GENEALOGIES: The Coleman Family Connection

No factor was more critical to the formation and early success of the Johnson Company than the fact that Tom L. Johnson, Arthur J. Moxham, Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., and Alfred V. du Pont were related by blood or marriage. The company was borne in that period of American economic history dominated by the family business, when the inventor or skilled craftsman was also a company's businessman and entrepreneur. The prototype of this period was the Du Pont Powder Company, in which younger men in the family were brought into the business at the lowest levels and moved slowly through the ranks into management positions. Similar in format but smaller in scale was the Louisville Rolling Mill Company, a largely family-owned, managed and operated business since the early 1850s. Both companies were rigid family-run businesses, with few if any outsiders participating in either their operations or financing. And both companies followed the practice of absorbing the younger men of the family, no matter how remotely related, into its basic operations, its sales agencies, or its subsidiaries.

It was precisely this pattern that seemed to Alfred V. du Pont to be an obstacle to his more rapid advancement in the Du Pont Powder Company in the early 1850s and motivated him at the age of twenty-one to seek a measure of independence by moving to Louisville. Even so, his initial effort, the purchase of the Du Pont powder agency there, was financed by both loans from his family and the backing by the Du Pont Company itself. Fred's business acumen became quite evident early on as he restructured the agency (bringing his younger brother Bidermann in as a partner) and used both his profits and the backing of relatives from Wilmington to diversify his investments over the next forty years. By 1890 he was by all accounts one of the wealthiest men in Louisville.

As entrepreneur and businessman, Fred du Pont was always on the lookout for investment possibilities in Louisville, particularly in the early 1870s when he wanted to divest himself of the powder agency. This opportunity materialized when Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., President and successor to his father in the family-run Louisville Rolling Mill Company, was forced by the depression following the Panic of 1873 to seek refinancing. Coleman was willing to accept capital from Fred and Bidermann du Pont simply because Bidermann had married his stepsister Ellen Coleman in 1861. Bidermann du Pont was essentially part of the extended Coleman family. The marriage essentially sanctified the merging of family-run and financed business interests that controlled significant parts of the Louisville economy by 1880.

Historically, the fortunes of a family business in the latter part of the nineteenth century tended to rise through the efforts of one or more members of a single generation of the family, only to degenerate when the second and third generations produced individuals of far less talent or interest in the enterprise. In the close-knit and intensely loyal Coleman family, intermarriage with the du Ponts expanded not only the financial resources each family could draw upon, but also the kinds of entrepreneurial talent accessible to each as an entrepreneur and capitalist. Du Pont capital made it possible for Coleman to explore steelmaking in Birmingham in the late 1870s, which in turn expanded the entrepreneurial horizons of the young Welsh ironmaster related to Coleman by marriage, Arthur J. Moxham. Dora Morgan, the second wife of Thomas Coleman, Sr., was Moxham's aunt who brought him to the United States in 1869 and found a place for him in the Louisville Rolling Mill. Within seven years, young Moxham had completed his apprenticeship as an ironmaster and had married Helen Coleman, daughter of Thomas Cooper Coleman, President of the mill. Two years later, the du Ponts would have such confidence in Moxham's ironmaking skills and business sense to invest large amounts of capital in his innovative steel rail rolling processes over a four-year period in Birmingham, Louisville, and Johnstown.

No less significant an outgrowth of the intermarriage of families was the du Ponts' growing confidence in another of Coleman's young wards, Tom L. Johnson. Johnson's aunt Dullie (his father's sister) had married Thomas Cooper Coleman in 1849, and when Tom Johnson's family returned to the Louisville area in 1869, Coleman employed the him as an office boy in his Louisville Rolling Mill. Soon Tom moved to the offices of one of Bidermann du Pont's many Louisville enterprises - the small horse-drawn Central Passenger Railway - which he quickly reorganized and renovated into a profitable operation. His knowledge of the business and obvious entrepreneurial agility encouraged both Fred and Bidermann du Pont to invest in the purchasing of other railway lines, and ultimately to capitalize the production of one of Tom's many railway inventions - the street girder or Jaybird rail.

The family company pattern of business loyalty was continued by both Moxham and Johnson after they left Louisville. The Johnson Company plant on the Stony Creek in Johnstown became a training ground for several of Johnson's nephews and a number of the younger du Pont men whose interests were looked after initially by Fred du Pont: William (Lammot's son who stayed but a short time), Thomas Coleman (Bidermann's eldest son who came up from du Pont's Central City coal operations to become general manager of the Johnson Company in 1894 and later purchased the Johnstown Passenger Railway Company), and Evan Morgan (Bidermann's youngest son who came to Johnstown in 1896 to work in the track welding department, briefly flirted with the ice business, and ultimately moved over to the Johnstown Passenger Railway Company where he became general manager by 1910). Lammot's oldest son Pierre was brought by Tom Johnson to Lorain to liquidate the Johnson Company's other assets after steel mill properties were sold to Federal Steel. A. B. du Pont, Jr., Bidermann's other son, served as the superintendent for Johnson's street railway companies in Cleveland and later Detroit.

