Furnace Plantation - Coleman Mansion
Coleman Mansion
One of the
most important properties of the Colonial period is coming up for sale at the end of the month, September 28. The Elizabeth Furnace Plantation also know as the Stiegel-Coleman Estate is listed in our Event Listings section under auctions and being offered by John M. Hess Auction Services. The property was placed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 1966.

Furnace Plantation - Coleman kitchen, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
Coleman kitchen, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
The original location of the furnace was recently discovered in 2005 when archaeology testing began by The Lancaster Colonial Settlement Project at Millersville University. The oldest building measuring 18 X 38 feet built in 1746 by John Jacob Huber, the original furnace founder, is the Huber House It is a typical vernacular German style architecture with the central chimney no longer present.

Millersville University discovered that the areas east, south and west of the Huber house were disturbed during the twentieth century. However, the furnace race was too deep below the ground to have been disturbed. After excavation, it was discovered what they thought to be the furnace race extended four feet below the present ground surface and extended two feet from the foundation of the Huber house.

Furnace Plantation - An area being excavated on the Coleman land, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
An area being excavated on the Coleman land, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
The initial excavations produced over 23,500 artifacts such as buckles, forks, coins, porcelain doll legs, fragments of stove plates, a loaf of lead which was used to cast lead shot, chamber pots, creamware and pearlware. There were a total of five buildings deliberately built on the furnace race which included the stables, a domestic or craft house, charcoal house, and two dwelling houses.

Archaeology excavations continued in 2006 when testing continued on unexplored sections of the property, the well, and a large midden discovered next to the Hessian barracks. The well dated to the late nineteenth century. There was an estimated 500 bones discovered in the midden which gave insight into the diet of the inhabitants during the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

The excavations were completed in 2007 with a few changes to the original results. The arch that the students and faculty thought was the main casting arch turned out to be the tuyere arch where the pipe carrying air from the bellows would have entered the furnace. The tuyere is an opening used to force air into the furnace to keep it hot enough The main casting arch was found five feet below ground.

Furnace Plantation - A map of the Stiegel-Coleman land
A map of the Stiegel-Coleman land
An exciting discovery was found late in the fall when a one hundred foot long stone arch vaulted tail race tunnel perfectly preserved was uncovered. The tail race would have carried water away from the waterwheel after it was used to power the bellows. The tail race continues to carry water.

Two men who worked separately during the Millersville project and continue today to excavate are Daniel Snyder and Jeff Dreisback. Daniel is a novice archaeologist and a member of the Historic Manheim Preservation Foundation. The two men, gave a presentation at the Lititz Public Library January 19th of this year. Daniel was involved in the Schaefferstown archaeological excavations at the Schaeffer Farm through the Historic Manheim Preservation Foundation. Jeff asked Daniel to join him in the project. It was also helpful that Jeff knew Bill Coleman whose family has owned the property since 1775.

Furnace Plantation - A scene of the formal gardens laid out between 1800 and 1810, photo taken by Mrs G. Dawson Coleman
A scene of the formal gardens laid out between 1800 and 1810, photo taken by Mrs G. Dawson Coleman
Daniel and Jeff found a circular feature of congealed material which represented the center of the furnace know as bosh. They also discovered the tureye. In the creek they found artifacts such as pieces of iron pots, molds, castings, plumb bobs, brackets and braces.

Daniel Snyder also gave a lecture at the Cornwall Iron Furnace during its Lecture Series April 9. Another lecture will be given by Daniel entitled "The Furnace Hills Come Alive" September 29-30 at the Carriage House in celebration of Founder's Week in Manheim. He realizes the important significance of the property. As he told the Engle Printing and Publishing Company, Elizabeth Plantation may be one of the most intact 18th century communities in the country. "In the 18th century, there were 50 structures on the plantation, and about 30 remain relatively intact," he remarked. This site has been relatively undisturbed since 18th century," said Snyder. "It’s a real gem for local history." Two of the most notable iron masters of the eighteenth century, "Baron" Heinrich Wilhelm Stiegel and Robert Coleman, owned Elizabeth Furnace.

