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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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Colemans built a handsome residence and a
number of tenement houses for their em-
ployes at the forge and a number of houses on

Pidgeon Hills for their wood-choppers.
Chestnut wood was burned with charcoal for
the forge. From 1,000 to 1,500 cords an-
nually were used. The forg^ an^'blootiKlry
were in active operation for ninety-four years,
during which time the same chestnut timber-
land was cleared at least three times. One
strong Irishman, it is asserted, cut seven
cords of wood a day, and on a wager once,
lifted 525 pounds of iron. A man named
"Wilkinson could daily cut seven cords of
chestnut wood. When the Colemans owned
the forge, the pig iron was brought from
Columbia and York by teams, and was manu- J
f actured into saw plates, forge iron for wagons, |
and a variety of forms of wrought iron for
general purposes. The pig iron was placed
in a brilliant charcoal tire, and melted, and
from this a bloom was made; this was
through another refining process, more of tlie
carbon being removed by heating, and pure
wrought iron formed.

A fire in 1830 caused considerable damage,
but in the year 1840 almost the entire forge
was destroyed by a second fire; all except
the water-wheel and coal-shed were burned.
It was immediately rebuilt, and continued
in operation until 1851.

Jacob Hauer, who came from the celebrated
Colebrook Furnace in Lebanon County, also
owned by the Colemans, located at Spring
Forge in 1835, and was manager of it until
he purchased the interests. He then had the
large tracts of woodland on Pidgeon Hills
surveyed into smaller tracts, and sold them.
On several occasions there were destructive
tires in these woodland hills. The forge
ceased to be operated in 1850, and a paper-
mill was started.


In June, 1750, John Hunsicker, a German
emigrant, obtained from the proprietaries of
Pennsylvania a grant for land within the
present limits of West Manheim Township,
four miles south of the site of Hanover.
William Matthews, the Quaker surveyor,
called this tract "Friendship." A level
meadow four acres in area, of this land, was
crossed by the head- waters of what has since
been known as Furnace Creek. George Ross,
a lawyer of Lancaster, and Mark Bird, of
Philadelphia, in 1762, leased the four acres
mentioned, and on it in the same year began
the erection of Mary Ann Furnace. In 1763
they petitioned the York Court for a public
road from their "furnace lately built at a
great expense " to the road from the Cone-
j wage settlement to Baltimore. This was one
I year before the founding of Hanover, and



the Conewago settlement mentioned was on j
that portion of " Digges' Choice," in and
around the present site of Hanover. The ;
same company, in 1766, petitioned for a road
from their furnace to the Monocacy Road at
Frederick Eichelbei'ger's tavern, which was
on the present road from Hanover to York,
about four miles southeast of the former.
This petition was granted and the road
opened by Richard McAlister, Marks Forney,
Michael Danner, Adam Eichelberger and
Jacob Bollinger. According to facts fur-
nished the writer by James M. Swank, secre-
tary of the American Iron and Steel Associa-
tion, this was the first furnace erected iu
Pennsylvania, west of the Susquehanna River.
Peter Dicks had started his bloomary at
Spring Forge in 1756, and opened ore mines
along the southeast slope of Pidgeon Hills.
The Mary Ann Furnace Company obtained
much ore on the south slope of those hills, '•
about four miles northeast of Hanover, and
also some a short distance south of Hanover.
The cause of tha building of Mary Ann ;
Fm-nace where it was must have been on ac-
count of the abundance of chestnut timber
in the vicinity, which was burned into char-
coal and used in smelting the ore. In 1780 j
the company was assessed with 5,000 acres j
of wood-land, 16 horses, 8 cows, 1 slave, all
valued £666 13s. 4d., and an additional
rent of £600. The land was all located in
Manheim Township, which then extended
north to Pidgeon Hills. How much business
was done by the original firm cannot be
stated. In 1790 the land and furnace were
purchased by John Steinmetz, a prominent
merchant of Philadelphia, and John Brinton, j
a lawyer of the same city. 1

In 1801, John Steinmetz was assessed with I
3, 150 acres of land, in Manheim and Pidgeon
Hills, and a furnace, all valued at 114.260.
The former soon after became the sole i
owner, whof in 1806, transferred the property
to David Meyer, a farmer. It was a few j
years before this time that the furnace |
ceased operation. There are now no traces
of the furnace; but the pits, where the char-
coal was burned, are indicated by the black
soil along the hillside near by, and the race,
through which passed the water used as a
motive power, is still observable.

