"The Story of Cornwall (In Case You Missed It)"

There is a second monument in Cornwall center that is perhaps less noticeable than the bronze monument to the Cornwall miner. While the miner stands more prominently near the four corners of the 419 intersection, the great stone slab pictured here stands by the Borough Police Station. As it attests, this monument was erected by Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1976. The full story is "chiseled in stone."  

The Story of Cornwall

“Presented to the Borough of Cornwall by Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Cornwall Bicentennial Committee and Cornwall Borough Council, 1976”

Cornwall, Pennsylvania, Nationally and World famous as the site of America’s most historic iron ore mine, lies on the northern rim of South Mountain, Lebanon County.

The Township of Cornwall became a borough on October 11, 1926. Cornwall Borough is now composed of eight villages: Anthracite, Burd Coleman, North Cornwall, Cornwall Center, Paradise, Miners Village, Rexmont and Karinchville. The land on which the Borough is located was included in the original grant by King Charles of England to William Penn. Later, Penn’s sons sold 5,000 acres to Joseph Turner who afterwards assigned these acres to William Allen.

Cornwall’s history dates back to 1734 when Peter Grubb purchased from Allen 300 acres in Lebanon Township, Lancaster County. Three years later, Grubb was granted a warrant for two adjoining tracts of some 140 acres enclosing the three ore hills known as Big Hill, Middle Hill and Grassy Hill. The hills were described as containing outcroppings of magnetite ore, rich and abundant.

For 231 years these unique deposits yielded some 110 million tons of iron ore, along with copper, cobalt, gold and silver.

By 1742, Peter Grubb had built the first charcoal furnace, named Cornwall Furnace, after the English mining town where his father was born.

Cornwall Furnace operated continuously from that first blast in 1742 until 1883.

The furnace was a war plant during the American Revolution. Hessian prisoners joined regular workers to fashion cannon, shot, stoves, cooking pots and salt pans used to gather salt from the Atlantic Ocean to preserve rare supplies of meat.

So important was the furnace to the War for Independence that in October 1778, Generals Washington and Lafayette came here to see cannon cast.

Early laborers were slaves from Africa and indentured servants from Germany and Ireland. Later came the English, Welsh, Blacks, Mexicans, Hungarians, Yugoslavians, Czechoslovakians and Italians.

An Irish immigrant, Robert Coleman, rose from clerk to become one of the Commonwealth’s greatest ironmakers. In 1798, Cornwall Furnace and the ore hills became his property. He and his descendants presided over Cornwall until 1926, overseeing the building of four more furnaces.

Toward the end of the 1800’s, holdings of the Ore Banks passed to the Pennsylvania Steel Company. In 1926, Bethlehem Steel Corporation acquired the Cornwall ore deposits. Later, Bethlehem found new ore deposits and developed two underground mines.

The Great Depression came to Cornwall, and for the decade from 1929-39, there was little or no production.

World War II brought back heavy demand and prosperity. Again the ore hills responded. But studies in the 1950’s forecast the depletion of ore by the early 1970’s.

In June 1972, when Hurricane Agnes inundated the open pit and underground tunnels, economics dictated the last chapter in Cornwall’s mining history.

Yet, when an era ended in 1973, high grade ore was still being recovered above ground from the area included in Peter Grubb’s purchase some 236 years before.


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