Both archaeological excavations did not produce any glass material from the Elizabeth Glass House; however, Frederick W. Hunter found various shards of colored glass August 15, 1913 which can be seen in Plate VIII of Stiegel Glass- Frederick William Hunter, 2nd edition, Dover Publications, 1950.

Furnace Plantation - Huber stove plate discovered in 1960 by Miles H. Keiffer, Manheim electrical contractor during an excavation of the Kauffman mansion house at Flory's Mill
Huber stove plate discovered in 1960 by Miles H. Keiffer, Manheim electrical contractor during an excavation of the Kauffman mansion house at Flory's Mill
John Jacob Huber acquired 150 acres of land February 22, 1738, 200 acres March 15 1743, and 150 acres May 23, 1745 in Warwick Township, Lancaster County and built a one-and-a-half story dwelling. The Elizabeth Furnace was built by Huber in 1750. Huber cast five plate-stoves for the market. One of the stove plates was discovered after 165 years while excavating at the old Kauffman mansion house at Flory's Mill off the Route 230 bypass. The stove plate dated 1755 had the proud inscription "Jacob Huber Ist der Erst," meaning "Jacob Huber is the First."

The 500 acres the Elizabeth Furnace was built on consisted mainly of chestnut and oak trees on the eastern slope of the northern spur of the Blue Ridge which separates the valleys of Lebanon and Lancaster. A little tributary of Middle Creek called Furnace Runs sinks deep among the hills.

Furnaces were erected against the side of a small hills and needed charcoal, limestone and iron ore The chestnut and oak trees were used to make charcoal for ore smelting. An abundance of limestone lay two miles to the east of the property and ore was obtained from Cornwall Iron Furnace seven miles west. It took many laborers to fell the trees, burn the charcoal, and mine the ore and limestone.

Furnace Plantation - Ruins of a tenant house built between 1750 and 1780, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
Ruins of a tenant house built between 1750 and 1780, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
Furnace Plantation - Tenant house ruins, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
Tenant house ruins, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
Following natural progression of an iron plantation, Elizabeth Furnace Plantation was the central heart of a colonial era village. A self contained community grew up around the furnace with a creamery, two blacksmith shops, a general store, a glass house, cottages for the laborers, stables for the animals, tool and storage sheds, cold cellars, and schools for employees. It took a strong and determined character to run an iron plantation. One of those people was a noted flamboyant, eccentric historical icon known as Baron Heinrich Wilhelm Stiegel.

Stiegel arrived in American in 1750 aboard the ship Nancy with his widowed mother and his eleven year old brother Anthony. Stiegel began working at the Elizabeth Furnace for Jacob as a clerk in 1752. He may have had previous ironworking experience before he came to America because he quickly excelled as a clerk. On November 7, 1952, he married Jacob Huber's daughter Elizabeth.

Furnace Plantation - Map of the Elizabeth Furnace Plantation created by Herbert Beck in the 1960's
Map of the Elizabeth Furnace Plantation created by Herbert Beck in the 1960's
Steigel was determined to make stove plates at Elizabeth Furnace. During the next four years he went to Philadelphia and formed a partnership with Charles and Alexander Stedman of Philadelphia and one John Barr. The records show that in September 1756, Stiegel and his partners took over the joint operation of Huber's furnace with Stiegel in charge as the active managing member. At first they apparently leased the furnace, for the bill of sale bears the date of May 1, 1758. It conveyed to the partners 400 acres of land, with furnace and buildings of Jacob Huber "now actually in possession of Chas. Stedman, Alex Stedman, John Barr and Henry W. Stiegel." Barr shortly afterward sold his interest to the other partners, and nothing more is heard of him.

The old furnace was torn down and the new furnace received its name about this time on honor of Stiegel's wife, Elizabeth. In the old chimney stack of the old Huber was the inscription on a large stone:

"Johann Huber der erste Deutsche Mann

Der das Eissen werk follfurren kann"

which transates:

"Johann Huber, the first German man

To turn out iron work this spick and span."

She gave birth to a daughter Barbara November 5, 1756 and another daughter Elizabeth February 3, 1758. Shortly after, possibly through childbirth, Stiegels's wife died at her father's house February 13, 1758. Eight months after Elizabeth's death Stiegel married Elizabeth Holz, sister of Anna Catharine Holz, the wife of George Michael Ege, a man of means and of prominence in the province, a member of the Independent Troop of Horse of Philadelphia, and a veteran of the French and Indian War.