Cannon Balls for the RerohiHonary War.
— At the foot of this race, some years ago,
nearly a cart-load of balls were found while
excavating the alluvial soil that had accumu-
lated. The history of this singular incident
is as follows: During the war of the Revolu-
tion, while the Continental Congress was in
session in York, in the winter of 1777-78,

this furnace and Hellam Iron Works, at the
mouth of the Codorus, were put to use in
manufacturing cannons and balls for the
American Army. Some of these balls are
yet found, scattered over the farm on which
this furnace was located, which farm is now
owned by Mr. Dusman, and "his plowshare
turns them out." Thej^ vary from the size
of a minie ball, to the four-inch cannon
ball. Years ago, school boys amused them-
selves searching for them, and in innocent
play carried them away, which explains why
they are found scattered over the surround-
ing country. A huge pile of cinders seven
feet thick, and covering an area of at least
an acre of laud, adjoins the site of the
historic old furnace, which as a business
venture, even though it existed about forty
years, was doubtless a financial failure.
Judging from the size of the stream, one
would not think it large enough to furnish
sufficient motive power for a large furnace.
A great many stoves were made at this
furnace. The firm that built the furnace in
1761-62, was George Ross & Co,

George Ross, the principal owner, was
born in New Castle County, Del., in 1730,
moved to Lancaster, and was admitted to the
bar in 1750, From 1768 to 1770, he was in
the colonial assembly of Pennsylvania. For
his excellent career while there, Lancaster
County voted him £150. which he declined to
accept. From 1775 to 1777 he was a mem-
ber of the Continental Congress, and thus he
became one of tHe signers of the Declaration
of Independence. In 1779 he was appointed
judge of the court of admiralty, at Philadel-
phia, but died suddenly of gout a few
months later.


On the south side of the Codorus Creek,
near its junction with the Susquehanna
River, and in the extreme northeast cor-
ner of Hellam Township, is the site of
a very important early iron industry in
Pennsylvania It was variously known
as the "Hellam Iron Works," "Hellam
Forge," and later as the "Codorus Forge."
There are now no vestiges of these works,
and the place where they once stood is but
dimly shown. A forge and furnace were
erected here in 1765 by William Ben-
nett, who continued the business until May
21, 1771, when the works, unfortunately, fell,
into the hands of Samuel Edie, sheriff of
York County, who sold them to Charles Ham-
ilton, and he transferred the property soon
after to Hon, James Smith of York, signer
of the Declaration of Independence, who



seems to have been poorly qualified to con-
duct the iron business. He lost by these
works, about £.").flOO. Of the two different
managers whom he employed to run them,
and who were the cause of his misfortmie,
he once baid with his wonted pleasantry,
"one was a knave and the other was a fool."
He disposed of them on April 16, 1778,
(while congress was in session in York and
he a member) to Thomas Niel a merchant of
York. These works were used during the
Revolutionary war, for casting cannons and
cannon balls for the Continental Army.
During the winter of 1777-78 a great many
\vere made. In 1793, Thomas Niel owned 1.500
acres of woodland, forge and saw-mill at an as-
sessed valuation of £"2, 02'.); in 1800 he start-
ed a bloomary, in connection with the forge
and owned 3,27r> acres of land, valued at
$15,875. About this time Samuel lago be-
came the owner; Thomas Kettera, a promi-
nent lawyer, and member of Congress from
Lancaster, had an interest in the works for
a time. The entire property was purchased
in 1810 by Henry Grubb who enlarged the
works and after that date the place was
known as Codorus Forge; he paid $17,810
for them. John Shippen late president of
the Miner's Bank of Pottsville Penn.. was
manager from 1818 to 18'25; one of the
managers of the forge was John T. XJbil who
afterward became a "slave catcher," and
several times got a reward for returning
them. He lived in Liverpool. The other
managers were Henry P. Eobertson, Elijah
Geiger. now an old citizen of Lancaster
City, Mr. Trego, Henry Feltenberger, David
Lockard. William Moore, John McIIvaine
and Robert S. King; during the year 1837 a
furnace was built. Most of the ore used was
obtained from the famous Chestnut Hill mines
in Lancaster County, part of which mines
are still owned by the Grubbs. The ore was
towed across the river in flat-boats. "Wood
right," to large tracts of timber-land, was
purchased by the Grubbs' in Hellam, Cone-
wago and in Newberry Township above York