As proven entrepreneurs and businessmen within the du Pont orbit, both Tom Johnson and Arthur Moxham had earned the trust of Fred du Pont. Johnson was named co-executor of Fred's will and consequently became a trusted investment counselor and confidante of Pierre S. du Pont who (at the age of 23) was charged with overseeing the extensive financial interests left by the estate to himself and his seven other brothers and sisters. Johnson also played a significant role in the re-distribution of that portion of du Pont's estate willed to Fred's elderly mother Margaretta Lammot du Pont. Johnson's investment advice was understandably quite prized, for his Johnson Company stock paid healthy dividends and almost doubled in value and his railway investments proved good investments as growth stocks. And while Pierre S. du Pont continued to follow Johnson's counseling (albeit quite conservatively) into the early twentieth century, it was Thomas Coleman du Pont who invested broadly in street railway stocks even after he became President of the E.I. Du Pont de Nemours Company in 1902.

Arthur J. Moxham was an astute businessman and plant manager who understood his production processes first-hand from beginning to end. He had nurtured the Johnson Company from fledgling operation to national prominence through scientific management and sophisticated marketing techniques unrivaled in industry at the time. Fred du Pont had counseled his own wards Pierre, Alfred I., and Thomas Coleman du Pont, to seek Moxham's advice on any business problem. It was no coincidence that Moxham brought Thomas Coleman du Pont to Johnstown to manage the switch works in 1894. Coleman therefore essentially apprenticed under Moxham during times of both company growth and hardship, and developed a healthy trust for Moxham's business sense. He turned to Moxham as a principal advisor during the purchase of the Du Pont Company in 1902, and loyally kept Moxham on the Executive Board of the Company until 1915 when he sold all of his company stock to Pierre S. du Pont.

Previous research into the formative period of the modern Du Pont Company has tended to evade the question of why both Tom L. Johnson and Arthur J. Moxham played such prominent roles in du Pont family affairs. Several concluded that both men were simply friends of the du Pont family, particularly Coleman, from the Louisville period. This conclusion did little to explain the connection of the two men with Pierre du Pont, who spent virtually none of his life in Louisville. Since very little research effort has focused on the business activities of members of the du Pont family in Louisville, the family connection between the du Ponts and Johnson and Moxham has largely gone undiscovered. Although both Pierre and Coleman du Pont were strongly associated with the Johnson Company in its later years, the basis of that association was never made very clear. The origin of the connection becomes obvious if one focuses on the du Ponts' Louisville interests and their association with Thomas Cooper Coleman.

In the abridged genealogical chart, and family narratives which follow, the Johnson, Coleman, Moxham, and du Pont family linkages are detailed. They allow the reader to follow the family relationships that pervaded the Coleman and du Pont businesses in Louisville and influenced many of their investment decisions.

The Family Lineage of Tom L. Johnson

The section of the Johnson lineage important to this study begins with the marriage in Virginia between William Johnson (1714-1765) and Elizabeth Cave (1720-1785), the daughter of Benjamin Cave. The marriage produced nine children, including Robert ("Robin") Johnson (1745-1815) who was the first of the Johnsons to come into Kentucky. In 1770, Robin married Jemima Suggett and they had eleven children including William Mentor Johnson (a member of the U.S. Congress 1807-1837 and Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren), Henry Johnson, and James Johnson (1774-1826). The latter married his cousin Nancy Payne, producing many children, among them William Johnson (1799-1857) an 1817 graduate of West Point.

William Johnson was married twice, the second time in 1826 to Ann Holland Payne (1812-1841) producing six children, including Jilson P. Johnson (a landholder near Louisville), Dulcenia Payne Johnson (1833-1911), who married Thomas Cooper Coleman (1824-1901) in 1849; and Albert W. Johnson (1830-1911), an itinerant farmer and entrepreneur who married Helen Loftin (1834-1905) in 1853. Albert and Helen Johnson produced three children: Thomas Loftin Johnson (1854-1911), inventor of the Jaybird girder rail and co-founder of the Johnson Company in 1883; William L. Johnson (1857-1903); and Albert L. Johnson (1860-1901). Tom Johnson married his distant cousin (the great-granddaughter of Henry Johnson, above) Margaret J. Johnson in 1874, and they had three children: Robert Ruffin, who was born in Louisville in 1876 and died in infancy; Loftin Edwards Johnson (b. 1879 in Indianapolis); and Elizabeth Flournoy Johnson (b. 1881 in Indianapolis).

