Erected by Peter Grubb in 1742, Cornwall Furnace came under the control of Robert Coleman in 1798 and ownership remained in the Coleman family until 1932 when the property was donated to the Commonwealth. The collection consists primarily of account books, 1768-1892, pertaining to Cornwall Furnace and several other furnaces and forges, including Charming Forge, Colebrook Furnace, Hellem (Helmstead) Forge, Hopewell Forge, Speedwell Forge, and Spring Forge. A number of these volumes include references to African American slaves and workers. Placed inside the account books are loose pages of typed notes on the African American slaves and workers written by the late historian of Pennsylvania’s early iron industry, Herbert S. Beck [ca. 1940].

Account Books, 1768-1892.

Coal (Cole) Books, 1768, Hopewell Forge. According to Herbert S. Beck, contains credits to colliers (charcoal burners) from April 25 to December 8, 1768 that include an entry reading, "Three credits go to Negro Bob, a slave."

Individual Accounts, 1779-1780, Hopewell Forge. Accounts are shown for the following: Molatta Abb for July and December 1779 and February and April 1780 and for Molatta Sue in September, October, November, and December 1779 and February through September 1780.

Account Book, April 12-July 19, 1790. Notes by Herbert Beck state: "In account book dated April 12-July 19, 1790, the 'Negro accounts’ at store include negro Jack, Negro Harry, Negro Cato, Negro Tommy, Negro Oston, Negro Samson and Gov. Dick. The account of May 30 is this: 'Negro acct pr shows Govr Dick.’ This shows that the collier, [who] prior to 1780 [was] a slave, was called Governor Dick in 1790. It is the first documentary mention of this man for whose cabin located, at its base, Governor Dick’s Hill was named."

Miscellaneous Accounts, 1791, Pallas Stewart. Herbert Beck writes: "this book, which curiously found its way to the Cornwall Furnace, is a smart boy’s schooling book on legal forms, book-keeping accounts, etc." It contains a passage entitled "Liberation of a Slave" dated 1782, that Beck has described as "a superb sample of Spencerian handwriting."

Cash Book, 1795, Union Forge. Beck’s notes state: "Cornwall Furnace purchased 2 ton, 2 cwt of anconies, which, curiously enough, were made by 'Cato.’" Cato was often listed as working at both Cornwall Furnace and Hopewell Forge. In an entry dated Jan. 13, 1795, Negro Bob is listed as receiving a number of gallons of liquor for the use of the slaves. Beck goes on to state that "The Union Forge was built in 1782 by Curtis Grubb and these slaves were owned by Grubb . . . The slaves working there were Grubb’s Dec. 25, 1794. Negro account page . . . Bob, Toney, Diana, Jack-Christmas . . . apparently these were Christmas presents." Beck also gives further information on Governor Dick and Governor Dick’s Hill.

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