The furnace and forge ceased operation
in 1850, after an existence of eighty five
years. For many years, sixty men were
regularly employed. A large charcoal house
was built by the Grubbs above York Haven,
which was taken down the Susquehanna in
1848, and thus $5,000 of prepared char-
coal and chestnut wood, floated down the
stream and was lost. Vast quantities of pig-
iron, were made at the furnace; this was
made into bar iron and blooms, at the forge.
Much of the manufactured iron, was loaded

in shallops, and floated down the stream to
tide water and from thence to Philadelphia
and Baltimore. The firm owned in 1830,

i nearly -l:,000 acres of woodland in Hellam
and Spring Garden Townships. The valua-
tion of the property in 1818, including wood-
land, was $52,000. Clement Grubb of Lan-
caster, and Edward Grubb of New Jersey,
composed the firm that operated these works

A ••flint-mill" was started on the site of
the iron works in 1884 The quartz rocks

' from the Hellam Hills are ground. The flood
of 188-1 took away 140 tons of ground flint.


; This forge for many years was a very im-
portant manufacturing industry. It was lo-
cated in the extreme southera portion of Low-
er Chanceford Township, on Muddy Creek,
at a romantic spot surrounded by liigh hills.
It only recently ceased operations. The
name "Castle Fin" was given to it in honor
of Robert Coleman, the great iron manufac-
turer, of Pennsylvania, who was born in the

' village of Castle Finn, province of Ulster,
county of Donegal, Ireland.

The iron business was begun here in 1810
by Joseph Webb. It was first called Palmyra
Forge. This site was selected on account of

; the abundance of chestnut and other timber
in the vicinity, suited for burning charcoal.
In 1812 Joseph Withers & Co. managed the
interest and continued until December 26,
1815, when the property was ofi"ered for sale
by John Kauftelt, sheriff of York County.
•Joseph Webb became the rightful owner

' again, and disposed of it to Thomas Burd

I Coleman, of Cornwall Furnace, Lebanon
County, who did a very extensive business.
An immense tract of Chestnut timber land was

• purchased, and a large number of employes

! put to work.

i Mr. Coleman built a large mansion, which

; is still standing. About fifteen houses were

] built for the employes. Some woodland
was bought as low as $5 an acre; the same
land is now very productive. There were in
1840 about fifty hands employed. Large
quantities of hammered iron and blistered
steel were made. In 1849 there were three
forge fires, two hammers; 150 tons of blooms,
and 250 tons of bar iron were made. One of
the managers, and who conducted the business
for many years, was Edmund Evans. He
was succeeded by Isaac Eaton. Robert and
William Coleman succeeded in the owner-
ship. Joseph Longenecker purchased the
forge of the Colemans. The land around
this site is now owned by Mr. Beebee.



An extensive business is done at present at
the Merchant Mill, near the site of the forge.


This enterprise was originated by Phineas
Davis and Israel Gardner in 1820, or there-
abouts. Davis vras a silversmith, and worked
at his trade a few miles west of the Motter
House, in York. Israel Gardner was a prac-
tical machinist. James Webb soon after be-
came associated with them, and they built a
foundry, and afterward a furnace and forge,
on the corner of Newberry and King Streets.
Their prospered and all kinds of
castings were made. The most notable prod
ucts of this establishment were the steam
boat ' 'Codorus' ' and a number of locomotives

The Steamboat Codorus. — Public atten
tion was called to the importance of re
moving obstructions and improving the navi
gation of the Susquehanna River as early
as 1793. In March, 1823, the legislature
of Pennsylvania passed an act for the improve-
ment of the river, from Northumberland to
tide water. Commissioners were appoint-
ed to superintend the work. They made
a report January 14, 1828, stating that
the improvement from tide water to Colum-
bia was then nearly completed. '"Crafts
would be able to descend from Columbia to
the head of Maryland Canal, bearing sixty
tons burden, which heretofore could not bear
half that amount. The section between
Columbia and Northumberland was yet un-
finished, and on both sections $15,524 were
spent in the improvement of the river."
This was paid by a State appropriation. A
number of enterprising citizens of Baltimore,
most of whom were identified with the Mer-
chant Flouring Mills at York Haven, formed
a company, for the purpose of "testing the
practicability of running steamboats on the
Susquehanna between the towns of York
Haven and Northumberland. The stock was
soon subscribed; some York merchants took
an active interest in the project.

