WHO WERE COLEMAN AND WEAVER?

The principals in the partnership that created Colver were John Heisley Weaver and B. Dawson Coleman. This partnership was formed in 1909 to exploit the coal resources available in the Cambria and Indiana county areas of Pennsylvania. Weaver had sixty percent of the partnership and Coleman the remaining forty percent. This partnership lasted from then until February of 1922.

The first indication of the presence of a partnership was by S. C. Jencks when he notes that Coleman and Weaver (jointly) purchased a mine that had been worked in a slipshod manner at Nanty-Glo in 1909. The men then worked together to purchase the coal rights in the area north of Ebensburg.

The partnership then developed coal mines and a railroad in the Cambria and Indiana areas of Pennsylvania. The mine at Colver was developed and operated as the Ebensburg Coal Company. One of the first steps was to purchase an old logging railroad which was renamed and further developed as the Cambria and Indiana railroad (C&I RR). There was one coal mine at Nanty Glo and a second mine at Bakerton which were both operated as the Heisley Coal Company. Another mine was developed at Revloc in 1917 and operated under the auspices of the Monroe Coal Company. In addition, Weaver had extensive holdings of coal mines and a railroad in Preston County, West Virginia independent of the partnership.

Coleman and Weaver took various roles in Colver and the partnership. Initially Coleman was president of both the railroad and the Ebensburg Coal Company. Weaver was president of the Heisley Coal Company which operated Nanty Glo Mines 1 and 2 and had other interests separate from the partnership. Coleman seems to have been active until about 1915 when his wife became seriously ill, Jencks stating that in 1915 they were to see Mr. Coleman only four times during the year due to his wife's illness. In a 1916 interview with the Grit Newspaper of Williamsport, Weaver spoke as the president and chief spokesman for the coal company and the community of Colver.

Up until the partnership ended in 1922, Coleman was the President of the C&I Railroad. When the partnership dissolved, Coleman took over sole ownership of the Ebensburg Coal Company and the elements associated with the coal company. Weaver retained the Cambria & Indiana railroad, and Coleman sold his 40% share in the C&I to the New York Central Railroad. During the coal strike of 1922 we see Coleman speaking as the owner of the mine to various newspaper reporters.

Both men took a very active role in development and management of the various interests in the Cambria and Indiana county region. S. H. Jencks makes many references to both men being in the region and meeting with the owners. In addition some of the naming conventions utilized by these men reflect their involvement -- the name Colver was derived by using the first three letters of Coleman and the last three letters of Weaver. Revloc was simply a reversal of the name Colver. A junction point on the C&I railroad was named Manver from the last three letters of each man's last name. The mine at Nanty Glo was called the Heisley Mine from Weaver's middle name. One source indicates the town of Heilwood in Indiana county was a corruption of Heilseywood where Weaver did have a mine which he sold in 1905 before the formation of the partnership.

 

B Dawson Coleman.

B. Dawson Coleman was born on December 23, 1865 and first appears in 1895 as part owner of the North Lebanon Iron Furnace near Lebanon Pennsylvania. He was part of a family that had a reputation for being "Ironmasters. His grandfather operated a forge that forged the chain that was placed across the Delaware River to keep the British fleet from coming up the river to capture Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War.

This iron furnace was started in 1846 by his father, G. Dawson Coleman, and his uncle, Robert, to use the anthracite coal and iron ore deposits from the region. This was new technology at that time, Most of the existing furnaces of the time used charcoal. In 1852, Robert Coleman withdrew and G. Dawson Coleman became the sole proprietor and operated the furnace until his death in 1878, when his wife, Deborah Brown Coleman, became the owner. B. Dawson and his brother, Edward Coleman, came into ownership of the furnace after their mother's death in 1895. They operated the furnace jointly until 1901 when it was purchased by the Pennsylvania Steel Company. B. Dawson remained as general manager for some time after the purchase by Pennsylvania Steel..

It appears that B. Dawson Coleman's family, both his father and mother, were very active in the Presbyterian church(es) in the Lebanon, Pa area. His mother started a Sunday School for the children of the workers at the North Lebanon Furnace which eventually became the Christ Presbyterian Church. The entire old furnace area is now Coleman Memorial Park and Christ Presbyterian Church is on the edge of the memorial park..

G. Dawson Coleman outfitted the 93rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment for service in the Civil War and after the war was elected a State Senator. Following the Civil war, he and his wife set up an organization to look after the widows and orphans of the men of this regiment. He was active in Republican politics and President Grant came to visit the Colemans at their home in Lebanon at least once.