The Family Lineage of Thomas Cooper Coleman

The relevant section of the Coleman lineage begins in County Cork, Ireland with the 1821 marriage of Thomas Coleman (1800-1861) and Catherine Clare Dwyer (1800-1830). The marriage produced four children before Catherine's death: Thomas Anthony (1824-1901), who later changed his christened name to that of his father's adopted name Thomas Cooper Coleman and married Dulcenia Payne Johnson (1833-1911) in 1849; Margaret (1825-1904) who married Peter Donigan in 1850; John (1826-?); and Nanno (1827-1914). In 1833, Thomas Coleman married a second time to Deborah (Dora) Morgan (1810-1898) from Wales, who bore him nine additional children: John Morgan (1834-1886); Eliza Ann (1836-1914); Ellen Susan (1838-1876), who married Antoine Bidermann du Pont in 1861; Michael Barry (1840-1907); Evan James (1841-1902); William Pritchard (1844-1901); Edward Randall (1847-1886); Dora Catherine (1849-1869); and Richard Llewellyn (1851-1901). All of Coleman's children by his second marriage except Morgan were born in Louisville.

The marriage between Thomas Cooper Coleman and Dulcenia Payne Johnson produced thirteen children: Ann Mary (1850-1891); Catherine Clara (1852-1853); Margaret Dwyer (1854-1940), who married Edgar C. Moxham in 1891 after the death of her younger sister Bessie (see below); Helen Johnson (1856-1932) who married Arthur James Moxham in 1876; Dora Morgan (1858-1933) who married Thomas Ward in 1878; Jilson Johnson (1859-?); Bessie (1861-1886) who married Edgar C. Moxham in 1882 but died during the birth of her third child; Dulcenia (1863-1954) who married Charles Alfred Marshall in 1888 but was widowed seven months later and bore a child in December of 1889; Jennie (1866-1938); Thomas Cooper (1868-1926); Ophelia nay Pelie (1870-1966); Alberta Johnson (1873-1950); and Caddie (1875-1876).

An extended description of the family lineage of Thomas Coleman of Louisville, including background materials and charts, was added to the archival collection of the Filson Club in Louisville in 1991. [go]

The Family Lineage of Arthur James Moxham

The Moxham family lineage begins in Wales with the marriage of John Morgan and Elizabeth Pritchard, which produced twelve children including Deborah (Dora) Morgan (1810-1898) who marriedThomas Coleman in 1833; and Catherine Morgan (1816-1876) who married Egbert Moxham (1824-1864) in 1851. Egbert and Catherine Moxham had five children: Florence Elizabeth (1852-?); Arthur James(1854-1931) who married Helen Johnson Coleman in 1876 and was co-founder of the Johnson Company in 1883; Evangeline Margaret (1856-?); Evan Pritchard (b. 1857 but died in infancy); and Edgar Coleman (1858-1913) who married Bessie Coleman in 1882. Arthur and Helen Moxham had five children: Thomas Coleman (1877-1901), born in Louisville and married to Ellen Huston in 1900; Egbert (1881-1956), born in Birmingham and married to Dora Phillips in 1906; Florence Elizabeth, born in Johnstown in April 1883 but died within a week; Dulcenia Coleman (1885-1956), born in Johnstown and married around 1901 to Phillip Pryor Huston, Jr.(and brother of Ellen Huston, above); and Evangeline Morgan (1887-?), born in Brigend, Wales and married in 1912 to George Lobdell.

The Family Lineage of Alfred V. and Bidermann du Pont

The Louisville du Ponts are traced back to Wilmington and the marriage of Alfred V.P. du Pont (1798-1856) and Margaretta Lammot, which produced six children including: Eleuthere Irene du Pont (1829-1877) who married Charlotte Henderson and had one child Alfred I. du Pont (1864-1935); Lammot du Pont (1831-1884) who married Mary Belin and had nine children including Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954); Alfred V. du Pont (1833-1893) who moved to Louisville in 1854 and never married; and Antoine Bidermann du Pont (1837-1923) who went to Louisville with his brother in 1854 and married Ellen Susan Coleman in 1861. Bidermann and Ellen du Pont had seven children, including Thomas Coleman du Pont (1863-1930), A. Bidermann du Pont, Jr. (1865-1919), and Evan Morgan du Pont (1872-1941).

continue to References