From: Cornwall Iron Furnace
Cornwall Furnace is ...a unique survivor of the early American iron industry. Originally built by Peter Grubb in 1742, the furnace underwent extensive renovations in 1856-57 under its subsequent owners, the Coleman family, and closed in 1883. ...At Cornwall, furnace, blast equipment, and related buildings still stand as they did over a century ago. Here visitors can explore the rambling Gothic Revival buildings where cannons, stoves, and pig iron were cast, and where men labored day and night to satisfy the furnace’s appetite for charcoal, limestone, and iron ore.
Cornwall Iron Furnace is part of a National Historic Landmark District by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. It has...[described as] “the only one of America’s hundreds of 19th century charcoal fueled blast furnaces to survive fully intact.”
[http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA230&lpg=RA1-PA83&dq=%22Robert%20Walker%22%20%22Lancaster%20County %22&sig=7KU7rgiqsPm5yLjuKIx-JQnOC-c&ei=hb5XTr7yAcacgQfZ89maDA&ct=result&id=DG9IAAAAYAAJ&ots=us93eknC9b&output=text Historical Papers Vol 26(10):
Original Source: Historical papers and addresses of the Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster County Historical Society (Pa.), Lancaster, Pa.]
It is claimed that Peter Grubb was the first to discover the vast deposits of iron ore at Cornwall
in Lebanon county. Pa. In an effort to present things in their true historical light, we must, in
all fairness, state that there seems to be no evidence of who first discovered the presence of the
ore. Peter Grubb was the first to appreciate its value. The Indians knew of the strange earth to be
found there; and, when the first white settlers gave them iron, the aboriginees quickly discovered
what to them seemed miraculous. The mysterious dirt would cling to their hatchets, and steel beads
would hold fast to the ore. The savages regarded this magnetic property with awe and concealed it
from the whites. On the 8th of May, 1732, John, Thomas and Richard Penn, for the sum of five hundred
pounds, money of Pennsylvania, granted a warrant of 5000 acres. in which the yet virgin hills were
included, to Joseph Turner, who afterwards assigned it to William Allen. William Allen by agreement
dated April 5th 1734, sold 300 of the 5000 acres of land called for in the warrant, to Peter Grubb
for the sum of one hundred and thirty-five pounds. This tract of land was surveyed April 8th, 1784.
On November 28th and 29th, 1737, William Allen by deeds of lease and release conveyed the said tract
of 300 acres to Peter Grubb his heirs and assigns in fee, who procured a patent for it from the
Proprietaries November 30th, 1737. Since this grant did not entirely embracja the ore hills, Peter
Grubb was granted a warrant by the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania December 2nd, 1737, for two tracts
of land (142% acres) contiguous to the 300 acre tract thus making the whole tract contain 442% acres
of land. On November 2. 1734, he had taken out a warrant for a tract of land adjoining the above
described tracts on the west and north, containing 195 acres. This made him owner of the famous
Cornwall ore hills, hills that contained almost pure magnetic iron ore.
We venture to assert that the purchase of these lands, foremost among the natural resources of
Pennsylvania, was the best bargain Peter Grubb made; and it is safe to believe that William Allen,
who did not like the barren hilly look of the property, was not aware that a princely revenue lay
beneath that sterile soil. Peter Grubb, his curiosity moved by various rumors, dug up some of ihe
ore and learned from an expert in Philadelphia that his ground was half iron.
We are unable to state, with certainty, the exact time when he embarked in the manufacture of iron
in Lancaster county. Hazard intimates that he commenced operations as early as 1728, but we can find
no proof of this. A tradition in his family says that he built a furnace in 1735, about one mile
from the site of Cornwall Furnace, and cinders were pointed out to the late H. C. Grittinger of the
Lebanon County Historical Society about twenty years ago. This would seem to sustain the tradition.