The company then advertised for the man-
ufacture of steamboats. John Elgar, who
was an intelligent and ingenious Quaker of
York, was then a master mechanic in Webb,
Davis & Gardner's foundry and machine
shop. He went to work and constructed a
sheet iron vessel in these shops. It was
ready to be launched on the 8th of Novem-
ber, 1825.

The boat had sixty feet keel and nine
feet beam, composed externally of sheet-iron,
riveted with iron rivets. The weight of the
iron on it was 1,400 pounds, the wood 2,600
pounds, the steam-engine and boiler two

tons, and the entire weight of the boat five
tons. The form of the boiler was cylindrical.
Anthracite coal was used to produce steam.
The entire cost was $3,000. The boat was
now completed and loaded on an eight-
wheeled wagon, to which ropes were attached,
and on November . 14, 1825, it was drawn
from the foundry west of the Codorus Creek
to the east end of Market Street, amidst the
shouts and huzzas of a great multitude of
people. The boat was named "Codorus," in
honor of the stream along whose waters it
was brought into existence. It was launched
on the Susquehanna, and soon after "in
majestic style" sailed up the stream to Har-
risburg, with a party of 100 people onboard.
Thousands of people gathered at the shore
to witness the novel sijectacle. The star-
spangled banner, on aflag-stafi" at the prow of
the vessel, was waving in the breeze and
Capt. John Elgar commanded the boat, and
on their arrival at Harrisburg the entire
party were escorted to "Buehler's Hotel,'"
where a banquet was prepared for them.

The boat then made a number of trips
between York Haven and Harrisburg. The
members of the legislature, on December 5,

1825, expressed their "great satisfaction with
the success of the experiment of the 'Codorus,'
and its enterprising proprietors should receive
legislative enactment in their favor." Early
the next spring Capt. Elgar determined to
navigate the Susquehanna as far up stream
as possible; a party of eighty persons accom-
panied him. They stopped at difterent towns
along the way. At Bloomsburg, their arrival
was greeted by the booming of cannon, and
a great supper was prepared for them at
Brew's Inn. Toasts ware responded to; one
was as follows: "Capt. Elgar, the proprietor
of the 'Codorus;' may his enterprise meet
with suitable reward."

Another: "The steamship "Codorus," the
first to navigate our waters. On April 19,

1826, the "Codorus" with its "cargo of sixty
persons" arrived at Wilkesbarre; their arrival
was greeted by the discharge of cannon, the
hearty cheers of the multitude of people, and
the delightful strains of martial music. The
next morning, a party of eighty persons
went a few miles up the river to Forty Port,
the place where the Wyoming massacre oc-
curred during the Revolution. Here they sat
down to a rich banquet. They returned to
Wilkesbarre and remained for a few davs,
and then were propelledby steam up the Sus-
quehanna as far as the New York State line.
After an absence of four months, Capt. Elo-ar
returned from an apparently successful trip
and harbored his boat in the Conewago Canal


at York Haven. Owing to the shallow water
ot the Susquehanna, steam navigation was
practicable only for a few months of the
year. The success of the "Codorus" was a
great event of that day, but its use on our
river was soon discontinued and it was sold
to be used elsewhere. '

There were two other vessels made for this
Baltimore Company: the "Susquehanna,"
which exploded at Berwick, eighty miles
above Harrisburg while attempting to ascend
the river; and the "Pioneer," which was too

The First Locomotive in America that
burned Anthracite Coal. -A.s described in
the history of railroads in this work a
reward was offered by the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad Company, for the best steam-
engine of American manufacture. Phineas
Davis, one of the proprietors of the York
Foundry, was an inventive genius and
an intelligent Quaker. He determined to
compete for the prize, and began the con-
struction of an engine in his York shops It
was completed in July, 1832, and conveyed
in wagons to Baltimore, as the railroad to
that city was not yet built.

The Baltimore Gazette of July 31, 1832
says: "We are gi-atified to learn that the
locomotive steam engine ' The York ' con-
structed by Davis & Gardner of York Penn
commenced her operations on the Baltimore
& Ohio Railroad under the most favorable
auspices, at U o'clock. It started from Pratt
Street depot for Elicott's Mills, with the
entire train destined for that place, consist-
ing of fourteen loaded cars, carrying, too-ether
with the engine tender, a gross weight of
titty tons. The whole went off in line style '
and was soon out of sight. We have not had
any news from the cavalcade since its de
parture, but understand that no fears are
entertained of the abilities of the engine to -
perform the duty which has been laid upon '
It. A gentleman present says it was out of
sight of the depot in about six minutes, and
the rapid gliding of the immense train was
one of the most imposing and beautiful
spectacles he ever witnessed."

