Coatesville’s location along the Brandywine River in the midst of the Chester Valley stimulated its growth and prosperity. The first settlement was an Indian village which had grown as a trading center and as a market for the fur trapping industry. Records indicate land holdings as early as 1714 by William Fleming, a native of Greenock, Scotland. Another early resident was Peter Bazillion, Indian fur trader and merchant, whose accomplishments were recognized with a market place on Oak Street by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission.
In 1787, Moses Coates, a prosperous farmer and the area’s first postmaster, purchased land which now comprises the center of the town.
Meanwhile, a few miles south, Isaac Pennock was formulating plans for his Federal Slitting Mill. The mill, later known as Rokeby, was operating by 1793 and furnished the much-needed iron products for the growing region.
Then, in 1794, rural life in the valley changed with the completion of the Philadelphia to Lancaster Turnpike, now U.S. Route 30. It was America’s first turnpike. Moses Coates’ son-in-law, Jesse Kersey, a potter by trade and a Quaker missionary by vocation, conceived of an idea to develop the area by selling frontage properties on the turnpike.
Jesse formed a partnership with ironmaster Isaac Pennock and in 1810 purchased one hundred ten and five-tenths (110.5) acres of Coates’ farm that lay along both sides of the Brandywine River. The farm’s sawmill was converted to an ironworks and named Brandywine Iron Works and Nail Factory, the forerunner of Lukens, Inc.
The village was “Coates Villa” and thus modern Coatesville and the longest operating steel mill in America were launched together.
In 1813, Charles Lukens, MD, married Isaac Pennock’s daughter, Rebecca. Following her husband’s death in 1825, Rebecca took over the operations of the mill, purchasing it from her mother and shepherding it through turmoil and market panic into a prosperous mill.
An event of major importance to the region was the construction in 1834 of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, established a station on the west side of the Brandywine, which because of its location at the halfway point between the two terminals, was designated as “Midway,” and the village that quickly formed around the terminal took the same name. It was in 1867 that the village of Coatesville and the Village of Midway joined to form the Borough of Coatesville.
Coatesville continued to operate as a borough until 1915, when by a majority vote of its citizens, it became the first and only city in Chester County.