Hut this supposed furnace was undoubtedly a bloomery and may be regarded as Peter Grubb's first iron
enterprise. That this furnace, or bloomery, was an experimental affair, is evident from the fact
that it was located on the bank of a small spring or run that was entirely too insignificant to
furnish water power to run the bellows, which in all probability was worked by hand. In 1739, he
leased the Cornwall ore lands to Samuel Grubb and Joseph Taylor. "Ye leace" dated September 22nd,
1739, was made by Peter Grubb of Lancaster county, ironmaster, to Samuel Grubb of East Bradford,
Chester county, mason, and Joseph Taylor of Kennett township, wheelwright and blacksmith, on 300
acres in Lebanon township for mining all metals and minerals except iron. They were to employ five
men after two years, and more If they pleased. The product was to be divided into thirtytwo parts,
of which the Grubbs were to have fifteen each and Taylor two. Joseph Taylor died August 2nd, 1740.
The earliest recorded evidence of Peter Grubb's connection with iron making in Lancaster county (now
Lebanon) is believed to be coptained in this lease. It is also stated in the old document that Peter
Grubb "intends to build an iron furnace" on lands adjacent to that leased to Samuel Grubb and Joseph
Taylor. That this furnace was undoubtedly Cornwall, planned in 1739 and the first blast made in
1742, and named in memory of the county in England from whence came Peter Grubb's ancestors. It is
one of the oldest furnaces in the country and was in operation until a few years ago. It is supposed
that Hopewell Forge was built about the same time.
Peter Grubb was not only fortunate in his discovery of this iron ore deposit but he also found in
close proximity an abundance of limestone
and a never failing stream of water, which afforded power to blow a furnace at the edge of the ore
deposit. The capacity of Cornwall furnace when erected was about five or six tons a week.
The success of the enterprise being assured, a company was formed to carry on the iron works. A
lease was executed June 18th, 1745, between "Peter Grubb of the County of Chester, yeoman, of the
one part; and John Crosby, Esq., Caleb Pearce, Peter Dicks, Jacob Carter, John Pennell, John Crosby,
Jr., Oeorge Churchman, Samuel Grubb, Daniel Walker of Chester county, Peter Worrall of Lancaster
county, and Ebenezer Curry and John Wallace of Philadelphia, partners and company of the iron works
called Cornwall Furnace and Hopewell Forge, of the other part"
In this indenture, still in the possession of the Grubb family, it is stated that Peter Grubb leased
637 acres in Lebanon township whereon the furnace was erected and 218 acres of the two other tracts
in Warwick township whereon the forge was erected, the whole to a company enumerated in the
foregoing paragraph for twenty years, at an annual rental of 250 pounds. The first payment was to be
made June 18th, 1746. It was agreed that Peter Grubb should have the use of the soil of part of one
of the tracts whereon the furnace was erected, allowing the company to cut and "cole" timber
(converting it into charcoal) and dig and search for iron ore. Peter reserved the right to dig and
search for other minerals and to use the stream above the furnace bellows if he should have occasion
to erect works for smelting any other ores. Four or more persons within two months, were to appraise
thq furnace, forge, wheels, bellows, "colehouses" (charcoal-houses), etc., that they might be
delivered up in as good condition at the end of the lease, either party to pay as it might be better
or worse, though Peter Grubb should not pay for other furnaces and forges which they might erect for
their own advantage.
In Israel Acrelius's History of New Sweden, written about 1756, appears the following: "Cornwall or
Grubb's iron works are in Lancaster county. The mine is rich and abundant, forty feet deep,
commencing two feet under the earth's surface. The ore is somewhat mixed with sulphur and copper.
Peter Grubb was its discoverer. Here there is a furnace which makes twenty-four tons of iron a week
and keeps six forges regularly at work — two of his own, two beloning to Germans in the
neighborhood, and two in Maryland. The pig iron is carried to the Susquehanna river, thence to
Maryland, and finally to England. The bar iron is sold mostly in the country and in the interior
towns, the remainder in Philadelphia. It belongs to the heirs of the Grubb estate, but is now rented
to Gurrit and Co."
