., Isabella, Sarah H., Robert W., and William Coleman. James's daughters' interests eventually passed to their brothers, Robert and George Dawson. Isabella and Robert died leaving no children.

Operational records can be found for the following furnaces and companies:

Bird Coleman Furnaces: Erected next to the Cornwall Ore Banks by R. W. Coleman's Heirs and Company, which was composed of Anne C. Alden, Margaret C. Freeman, Sarah H. Coleman (sisters of Robert W. Coleman and William Coleman), and Robert H. and Anne Coleman (children of William Coleman). The first furnace was erected in 1872, the second in 1880. The three sisters gained control of the furnaces under proceedings in partition initiated around 1882.

Colebrook Furnace: Built by Robert Coleman on Conewago Creek, about six miles southwest of Cornwall in 1791. It was originally named Mount Joy Furnace. It came into the possession of Robert's son Thomas Bird Coleman and then in turn to his son William. Operations at the furnace were abandoned by 1860.

Colebrook Furnaces: Erected in 1880-81 by Robert H. Coleman in West Lebanon Township and sold to the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company in 1894.

Cornwall Anthracite Furnaces: Erected in Cornwall Township by Robert W. Coleman and his brother William Coleman (sons of Thomas Bird Coleman) in 1849-1852. Operated after their death by R. W. Coleman's Heirs and Company. On the breaking up of the firm in 1882, the furnaces were purchased by Robert H. Coleman (son of William Coleman) who operated them until 1894 when they were sold to the Lackwanna Iron and Steel Company.

Cornwall Furnace: Completed in 1742 by Peter Grubb, the property came under the control of Robert Coleman in 1798. Ownership eventually passed to Anne C. Alden, Margaret C. Freeman, and Sarah H. Coleman. The cold-blast charcoal furnace was taken out of blast for the final time in 1883, after a lengthy 141 years of operation. The furnace was donated to the state to be administered by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission (later the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) by Margaret C. Buckingham, a great granddaughter of Robert Coleman, in 1932.

Cornwall Iron Company, Ltd.: Limited company partnership formed by Anne C. Alden, Margaret C. Freeman, Sarah H. Coleman, W. C. Freeman, E. C. Freeman, and R. Percy Alden, which began operations in 1886 having been assigned control of Cornwall Furnace (not operational), Bird Coleman furnaces, and Donaghmore Furnace. The company was dissolved in 1901.

Cornwall Iron Company: Company was incorporated in 1901. The original subscribers consisted of E. C. Freeman, Isabel C. Freeman, Margaret C. Buckingham, R. Percy Alden, and Sarah C. Derby. The company controlled the Bird Coleman furnaces and North Cornwall Furnace, all of which were idle by 1917. The company was dissolved in 1920.

Cornwall Ore Bank Company: Formed in 1864 by the owners (tenants in common) of the Cornwall Ore Hills to insure the fair distribution of profits and to facilitate mining operations. Ownership and right to the use of the ore at that time was divided into ninety-six parts, distributed as follows: Robert W. Coleman 25/96, Robert H. and Anne Coleman 25/96, Robert Coleman and George Dawson Coleman 15/96 each, Edward B. and Clement B. Grubb 8/96 each. The owners of Robesonia Furnace did not enter into the agreement which formed the company, but were entitled to enough ore from the ore banks to supply that furnace under the terms of a reservation contained in the deed of Peter Grubb, Jr., to Robert Coleman, dated May 9, 1786. By 1920 the Bethlehem Steel Company had purchased most of the ore rights held by the Coleman and Grubb heirs.

Elizabeth Furnace: Rented in 1776 by Robert Coleman and later purchased by Coleman, Elizabeth Furnace eventually passed to James Coleman and then to George Dawson Coleman. It was dismantled in 1856.

Lebanon Furnaces: Completed in 1847 by Robert and George Dawson Coleman (sons of James Coleman) on the Union Canal about one mile northwest of Lebanon, these were the first anthracite furnaces erected in Lebanon County. They remained in the possession of George Dawson Coleman's family until 1901, when they were purchased by the Pennsylvania Steel Company.