Even though the family mansions and business interests were in Lebanon, the Colemans remained a part of the Philadelphia society. A listing of social organizations developed from the Philadelphia Blue Book in 1891 lists B. Dawson Coleman as a member of the "Four-in-Hand" club. (Four-in-Hand is a technique of driving a team of four horses with the reins for all four horses held in one hand. It required a high level of skill.)

(citation http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/pa/philadelphia/misc/four1891.txt)

Mrs. Coleman died in 1915 and B Dawson Coleman died on March 23, 1933. At the time of his death he was the President of the Ebensburg Coal Company, president of the First National Bank of Lebanon, PA., member of the board of the Coleman Coal Company, Girard Trust Company, Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, Western Saving Fund Society, Baldwin Locomotive Works and the General Refractories Company (source Jencks). Most of the family are buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.

John Heisley Weaver

John Heisley Weaver was born on May 15, 1859 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He was the son of George Weaver, dealer in salt, lime, plaster, cement, etc. and Elizabeth Heisley. George married Elizabeth Heisley February 27, 1850. Weaver began work as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Williamsport. In 1877 he entered the coal business, starting his own firm (J. H. Weaver and Company) in 1879.

At some point he moved to Philadelphia achieving a level of prominence by the year 1902. His picture appears in a album of prominent Philadelphians for the year 1902.

Weaver first acted as a coal broker and later purchased and developed his own coal mining properties. About 1904 he began purchasing his own mines in the Indiana County area of Pennsylvania. The first coal mine we are aware of are at Starford (named after the superintendent of the mine) in Indiana county. He also purchased a coal mine in Preston County, West Virginia about the same time. In 1905 Weaver has a mine at Possum Glory, later known as Heilwood, but this mine was sold in 1906. An old road marker near present day Heilwood indiated the town was first known as Heisleywood, later shortened to Heilwood. In 1907 Weaver purchased the Dixon Coal Company at Idamar. Newspaper accounts in 1911 indicate that the Starford mine was worked out about 1910, the mine was abandoned, and some of the houses in Starford were moved to Colver for worker housing.

Weaver had a seventeen acre estate on the "Main Line" in Merion, just outside of Philadelphia on which was constructed an elaborate mansion sometime in the 1919 -1920 timeframe. This estate was named "Maroebe," a combination of the first names of his daughters, Marion and Phoebe. There was a staff of about 29 people, including a watchman for the grounds, a personal maid for Mrs Weaver and a valet for Mr. Weaver. A great niece stated that many of the room furnishings and decor were imported from France. There were several greenhouses and barns on the property as well. He kept a personal railcar at the Overbrook station on the Pennsylvania Railroad. The mansion was torn down in the late 1930's.

In 1921 he was awarded the Cross of the Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy in recognition for his services in expediting the shipment of coal to the Allies during World War I. He was also a trustee of Bucknell University and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law by Bucknell in 1924

John Heisley Weaver died April 26, 1934 in Merion, near Philadelphia and is buried in Williamsport.

Relationship with the Town.

Interviews with both men as reported in the newspapers seem to exude a high degree of pride in the appearance, amenities provided for the town and for the comfort and well-being of their employees. The attitude appears paternalistic and is reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's concern for the well being of his servants and slaves, loaded with the inference that the workers were not capable of looking after their own interests.

It is from this background that we need to examine the relationship of B Dawson Coleman to the town of Colver. The Coleman family had a tradition of looking after their employees as evidenced by the care shown to the men and families at the both the furnace and the Civil War regiment by B Dawson's parents. During the bituminous coal miner's strike of 1922, B Dawson was interviewed by a newspaper reporter and the tone of the interview makes it appear that he took the strike as a personal affront. (citation).

Colver was not as tightly controlled as other coal mining towns in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, nevertheless a high degree of control was exercised by the operators. In May of 1922, the Ebensburg Coal Company published a notice in the Indiana (Pennsylvania) Times declaring that Colver was a closed town. This in essence enabled the company to control access to the town. They did not go to the point of installing a gate on the road into town as was done in Vintondale Pennsylvania. There is no doubt that both of these men saw no point in a miner's union, feeling that they had provided a better than average standard of living and that they had provided all the necessities of life for the mine and railroad workers. Even in light of Coleman's background of philanthropy and expressions of concern for the miner's well-being, Colver miners were fired and summarily evicted from company houses for violation of the rules. They did not hesitate to cut the miners pay, yet would personally take an interest in the plight of an injured miner.

Coleman had enough political "muscle" to have a troop of the Pennsylvania Militia encamped at Colver during the coal miners strike of 1922.

 


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