Peter Grubb's first wife, who was Martha Bates Wall, widow of James Wall and daughter of Jeremiah
and Mary Bates, died in 1740. In the records of Concord Monthly meeting we find that Peter Grubb of
Lancaster county and Hannah Marshall of Concord, were married 12 mo. 10th, 1741-1742, at Concord
meeting. Hannah was the widow of Thomas Marshall and daughter of Benjamin and Ann Mendenhall of
Concord. She was born 6 mo. 11th, 1696. It is supposed that Peter Grubb moved to Wilmington, Del.
before 1747. Certain real estate transactions on record seem to indicate that he continued to reside
in that place until his death, which occurred in 1754.
Peter Grubb dying intestate, his property was divided between his two sons, Curtis and Peter Grubb,
the former receiving two-thirds and the latter one-third. After the Revolution, Curtis assigned to
his son. Peter, one-sixth of his interest; and this share passing into the hands of Robert Coleman,
laid the foundations of family wealth which the Lebanon and Paris Colemans and the Aldens enjoy.
The history of the Cornwall Iron hills is fraught with thrilling interest and filled with curious
chapters. Many noted personages move through the story. There is the glamour of dazzling riches; the
conflict of blood relatives where financial interests are at stake; the loss of untold wealth
because some old worthy, long since gathered unto his fathers, made a mistake of one word in the
drawing up of a deed; of plots of inheritance and descent, of success and failure, love,
estrangement and poverty. It all came about in this manner:
When Peter Grubb the third, son of Curtis and grandson of Peter the first, and his wile Mary, to
satisfy an obligation, sold May 9th, 1786, their one-sixth interest in the Cornwall iron ore hills
to Robert Coleman, his heirs and assigns forever, they inserted in the deed this provision: "Saving
and excepting unto the said Peter Grubb, Jr.. his heirs, and assigns, the right, liberty and
privilege, at all time hereafter, of entering upon the premises and of digging, raising and hauling
away his sufficient quantity of iron ore for the supply of any furnace at the election of Poter
Grubb, Jr., his heirs and assigns." This right was subsequently sold to George Ege. through whom it
passed to the proprietors of the Robesonia Iron Company by whom the right is held and exercised
In the deed involving this grant, the grantor, over his signature, made the declaration that the
provisions shall hold good "as long as water runs and grass grows." Out of this, in later years,
grew a lawsuit which was only recently decided. The privilege to use ore for one furnace was eo
indefinite that as the decades slipped by, the "oven furnace" grew from a diminutive charcoal affair
to the great structure owned by Ferguson, White & Co.. and which is now the basis of the Robesonia
Iron Company. The owners of the hills disputed the right to take more than ore enough to supply the
original furnace. After long litigation, the courts decided that the privilege was limited only by
the capacity of a furnace. To-day the clause holds good, and no matter how great the capacity of the
modern furnace may become the one designated by the heirs of Peter Grubb, the third, must be
supplied free of cost with all the ore it can consume. The Robesonia Iron Company, which has a
modern furnace plant at Robesonia, Berks county, Pa., is now getting its ore under this ancient and
curiously worded document.
In the writing of a deed for a certain other sixth interest in the ore hills, it had evidently been
the intention of the grantor to have incorporated a clause similar to the one now enjoyed by the
Robesonia company, but some one, no one knows who, inserted the innocent adjective "charcoal." In
those days all furnaces were operated by charcoal, but to-day its use makes the operation of a
furnace prohibitively expensive. Mount Hope Furnace, when it used charcoal, enjoyed this free ore
privilege, but to-day the plant is nothing but a ruin, and millions of dollars were lost because of
the word "charcoal" in the deed of a century ago.
The Cornwall ore mine riches figured in the courts for many years, and during the trial of the
celebrated case of R. W. and W. Coleman against R. and G. D. Coleman, wherein it was charged by the
plaintiffs that the defendants had carried away more ore than they were entitled to, the public was
informed, for the first time, of the tremendous volume of ore which had already been mined at low
cost. Then it was disclosed that the ore was so rich that a little more than two tons of it yielded
a ton of iron.