Furnace Plantation - Stiegel-Coleman Mansion. Photo taken by Mrs. G. Dawson Coleman
Stiegel-Coleman Mansion. Photo taken by Mrs. G. Dawson Coleman
Along the the construction of the new furnace, Stiegel built the southeastern section of the residence between 1756-58, As you look at Mrs. G. Dawson Coleman's photograph, it would be the wing to the right of the picture. It is a two-story stone structure with a gabled roof. A long stone section with a wood belfrey on top extends behind the east end of the Stiegel house. The section includes the ironmaster's office, an ice house and a cell where the Hessian prisoners were kept. He also erected a number of tenant houses, possibly twenty-five.

During 1759 and 1759, Stiegel and his partners purchased extensive acquisitions of land around Elizabeth Furnace. Stiegel's own inventory of the partnership lands adjoining the furnace made a few years later and in his own handwriting, shows a total of 6559 and a half acres, besides other partnership lands of Elizabeth Township amounting to 3894 and a half acres additional.

Furnace Plantation - A Jacob Huber stove plate which will be sold at auction September 28, 2013. The estimate on the stove plate is $8,000-10,000
A Jacob Huber stove plate which will be sold at auction September 28, 2013. The estimate on the stove plate is $8,000-10,000
Stiegel specialized in putting forth improved heating devices for which there was good demand. He improved Franklin's open-hearth stove. Legend has credited him with the invention of the "five-plate" or jamb stove even though it may have been produced in Germany years earlier. He improved the "six-plate" and cast ten-plate and cannon stoves. One of his advertisments ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1769:

“IRON CASTINGS Of all dimensions and sizes, such as kettles or boilers for pot-ash works, soap-boilers, pans pots, from a barrel to 300 gallons, ship cabooses, kachels, and sugar house stoves, with cast funnels of any height for refining sugars weights of all sizes, grate bars and other castings for sugar works in the West Indies, &c. are all carefully done by HENRY WILLIAM STIEGEL, iron-master, at Elizabeth Furnace in Lancaster County, on the most reasonable terms. Orders and applications made to Michael Hillegas in Second Street, Philadelphia, will be carefully forwarded…”

WIth the acquisition of lands and the success of Elizabeth Furnace, Stiegel made an independent investment of another iron property known as Charming Forge north of the village of Middleton (now Womelsdorf). Initially he bought 88 acres but added to it until he had 3100 acres by 1763. One half interest in the property was sold to Charles and Alexander Stedman,

The successful operation and management by Stiegel of Elizabeth Furnace and Charming Forge led to the acquisition of a tract of land containing 729 acres which is now known as Manheim. It was first purchased by Charles and Alexander February 1762, but Stiegel paid £50 sterling for a one-third interest. Stiegel divided the tracts with streets and alleys for the purpose of establishing a village. He began building the Manheim Glass House which was completed in 1765, although the Elizabeth Furnace Glass House produced its first glass September 18, 1763. Bottles and windows were the type of glass that the furnace produced. Stiegel's brother Anthony was employed from 1762 until 1765. Manheim Glass House began producing its first glass November 11, 1765.

The Manheim Glass House produced fine flip glasses with exquisite etched devices, wine glasses of graceful contour, sugar bowls and cream pitchers of deep toned blue, toilet bottles, salt cellars, table jugs, funnels, and many other items.

WIth all three ventures at Elizabeth Furnace, Charming Forge, and Manheim Glass Works, Stiegel was considered one of the wealthiest and most influential men in America. The glassware produced was some of the finest ever produced because Stiegel hired skilled workers from Europe. But the success was not to last for Stiegel.

The Stamp Act of 1765 had a depressing effect on the colonial communities and British merchants and manufacturers. Even thought the Stamp Act was repealed the following year the Townshend Act 0f 1767 levied duties on colonial imports with glass being one of the commodities.