The York Gazette of August 9, 1832, states
that it made the journey (thirteen miles^ in
one hour and live minutes. Made the jour-
ney back with one car, a passenger coach, in
hfty-seven and one-half minutes. Last mile
returning made in three minutes.

'^^A *'"j^\Jo^^''i^e3' was made Saturday, Au-
gust 4, 1832. The train, exclusive of tender
consisted of seven cars, weighing twenty'
five tons. The fuel was anthracite coal. "
Edwards' American Locomotive Engineer

I says: "In 1832 Davis & Gardner of York
I h-enn,, built several locomotive engines of the
Grasshopper" type, for the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad, from designs by Phineas
Davis and Ross Winans. These engines
I had vertical boilers, similar to those now used
i on steam fire-engines, fiftyone inche.s in
diameter, and containing 282 tire tubes, six-
teen inches long, and tapering from one and
one-half inches at the bottom to one and
; one.fourth inches at the top, where the
gases discharged through a combustion
I chamber- into the stack. These engines
weighed about six and one-half tons. One
ot these engines, the 'Atlantic, ' was set to
work in September, 1832. and hauled fifty
tons over a rough road, with high grades
and short curves, at the rate of fifteen miles
per hour. This engine made a round trip
at the cost of !516, doing the work of forty
two horses which had cost $33 per trip. The
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad exhibited one of
Uiese engines at the Centennial Exhibition,
Philadelphia, in 1876, and there are one or
more still used as shifting engines at Mount
Olaire station, Baltimore, Md."

In competition with other engines, Phineas
Davis won the first prize of .'S3,5U(), for mak-
ing the urst engine in America that was suc-
ces.sfully worked, that burned anthracite

He soon afterward removed to Baltimore
where he became superintendent of the larcr^
shops of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and
prospered m his enterprises. He was a dili
gent worker. Mr. Rupp. of Hanover, now
living was one of his employes. Davis lost
I his life by accident. He had command
of one of his engines, and was taking a
party ot Baltimoreans on an excursion, when
a few miles out from the city, one of the
iron rails, on the left side of the track, bent
; and broke, flew with great force backward
and struck him while on the engine, and he
was instantly killed, on September 27 1835
His death was deeply lamented

He was a native ojf York, and August 15,
182b, was married in the Friends' Meeting
House at York, to Hannah Taylor, the <rreat
granddaughter of William Willis, who built
the first court house. He was only about
torty years old when he was killed. A o-reat
many car- wheels and other foundry products
were made at the York Foundry. It was
last owned by Judge Durkee and Samuel
Slaymaker. There was attached to these
works a steam grist-mill, carding-mill and
fulling-mill. Joel Fisher was manager of
the last two. The steam grist-mill burned




These important iron works, were located
in Lower Windsor Township, near where the
village of East Prospect now stands. The
furnace was built by Samuel Slaymaker, of
Lancaster, in 1823, and put into operation in
1825. Soon after completion his nephews,
Henry Y. and S. Slaymaker succeeded in
the ownership and began a large business.
A good quality of native ore, in the imme-
diate vicinity, was used and a good pig iron
made; a foundry was built, and in 1828
Woodstock Forge was erected about one and
a half miles further east on the Cabin Branch
Creek. At the foundry, a large number of
ten plate stoves were, made, "iron kettles,
skillets and various kinds of hollow ware;
specimens of these are are still in use in the
neighborhood. Charcoal was used, and the
wood obtained from the surrounding country:
an extensive business was done, and many
acres of valuable woodland were soon stripped
of their chestnut timber. About 8,000 cords
were used annually. John E. Beard, ex-
county commissioner, then a young man, and
his brother, Henry, together hauled 14.000
cords, in live siiccessive years, to Margaretta
Furnace; at one time the firm owned 1,900
acres; much of the timber was obtained from
the land of other owners, and some of the ore
was gotten near York.

These works were in operation about nine
months of the year. Each week, thirty tons
of iron were made, or about 1,100 tons annu-
ally. Samuel Slaymaker moved to York, and
purchased an interest in the furnace and
foundry there. Henry Y. Slaymaker conduct-
ed the business alone, for a number of years;
built an elegant mansion, which is still stand-
ing. He was very popular with his employ-
es, but the "fates were not propitious" with
him, and the business did not bring in tbe

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 100 of 218)