On October 22nd, 1784, Jacob Graybill conveyed to Peter Grubb the second, son of Peter the groat
pioneer discoverer of the Cornwall iron hills and builder of the Cornwall iron furnace, a tract of
land containing 212% acres, situated in Rapho and Penn townships, Lancaster county. Pa. Upon this he
built a charcoal furnace in 1784-1785, which he called Mount Hope. The furnace stands to the east of
the famous mansion built in 1800, by his son Henry Bates Grubb. It is located at the foot of a
picturesque ravine on the banks of the Chickasalunga (Big Chikls creek.) It is set in the foothills
of the South mountain, about four or five miles east of Cornwall Furnace. After being operated
continuously and successfully as a charcoal furnace by the Grubb family for a round century, it went
out of blast in 1885.
The present owner of the Mount Hope Furnace and estate, which comprises more than three thousand
acres of land, is Miss Daisy Elizabeth Brooke Grubb, a lineal descendant of Henry Grubb of Cornwall,
England. She traces her descent as follows:
1.— Henry Grubb resided in Stoke Climsland, Cornwall, England in 1663.
2.— John Grubb, son of Henry
of Stoke Climsland, settled at Upland. Chester county, Pa., before 1679. He married Frances Vane. He
died in the winter of 1707-1708.
3.— Peter Grubb, the first, son of John and Frances Vane Grubb,
married Martha Bates Wall 2 mo. 10th, 1732. She died in 1740. He married the second time Hannah
Mendenhall Marshall 12 mo. 10th. 1741-1742. Peter Grubb died in 1754.
4.— Peter Grubb the second,
son of Peter and Martha Bates Grubb, is said to have been born at Cornwall, Pa., September 8th,
1740. He died at Hopewell Forge, in Warwick township, Pa., January 17th, 1786. He was married
November 28th, 1771, at ', Tinian" the seat of James Burd, Esq., in Lancaster county. Pa., to Mary
Shippen Burd, who was born at Shippensburg, January 13th, 1753, and died, at Hopewell Forge,
February 23rd. 1774, at the early age of twentyone. She was a daughter of James and Sarah Shippen
Burd. Peter Grubb built Mount Hope charcoal furnace. He was colonel of the Eighth Battalion in the
War of the Revolution.
5.— Henry Bates Grubb, son of Peter the second and Mary Shippen Burd Grubb,
was born at Hopewell Forge, February 6th, 1774, seventeen days before the death of his young mother,
and died at Mount Hope Furnace, March 9th, 1823. He was married at Pine Grove, Pa., June 18th, 1805,
to Ann Carson, daughter of John Carson, ironmaster of Dauphin county, Pa. She died October 19th.
1806, in her 26th year, leaving one child, Henry Carson Grubb. Henry Bates Grubb was married the
second time December 1st, 1808, to Harriet Amelia Buckley, daughter of Daniel and Sarah Brooke
Buckley, of Competence Farm Pequea, Lancaster county, Pa. She will long be remembered for her
benelicence in founding Hope Episcopal church at Mount Hope, Pa. To this union were born seven
children, of which the second was 6.—Clement Brooke Grubb, born January 9th, 1815. He died October
31st, 1889. He was married February 27th, 1841 to Mary Ann Brooke, daughter of Charles Brooke,
ironmaster. The fruit of this union were: 7.— Harriet Brooke Grubb born October 31st 1842. She was
married to Stephen B. Irwin of Philadelphia, April 8th, 1863. She died March 22nd. 1906. 8.— Charles
Brooke Grubb was born October 6th, 1844, in Lancaster. Pa. He was graduated from Princeton college.
He was a partner of his father in the iron business, succeeding on the latter's death to the
different furnaces and his father's interest in the Cornwall ore banks and the Conestoga ore bank.
He died unmarried November 12th, 1911, and was buried in Woodward Hill cemetery, Lancaster, Pa.
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