Stiegel was determined to make the glass production work. He mortgaged Elizabeth Furnace, Charming Forge, Manheim holdings and other land holdings for £3000 to finance a new glass factory in Manheim. He continued to put advertisements for the American Flint Glass in papers in Philadelphia and New York in 1771, 1772 and 1773, but the demise of the company was just around the corner. He lost Charming Forge to a sheriff's sale in 1773 and the Manheim estates were lost in 1774. Finally on August 13, 1774, Sheriff John Feree advertised a third of Elizabeth Furnace and all of his Brickerville property. Stiegel with all the money he owed to his creditors was placed in debtor's prison in Philadelphia County.

Furnace Plantation - Robert Coleman, 1820 Jacob Eicholtz (1776-1842) National Gallery of Art
Robert Coleman, 1820 Jacob Eicholtz (1776-1842) National Gallery of Art
By 1776 another influential man that didn't share in Stiegel's misfortunes entered the picture at Elizabeth Furnace. Robert Coleman leased the property for seven years at an annual rate of £450. Stiegel appeared back at the furnace as a foreman for the works. Under the direction of Robert Coleman, Elizabeth Furnace was the one of the sources for cannon balls and shot during the American Revolution.

At the age of sixteen with three guineas in his pocket, Robert Coleman arrived in Philadelphia in 1764 from his home country of County Donegal, Ireland. His superb penmanship and introduction to Blair McLanahan and the Biddles led him to his first job as a clerk for Mr. Read at the Reading Prothonotary. It was only two years later in 1766 that he became a clerk for Peter Jr. and Curtis Grubb at Hopewell Forge. After six months he was hired by James Old who had just leased the Quittapahilla Forge. Coleman lived with the Old family since he traveled back and forth from Speedwell Forge to Quittapahilla.

While at the Reading Furnace Robert married Anne Old, the daughter of his employer af the furnace grounds on October 4, 1773. They were married by Reverend Thomas Barton. Shortly after the marriage, he rented the Salford Forge near Norristown for three years. Here Coleman manufactured chain bars which were designed to span Delaware River during the Revolutionary War in defense of Philadelphia. Here he learned the art of cannon casting. At the end of his tenure at Salford Forge, the American Revolution began which started a huge boom in the iron industry. Robert Coleman was a benefactor of the wealth the boom created.

Furnace Plantation - The irrigation trench dug by Hessian prisoners, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
The irrigation trench dug by Hessian prisoners, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
With his profits, Coleman purchased two-thirds ownership at Elizabeth Furnace, shares of Cornwall and the Upper and Lower Hopewell Forges. Speedwell Forge was purchased from his father in law for £7000 in 1784. In 1791 Coleman built the Colebrook Furnace and completely owned the Elizabeth Furnace three years later. Coleman erected Mt. Joy Furnace in 1791 and he continued growing his iron empire. By 1798 he owned five-sixths of the Cornwall Iron Furnace. By 1803, Coleman owned the Hopewell Forges, Union Forge, and Martic Forge.

Hessian Prisoners were used at Elizabeth Furnace during the Revolutionary War. After the capture of Trenton, mercenaries were marched to the Elizabeth Furnace with instructions from General George Washington- "good principles be infused into them." They were housed in a converted barn which is still standing. They were used to dig an irrigation ditch for the furnace. There were seventy prisoners at the site in 1783. After the war, some prisoners remained in Lancaster and became citizens.

Robert Coleman added a two story stone building addition that had been plastered to the original Stiegel house between 1776 and 1790. There is a porch, gabled roof with one dormer window on the addition. Little has been altered inside the residence which retains its original woodwork and French wallpaper. Bathrooms have been added to the Coleman wing. The formal garden was laid out between 1800 and 1810. On the property are outbuildings with the Charcoal house built in 1750 being the oldest building original to the furnace. The unfinished Huber house, Hessian barracks, and ice house remain. There are shells of buildings on the property, most likely tenant houses built between 1750 and 1780.

Furnace Plantation - Iron Foundry Stone Barn Stable 3, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
Iron Foundry Stone Barn Stable 3, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
When the 1798 Tax Assessment was completed, no other property came close to the size of Elizabeth Furnace. The assessment stood at 45 X 40 feet with 468 lights (window panes) and twenty-two windows. With his vast iron industry ownership, Robert Coleman became the first millionaire in Pennsylvania.

