George Dawson Coleman and his brother Robert built the North Lebanon Furnaces in the 1840s. They were the grandsons of Robert Coleman - the Robert Coleman that purchased Elizabeth and Cornwall Furnaces. This Robert Coleman was Pennsylvania's first millionaire of record. His grandsons exhibited the same bold industrial leadership by constructing Lebanon County's first hot-blast anthracite iron furnace and they were only in their 20s. George Dawson Coleman was considered one of the finest Iron Masters of his day. He married Deborah Brown of Philadelphia in 1852, the same year he purchased his brother’s interest in the North Lebanon Furnaces.
Photos coutesy of the Lebanon Historic Society
Ann Old Coleman
Then in the following year he constructed the "Homestead" estate just north of furnaces. George Dawson Coleman was very generous to
the Lebanon Community and was acquainted with President Abraham Lincoln and a personal friend of President U. S. Grant. George Dawson
Coleman remained active in the furnace operations until his early death in 1878, at the age of 53. His two youngest sons were only
in their teens at the time and not able to take over the management of the operations. Fortunately, his sons-in-laws, Arthur and Horace
Brock were more than capable to assist Deborah Brown Coleman in the task.
George Dawson Coleman
Horace and Arthur Brock were sons of John Penn Brock, a wealthy coal operator, among other activities. Both sons had a keen business
sense with industrial interests. They married daughters of George Dawson and Deborah Brown Coleman – Arthur married Sarah and Horace
married Debbie. It is interesting that the Brock brothers and the Coleman daughters were actually distant cousins. The Brocks managed
the furnace operations for Deborah Coleman after her husband’s passing until Bertram Dawson and Edward Coleman were of age to assume
the management of the furnaces.
Horace and Arthur became involved in numerous mining operations in the American South West as well as in local Lebanon manufacturing
resulting at the end of the 1890s in the formation of the American Iron and Steel Corporation – the merger of numerous companies in
Lebanon and Reading. One of the early decisions that Bertram Dawson and his brother Edward made was to sell the North Lebanon Furnaces
to Pennsylvania Steel in 1901. Bertram stayed on as manager. The Coleman and Brock families were a close knit family that enjoyed
each other’s company immensely and they threw many grand and elegant parties in Mt. Lebanon as what the estate was then known as.
By the end of the second decade of the new 1900s arrived the changes to the family was considerable. Horace and Arthur Brock had passed
away and Bethlehem Steel had come to town, purchasing, among other companies, Pennsylvania Steel and Lackawanna Steel. They took possession
of the North Lebanon Furnaces and the manufacturing facilities of the American Iron and Steel. Horace and Debbie’s son John Penn Brock
(named for his grandfather) became a manager in the Bethlehem Steel company, but sadly passed away at a young age in 1928. This was
followed by the passing of Bertram Dawson in 1933 and finally in 1935, the last Coleman living at Mt. Lebanon, George Dawson and Deborah’s
daughter Fanny, passed away. The descendants either sold or gifted their estates to the City of Lebanon forming the genesis of what
is now Coleman Memorial Park.
The Coleman name is still a name that engenders awe and respect in the Lebanon community and their
legacy is a powerful and inspiring testimony to the history and development of our community.
Bertram Dawson Coleman
John Penn Brock
Coleman Memorial Park enjoys a rich history beginning with the Formation of the park from the five Coleman and Brock family estates to the new history being formed today.
The Coleman Royal Family