“To be a good shot a man must have a good gun and the best ammunition.”
“Fred Coleman was a remarkable man and a terrific marksman. He could shoot a pigeon while blindfolded. He never forgot where he was raised, in the Hegins Valley. Well Fred, the shoot may be temporarily detained, but your legend will live on.”
Fred, the son of John Andrew and Maria Maurer Coleman, was born on the Coleman farm and homestead along Pine Creek (Hegins Township) between Hegins and Fountain, Pennsylvania, on March 7, 1874. Fred is of German, Scotch and Irish lineage. Fred, the great marksman, was named for his grandfather Frederick (1807-1869) the patriarch of the descendants. Fred developed a deep love for wide open spaces and the outdoors. As a mere boy when the family went on a picnic, Fred could be found at home with his dogs, pigeons, and guns.
He was as an avid hunter of quail, grouse, and other wildlife. In the spring of 1894, at age 20, he had his first match in Hegins. He lost to Henry Gable. However, over the years he participated in numerous shoots, winning most of them. In 1900 he participated in the live bird State Championship shoot in Chambersburg, winning in a field of 40 gunners, his score being 30 straight hits; at Philadelphia in 1903 he won all 3 State Championship Cups: (1) for targets, (2) for live birds, and (3) for marksmanship; in 1905 he toured England and Europe and competed in a series of some 50 matches. A Manchester UK newspaper quoted, “Never was such shooting seen before in all England.” In 1908 he competed in his last State Championship match – winning it! We do not desire to create the impression that Fred’s entire early life in Hegins was completely devoted to shooting and hunting.
Fred was the son of a farmer, and as such he not only worked on the farm, but frequently lent a helping hand on the neighbors’ farms. In early 1900 he purchased a threshing machine, power created by a portable gasoline engine. He traveled throughout Hegins Township threshing grain for farmers. Fred was a very keen judge and student of guns and ammunition.
Around 1912 he relocated to Philadelphia, and for two years he was a professional cartridge loader for the E. K. Tryon Company (shell box on right). His motto: “To be a good shot a man must have a good gun and the best ammunition.” It was around this time that he also held a position in the sporting goods department at John Wanamaker’s Department Store, until ill health forced him to retire in 1920. At the Hegins Homecoming in 1934, Fred gave an exhibition shoot. He shot 25 out of a total of 25 birds. Fred was 60 years of age and this was his first visit home in 18 years. Thus began the tradition of the Fred Coleman Memorial Pigeon Shoot, held on Labor Day, continuing through 1998.
His quiet demeanor and his honest sportsmanship won for him the friendship of all. He was beloved by his friends and respected by his opponents.
In the hope of regaining his health he purchased a farm at Clinton, Maine circa early 1930’s. Here amid the invigorating climate of the Maine forests, he found the elements that restored his health. At 60 years of age, he still had a keen eye and his aim was quick and sure. Fred was married twice. His first wife was Hannah Jane Ney, born February 8, 1878, with whom he had one son, Allen, born January 20, 1902 who died young, and two daughters, Evelyn Coleman and Marie Coleman Lundbeck. His wife Hannah Jane died on December 31, 1908 and is buried with her son, Allen, in Friedens Cemetery in Hegins, Pa. His second wife was Mary Williams of Burnley, England. Mary died November 24, 1944.
In July 1956 his home in Maine went up in flames. Miraculously he and others escaped the flames, but he lost all his trophies, guns, possessions, and home. After that disaster, Fred made his home with his grandson Billy Lundbeck, son of daughter Marie. Fred died at age 83 on September 11, 1957 in Maine. (Note: This article contains excerpts from the Hegins Labor Day Shoot, 25th Anniversary issues ca 1958, and August 27, 1993 Extra issue of Citizen Standard Newspaper.)
Unfortunately, on August 17, 1999, the Fred Coleman Memorial Pigeon Shoot was canceled because of a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court gave the S. P. C. A jurisdiction over the event. There is much controversy pro and con about this decision. One comment by a local resident, shows the esteem with which Fred Coleman is held in the Hegins Valley. “Fred Coleman was a remarkable man and a terrific marksman. He could shoot a pigeon while blindfolded. He never forgot where he was raised, in the Hegins Valley. Well, Fred the shoot may be temporarily detained, but your legend will live on”.