Robert Coleman was a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War under the "Flying Camp" Battalion of James Cunningham. In 1776, he was a Private in the Lancaster County Pennsylvania Militia. The same year he was in Colonel Pott's Battalion. The battalion served in the Jersey Campaign and the Battle of Long Island. He served in the Revolutionary War until 1781. Also he was Captain of the Lancaster Troop of Light Horse which rode to Western Pennsylvania to help suppress the Whiskey Rebellion.

Coleman was a member of the General Assembly in 1783-1784. He was considered a Federalist and became a delegate to ratify the federal constitution in 1787. Coleman was also a member to frame the Pennsylvania Constitution at the Convention of 1790. Like Edward Hand and Jasper Yeates who were staunch Federalists, Coleman support the candidacy of John Adams in 1796 and 1800. Being elected as an Associate Judge of Lancaster on 1791, he served for a quarter of a century. Many of those years he was the Presiding Judge.

Furnace Plantation - The exterior of the Hessian Prisoner Barracks, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
The exterior of the Hessian Prisoner Barracks, photo courtesy of Jeff Martin
The vast iron industry and land holdings totaled three furnaces, a rolling and slitting mill, four forges and 22,000 acres of land upon his death in 1825. Robert Coleman's four sons inherited the estate. William and Edward sold their interests to James and Thomas Bird. James took possession of Elizabeth Furnace. When James died in 1831, Thomas Bird sued his heirs for a more equitable distribution of Robert Coleman's estate. WIth a settlement reached, James heirs kept Elizabeth Furnace while Thomas Bird received Cornwall Furnace which had a resurgence of productivity in 1840 with a $20,000 profit. Historian James Swank noted the Elizabeth Furnace was in operation until 1856 when George Dawson Coleman abandoned it for "want of wood."

Elizabeth Furnace stayed in the family until now when it sells at auction September 28. William Coleman, eighth generation to Robert Coleman, started to grow a Christmas tree farm in 1982 after he inherited half of the property. His uncle from Maine, Francis Coleman who turned 90 in 2012 owns the other half. William eventually moved to the property in 2004. He was the first of Colemans to actually live on the land since the mid-to-late 1800's

The family has donated much of the land to the state since the 1930's. Also 500 acres were preserved for the Agricultural Preserve Board and the Lancaster Farmland Trust.

Furniture and paintings will be selling at the Coleman auction. Robert Coleman was such an iconic figure in industrial America that the great portrait painters of the time, Jacob Eicholtz from Lancaster County and Thomas Sully painted Coleman family portraits. A portrait of Anna and Harriett Coleman executed between November 2, 1846 and December 18, 1846 has an estimate of $40,000-50,000. There of other portraits of Peter Coleman, Thomas Bird Coleman painted by Jacob Eicholtz which have a much lower estimate of $2,000-3,000 and $2,500-3,500.

A rare cast iron stove plate executed by Jacob Huber in 1755 has an estimate of $8,000-10,000, Stiegel's glass will also be represented with a rare cobalt blue hand-blown creamer diamond pattern with a height of 3 1/4" expected to bring between $800-1,000.

An American Queen Mahogany Block Front Desk and Bookcase from Boston (1745-1755) has an estimate of $75,000-85,000. An American Federal Eight Day Mahogany Tall Case Clock executed by Simon Willard in 1805 has an estimate of $60,000-70,000.

A Chippendale Mahogany Folding Card Table (New York, 1775) is expected to bring between $40,000-50,000. An American Chippendale Mahogany Reverse Serpentine Slant-Front Desk (Boston, 1760-1780) has an estimate of $35,000-45,000.

There is also a collection of Dawson Family Crest Chinese Export Porcelain and Gaudy Dutch plates, sugar bowls, cup and saucers, coffee pots, sterling silver, and waste bowls.

There will be guided home tours Thursday, September 26 from 12-8 and on the day of sale from 8-1. The $20 admission proceeds will benefit the Lancaster County Historical Society. The personal property will start selling at 10am with the real estate selling at 11am.

This is an auction of historical significance you don't want to miss.

Source: Research & text by Bryan Wright

Related Links:

Daniel Snyder to speak September 29, 2013
Historic Manheim Preservation Foundation
Jeff Martin's Blog
John M Hess Auction of Coleman Estates
Millersville University Elizabeth Furnace Plantation Site

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