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IOWA FARMER GIVES $300,000 TO PAVE HIGHWAY.
Hillsboro, Ia., June 30 - Alex Coleman, 90, a farmer, having
$300,000 he did not desire to leave to any individual, has given the sum to the
public in order that a 10-miles stretch of road east of Hillsboro might be
paved. The paving is already laid and Mr. Coleman will be the subject of a
celebration on the part of citizens July 4, near Mr. Coleman's old home. He now
resides in Fort Madison.
-- Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 1, 1928
The Service Bulletin, issued by the State Highway
Commission compares a gift by Henry Ford to the state of Massachusetts of a
stretch of paved road less than two miles in length but costing $280,000 with a
donation made by Alexander Coleman, of Hillsboro, Iowa, of a paved road ten
miles in length, costing $250,000, in Lee and Henry counties. Mr. Coleman's gift
was to the people of the community in which he spent his boyhood days while
Henry Ford's road leads from the main highway to a privately owned museum and
tourist inn which is conducted for profit.
-- Iowa Recorder, Jan 25, 1928
Studied by Judge.
Ft. Madison - An interpretation of the will of the
late Alexander Coleman was being prepared by Judge J.R. Leary.
P.A. Blackford, executor of the will, appeared before
the Judge yesterday and asked for permission to use blacktop in building a
four mile road stretch between the Coleman road and the Bonaparte road.
Blackford told Leary that Coleman's will provides that
his money be used for concrete roads and that there is some doubt as to whether
blacktop may be classified as concrete. He explained that he had about $50,000
available for construction and that this would be sufficient for the four miles
of blacktop but would not be enough if he were compelled to use Portland cement
which is definitely classified as concrete.
-- Mt. Pleasant News, March 8, 1946
No Blacktop for Coleman Road
Ft. Madison, Ia. - A construction of
the Alexander Coleman will has been made by Judge J.R. Leary on request of
executor P.A. Blackford, the Lee county board of supervisors, and county
engineer James R. Dougherty.
The Coleman will provided that his estate be used for
building concrete roads, and the petitioners wanted to know if bituminous
blacktop could be considered concrete.
Judge Leary ruled that money from the estate could be
used only for the building of hard surfaced roads constructed of sand, gravel,
broken stone, or other mineral aggregates mixed with cement and water. His
construction of the will apparently eliminates blacktop as a material for
Coleman road building.
County officials said the practical result of the
decision was that blacktop could not be used on a five-mile road stretch between
highway 16 and the Courtright corner of the Sharon road. They said $45,000 was
available for the paving and although this would be enough for blacktop it would
provide only one mile of concrete of the kind defined by the judge.
-- Mt. Pleasant News, April 14, 1946
SPENT HALF A MILLION OF HIS OWN MONEY
By Louis Cook Jr.
Hillsboro - Alex Coleman has one of the
most peaceful monuments in Iowa - 12 miles of concrete paving through which the
grass luxuriates and over which the wind blows free.
It cost Alex nearly half a million dollars to
pave a highway on his native hills, but it was his own money, and he spent it as
Nine miles of highway is two-lane and three miles is
Except for Alex's generosity, his neighbors might have
traveled to town on gravel and dirt indefinitely. The main part of Coleman road
ends abruptly in Hillsboro, a quiet town of 255 souls.
Not Much Traffic.
Coleman road doesn't have much of a traffic count,
although after 23 years it has acquired a clientele of truckers and motorists
who use it as a short cut to Ottumwa from southeast Iowa. Businessmen along the
way believe things are picking up.
Alex was born in Ohio and moved with his family as a
boy to a frame cottage several miles east of Hillsboro.
He enlisted in the Civil War and served four years as a
cavalryman. He never lost his military manners, nor his love for horses.
Following the war he settled in Nebraska, engaging in
farming and lending money. He never married. He made a lot of money - how much,
nobody is quite certain. He was a stern, erect figure with a commanding presence
and he seldom talked.
Back to Iowa.
Alex came back to southeast Iowa to die in his native
country. He was nearing 80. His nearest relatives and closest friends were Mr.
and Mrs. Louis Rohdy, who still live in Lee county. Mrs. Rohdy is a grand-niece.
He often visited the Rhody farm, sitting on the veranda
and spinning yarns to the children about campaigns he had engaged in, and the
effectiveness of the sawed-off shotgun as a calvary weapon.
He kept a horse on the farm so he could drive around
the neighborhood when he visited.
It was a spirited beast and when Alex went out the gate
there was a clatter of hooves and sparks flew against the iron-shot wheels
against the stones.
"That's the kind of a horse I like to see,"
Alex would exault, grasping the reins firmly. He was nearing 90.
Alex was fond of roundly cursing the automobile and its
works and people were a little startled when he called on the Lee county board
of supervisors one day and gave them a quarter of a million dollars to build a
standard, 18-foot paved highway from what is now the junction of Iowa Highway 16
with Highway 218 to Hillsboro nine miles west.
There were some stipulations. The road had to wind past
the old Coleman home, and also past the cemetery in which he planned to be
As a result the highway lies string-strait for several
miles, and then goes through a series of 25 miles-per-hour curves in order to
take it past the old home place and the cemetery.
The highway was completed and dedicated in July, 1928.
The neighbors roasted five steers on the old home place and then proceeded down
to the east end of the highway, where Alex cut a ribbon stretched across the
Alex wore his customary black suit, white shirt, black
bow tie and his G.A.R. button. The neighborhood children attended the occasion
dressed in white. He made a speech.
"God bless you, little girls. When you grow
up I will not be here any more."
Alex rode the length of the pavement in the lead car,
one of the few times he ever used his road. Then he went back to his buggy.
He rarely talked about his road Once he remarked to a
"I want that to be a monument to my memory. I want
all you folks to enjoy it."
Alex made his home in a Fort Madison hotel, but he
often returned to visit the Rohdys. He used to spend a lot of time looking up
the dirt road which extended up toward his highway three miles away.
"We never knew what he was thinking," Rohdy
recalls. He didn't talk much."
The Rohdys found out when Alex died at Sacred Heart
hospital at Ft. Madison in 1933, at the age of 95.
He left the balance of his estate, estimated at about
$250,000, to build an 18-foot concrete highway from the Rohdy home to the
Heirs contested the will and when it all was over there
was only enough money to build half a highway, a 9-foot slab to the Rohdys'.
The other half of the road was graded and graveled and
there isn't much likelihood of its ever being paved.
Everybody uses the concrete regardless of which way
they are traveling. This results in moments of rare indecision during which
opposing drivers decide which is going to take the gravel.
This doesn't happen very often. For hours at a time the
only traffic on the half-highway is rabbits, who like to lope along it and warm
their feet on cold, damp days. Quail also seem to enjoy the comfort of the slab.
The new generation is forgetting Alex. There are a few
"Coleman Road" signs on the Highway 16 markers to mark Alex's monument
and that's all.
The highway now is maintained by the state highway
Following his wishes, Alex was buried in the family
lot. Standing by his simple headstone occasional visitors can hear semis
grumbling up the grade that takes them past the old home place.
- Van Buren County Register,
Thursday, Aug. 2, 1951.