Rise of the Grubbs and Colemans

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Rise of the Grubbs and Colemans[edit]

His more astute and vigorous contemporaries flourished while he waned. The Grubbs, whose pioneer, Peter, had discerned the possibilities of the Furnace Hills, built their furnace at Cornwall, in 1742, assembled all the elements of iron-making, acquired great tracts of mountain land for coaling, until by 1783 their possessions extended over ten thousand acres. The name of Cornwall came from their English home; and Grubb's landing, on the Delaware, near Wilmington, still records the place they first touched American soil. When Peter Grubb's estate descended, in 1783, two-thirds to his elder and one-third to the younger son, it included with Cornwall the Hopewell forge in this township.

That same year saw Robert Coleman elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature, thus beginning a career of public service which included twenty years of tenure as an associate or lay Judge of the county, through which he steadily rose to become the leading citizen of Lancaster county and foremost ironmaster of the country.

Later Curtis Grubb acquired Cornwall and 6,520 acres; and Peter Grubb, Jr., got Hopewell and 3,741 acres. As early as 1798 Robert Coleman owned half of Mount Hope and Hopewell, and in a later division Hopewell Forges, with 2,311 acres, fell to him, and Mount Hope, with 2,307 acres, to Henry Bates Grubb. That these large holdings of mountain and woodland should remain after a century and a quarter substantially intact, great natural parks, is a cause for congratulation and an eminent public service.

Robert Coleman first obtained by purchase--May 9, 1781--a sixth of the great Cornwall estate from Peter Grubb, 3d., and the Coleman interests finally grew to five-sixths. Meanwhile Daniel Benezet had foreclosed on Stiegel's interest in Elizabeth; the Stedmans had sold theirs to John Dickinson, and, in 1794, Robert Coleman became sole owner of this furnace property, comprising 10,000 acres. He had bought Speedwell and its thousand acres nearly ten years earlier, from James Old, to whose daughter, Ann, he was married October 4, 1773, in Reading, where he had started as clerk to the Prothonotary of Berks county, being an especially expert penman. When he died, August 14, 1825, he was Lancaster county's only millionaire, and it has recorded the death of no other since--though I understand some of our fellow members are preparing to take that much with them on their heavenly journey, if they can find a pocket in their shrouds.

In course of time, the mutations of ownership at Cornwall and the muniments of title of both the Grubb and Coleman estates contributed no little to the gaiety and variety of jurisprudence in Pennsylvania; and the ensuing litigation was protracted, ofttimes almost romantically curious. It is enough for us to know that Mount Hope, through A. Bates Grubb, and later the late Clement B. Grubb, ultimately lodged in the ownership of our fellow member and townswoman, Miss Daisy Grubb, where it is the seat of gracious hospitality. Speedwell, which fell to the Robert W. Coleman heirs, became as famous as a horse breeding farm as it was well known as a forge. The Elizabeth estates are maintained by Mr. B. Dawson and Miss Fanny Coleman, to whose courtesy we are largely indebted for this day's enjoyment. Long may the present care and control last; and may these great areas of native beauty be kept unspoiled!

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.