John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Lebanon County - Bird Colemand Furnaces

The following is reproduced from the 1875 Atlas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania

Briefly, the Bird Coleman furnaces are a dual structure, and this peculiar dual quality is preserved in all the details of the furnace, in the boilers, the pumps, the engine room, the stock and casting houses, even to the handling of the stock at the tunnel head. The stock house, 60 by 200 feet, is entered by five railroad tracks, supported by alternate walls of stone and iron columns. On the left hand side, as you go in along the track, the coal is dumped, and on the right hand side the iron ore, and at the end of the stock house. On both sides, are convenient bins for the lime-stone. The filling is done by means of a pneumatic hoist. The ore is thus taken up, and to free it from the sulphur, a hot blast has been especially constructed in which the ore is thrown and the sulphur expelled by the heat, dropped through a pipe into a bin close by the pneumatic hoist, where it is again shoveled into barrows and sent up to be put into the tunnel head.

The stack, built of file-brick and encased in an iron sheath, is girdled by a spiral stairway made of railroad iron, and iron steps cast at the Anthracite furnace. The boilers are of brick, made on the estate, protected by binders of railroad iron, and the iron doors through which the fuel is supplied are provided with a circular opening and cap, which lifts at the slightest compression of air, to prevent an explosion from accumulated gas. The hot blast connection with the boilers is in the shape of a corrugated letter S, laid on its face, the object of which is to regulate ,the expansion of the metal and render an explosion impossible, by securing an even temperature along the pipe that conveys the blast. The roof over the boiler is supported on iron columns that help to bind the walls, and was made of timber cut on the estate, and fashioned and put in place by Cornwall carpenters. Every part of the furnace can be reached from the outside, the parts being purposely so constructed, in order that repairs, when necessary, can he conveniently made, and all the material used in its construction, except the engines, was supplied directly from the estate.

The furnace has also duplicate gas chambers on the outside of the stack, something new in these structures, which is to relieve the furnace of gas and scaffolding and chilling, the former dread of managers, an impossibility.

The casting house is the finest building of the kind in existence. The walls are sand stone, broad at the base and tapering at the top, constructed plumb on the inside and the wall inclined outside from the top to the base, giving it the appearance of leaning inward. The roof is of slate and a more closely jointed and stronger one is not to be found anywhere. The engine is verticle, with a fly-wheel weighing 24 tons, and 24 feet in diameter, resting on a foundation of 15 feet cut stone. A duplicate donkey-pump supplies the water for feed and tire purposes, and is so constructed that by the withdrawal of a bolt the duplicate character of the pump is exhibited. The fly-wheel is arranged so that a belt can be applied to run a lathe. The water supply of this furnace is drawn from a well sixty-two feet deep, and Furnace Creek. The water is pumped from the well into the reservoir, 90 feet above the base of the furnace, which empties into a second reservoir of a milliion gallons, 60 feet above the base of the furnace, and from there flows into the boilers by gravitation. The large reservoir is also directly connected with the furnace boilers by pipe, to be used in case of damage to the small reservoir or the pipe. The water from Furnace Creek is conducted through a tunnel 3-1/2 feet high and 1025 feet long into the well. There is a slam on Dutch Creek, a neighboring stream, with pipe leading to the well in case the present supply should be found inadequate. The waste water from the furnace is also conducted into this well, showing that every means have been employed to make the supply ample for all times and for all purposes. A neat office in the prevailing sand-stone style, fronts on the wagon road past the furnace about 100 feet from the casting house. The day of Cooke's failure marks the completion of the furnace, though it is not in blast. As yet it is without a manager. Its situation is quite picturesque, being on the northern slope of the South Mountain, and bears a striking resemblance to some ancient feudal castle. Another furnace is located at Lebanon, on the line of the Cornwall Railroad, and called Donaghmore, with Col. D. S. Hammond as Manager, making a total of eight furnaces owned by the Heirs of Robert W. and William Coleman. Cornwall is remarkable also for its network of railways.

All the furnaces are approached by a single track, which divides into a double track, just before entering the stock houses. The Big Hill has an iron band around it; the Middle Hill is gridironed with tracks; and the Grassy Hill can be reached in several ways by rail. The visitor is whisked around the hills, and to and from the furnaces in a trice, and more can be seen in a day now, than could be heretofore viewed in a week. The Cornwall railroad, which supplies these furnaces with coal and lime-stone is six miles long, with its northern terminus at the Union Canal in Lebanon. It is the best paying railroad in the United States. The receipts of the road paid for its construction, equipment, annual running expenses, repairs, &c., twelve years after ground was first broken on the line. The road is a purely private freight road, built and paid for by the late Robert W. and William Coleman, of Cornwall. In addition to iron ore, copper ore is also mined, and a crusher, erected at the Charcoal furnace, pulverizes it, ready to be put up in 100 pound bags in which it is transported to the U. S. Mint at Baltimore, where it is converted into coin. As an additional matter of interest we give the origin and descent of the title to the Cornwall Ore Hills.

The chain of title to the property begins with a warrant to John, Thomas and Wm. Penn, dated May 8th, 1732, by them assigned unto Joseph Turner, who assigned it to Win. Allen, and by him was conveyed to Peter Grubb, Nov. 28th and 29th, 1737, who died intestate. The estate descended to his two sons, Curtis Grubb and Peter Grubb, jr. The latter conveyed an undivided sixth part of his share in the estate to Robert Coleman. Peter Grubb, jr., died leaving issue two sons, Burd Grubb and Henry Bates Grubb. Curtis Grubb died testate and directed his executors to sell all his real estate to Robert Coleman, for 29,100, except the ore hills. Burd Grubb then conveyed his interest in fee to Henry Bates Grubb, and Henry Bates Grub conveyed in fee an equal undivided share of his real estate, including the ore hills, to Robert Coleman.

Henry Bates Grubb died intestate, leaving six children, Edw. B., Henry C., Clement B., Mary S., Sarah E., and Alfred B. Grubb. In an action of partition, their interest in the ore hills was adjudged to Edward Bates Grubb, now living at Mount Hope, Lancaster county, and Edward B. Grubb, a resident of Burlington, N. J., and C. B. Grubb of Lancaster, Pa., as tenants in common of the ore hills.

Robert Coleman died leaving issue four sons, Wm., James, Edward and Thomas Bird Coleman. Wm. and Edward sold their interest to Thomas Bird Coleman.

James Coleman died leaving five children, Robert, George Dawson, Ann, Sarah and Harriet Coleman. The interest of the three sisters passed into the hands of Robert Coleman, their brother, now a resident of Paris, France, and Hon. Geo. Dawson Coleman, of Lebanon, Pa., and tenants in common of the ore hills.

Thomas Bird Coleman died leaving issue six children, Annie C., Sarah H., Isabelle, Robert W., and Wm. Coleman, all of Cornwall. Isabella and Robert W., died intestate, unmarried. Wm. Coleman died, leaving a widow and two children, Robert H. and Annie Coleman, resident at Cornwall. The Cornwall Ore Hills, it will thus be seen, is a tenancy in common, and so held by the E. B's and C. B. Grubb, Robert and G. Dawson Coleman; and the heirs of Robert W. and Wm. Coleman. Their interests have been by law fixed as follows: Messrs. Grubb own 16-97 ths., Messrs R. and G. D. Coleman 30-96 ths., and the heirs of R. W. and W. Coleman, of Cornwall, the largest share, or 50-96 ths.

Many have been the conjectures concerning the value of these hills, all agreeing that "There's Millions in it," yet curious to relate, these hills were partly purchased for $675.