North Cornwall Furnace: Erected by Margaret C. Freeman in 1872 and 1873 in Cornwall Township. In 1898 it was leased to the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company.

Robesonia Iron Company, Ltd.: Formed in April of 1885 by William R. White, Mrs. Henry P. Borie, W. C. Freeman, E. C. Freeman, Isabel C. Freeman, and Mrs. B. H. Buckingham, with W. C. Freeman as first chairman. In 1923 it was incorporated as the Robesonia Iron Company. The iron company retained mining rights at Cornwall Ore Hills based on the 1786 deed of Peter Grubb, Jr. The company was purchased by the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1927.
Also included are records of, or pertaining to the following: Bethlehem Steel Company; various canal operations; Colebrook Estate; Conowingo Furnace; Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad Company; Cornwall Estate; Cornwall Railroad Company; Crumwold Furnace; Emaus Furnace; Fairview Farm; Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key-West Railway Company (4 cubic feet of minutes, reports, letter press books, correspondence, accounts, blueprints, and miscellaneous advertisements pertaining to this company of which Robert H. Coleman was president and principal owner); Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company; Lebanon Iron Company; Lochiel Furnace; North Cornwall Estate; North Lebanon Railroad Company; Pennsylvania Steel Company; and Speedwell Farm.

Correspondents include members of the Coleman, Alden, Buckingham, and Freeman families and principal employees and other individuals associated with their interests, e.g., John Benson, J. Taylor Boyd, Charles Demming, Henry M. Flagler, Henry C. Grittinger, D.S. Hammond, B. F. Hean, Charles V. Henry, A. Hess, A. M. and C. P. Keiser, Hugh M. Maxwell, Benjamin Mooney, J. R. Parrott, H. B. Plant, Walter Scranton, A. Wilhelm, and James H. and Mason Young. The Coleman Collection contains a large quantity of correspondence and accounts with numerous agents, banking houses, coal companies, industrial suppliers, local merchants, railroads, and iron companies.


Records of a company incorporated in 1805 to build a road from Reading to the vicinity of Hummelstown, Dauphin County. Completed in 1817, the road was sold to the Commonwealth in 1917.


Nineteen cubic feet of materials of George Krause and Company, a Lebanon wholesale and retail dealer in hardware, iron and steel, house furnishings, and supplies for mills and machine shops. Included are records of a predecessor firm, J. D. Krause and Company.

HORSTICK COLLECTION, 1817-1825, 1845-1913

Account books, 13 volumes, of various stores operated by the Horstick family, Palmyra.


  • Robert Coleman & Heirs, 1757-1859
  • R. W. & W. Coleman, 1821-1880
  • R. W. Coleman & Company, 1849-1868
  • R. W. Coleman's Heirs & Company, 1849-1893
  • Robert H. Coleman, 1850-1900
  • Lebanon Furnace, 1857-1900
  • Cornwall Ore Bank Company, 1863-1916
  • Sarah H. Coleman, 1866-1902
  • North Cornwall Furnace, 1871-1901
  • Freeman, Coleman & Buckingham, 1871-1940
  • Robesonia Iron Company, Limited, 1885-1927
    • General Correspondence, 1896-1927. (338 folders) {#182m.53}
    • Legal Papers, 1885, 1887-1898, 1919. (1 volume, 2 folders) {#182m.54}
    • Accounts, 1885-1927. (31 volumes, 7 folders) {#182m.55}
    • Minute Books, 1816-1917. (6 volumes) {#182m.56}
    • Letter Books, 1836-1904. (2 volumes) {#182m.57}
    • Accounts, 1813-1917. (17 volumes) {#182m.58}
    • Accounts, 1845-1894, 1896-1913. (13 volumes) {#182m.59}
    • Letters Press Books, 1873-1902. (7 volumes) {#182m.60}
    • General Correspondence, 1898. (1 folder) {#182m.61}
    • Catalogues, 1894, 1901, 1909. (5 volumes) {#182m.62}
    • Accounts, 1848-1905, 1908, 1909. (5 folders, 206 volumes) {#182m.63}

  • The container listings for this Manuscript Group are available for viewing and word-searching in PDF format:

  • PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Finding Aids for Collections Land Records