My Cornwell – Cornell family arrived in the Boston Colony from Saffron Walden, County Essex, England in 1638. We have not yet identified the ship upon which they arrived or why they were part of the “Great Migration” from England during that period of time.
Speculation (i.e., speculation is like a hypothesis to be proven and not conclusive) has it that because the family arrived here during some tumultuous times just prior to the overthrow of King Charles, they may have been seeking to “migrate” to get away from the tumult and chaos which ensued. They were also part of the Anglican Catholic Church (St. Mary’s of Saffron Walden) and this indicates they may have felt threatened by the puritans of England as they were being led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell eventually became Lord Protector in the overthrow and execution of King Charles.
Cromwell ruled England while the Cornwell-Cornell family was in Boston, living on a street which is now considered the center of the city of Boston in today’s world. They owned a tavern. Once Cromwell died in England, his son tried his hand at being Lord Protector and then relinquished it in order to return control back to the monarchy.
The progenitor of this family, Thomas Cornell, was doing well, from the accounts which have been recorded in a genealogy written by Rev. John Cornell in 1901. However, Tomas ran into difficulty as he wished to sell his beer / ale on Sundays. Facing an increase of puritans coming to Boston Colony, following the return in England to the monarchy, he was met with opposition by the puritans and banished from Boston Colony. Thomas then moved his family to Rhode Island with Roger Williams.
Most of the Cornwell-Cornell family remained in Rhode Island. Three of the children moved to what was then New Netherlands / New Amsterdam and were present when the British took control and renamed it New York. Following the death of Thomas, his widow was murdered and his eldest son, Thomas, Jr., was falsely accused of murder as Thomas, Jr.’s wife admitted apparitions into court as evidence and the court never utilized alibis of Thomas, Jr., being in a tavern at the time of the murder. Some speculate that Thomas, Jr.’s wife may have been the murderer and she manipulated things, with the help of the victim’s brother, to set up Thomas, Jr. They hung an innocent man.
The children who had moved to the New York City and Long Island area (Flushing) were in that area at the time of the murder. Richard, Sarah, and Hannah were living in the New York City area. Sarah lived near Westchester County and the Bronx. She was married to Thomas Willett. Richard and Hannah were living in Flushing and both were married, Hannah no longer going by Cornell or Cornwell. Speculation has it that Richard tried to be more like the Dutch who were in control at that time. The Dutch pronunciation of Cornell was “Cornewel,” with the “w” with a “v” sound. There are very good chances that was how those in the generations following Richard had changed their name to Cornwell. Only time and further research will provide conclusions.
While Thomas, Jr.’s descendants remained in Rhode Island and retained the name of Cornell, they eventually moved westward to New York and the Hudson River, then, following the American Revolution, further west to the area south of Syracuse, NY, known as central New York.
My line of Cornwells can be followed from Flushing, up the Hudson River to Dutchess and Greene County (then part of Albany County). Following the American Revolution, several moved westward to settle, as pioneers, in Cortland County.
My line remained in Cortland County during most of the 19th Century, moving to the southwest corner of Cortland County, bordering on Tioga County, in the town of Harford. Across the county line is the towns of Richford, Berkshire, and Newark Valley.
Following the American Civil War, my own branch of the family with my 2nd great-grandparents, George and Eliza Cornwell, headed west to Danby, Ionia County, Michigan. George had been a lumberer and worked to clear the land in Harford. He also worked as a lumberer in Michigan. George and Eliza left behind, in central New York, his widowed mother, his siblings, and a daughter who was married and living in the city of Cortland. My third-great-grandmother, Jane Cornwell, had moved to Cayuga County and lived, until her death at an age close to 100 years of age, with a daughter in Cayuga County. That was the late 1890s.
My great-grandparents met in Michigan and married there. The first child, May Cornwell, was born in Michigan. However, by the 1892 New York state census, Samuel, his wife Minerva, and their budding family, were living in Harford, New York, the land where Samuel had been born in 1859, before his parents departed for Michigan.
Samuel’s other siblings had moved further westward with their father who apparently had become a widower. By 1900, George and his son, George, Jr., and others were in the Sturgis, South Dakota area. George, Jr., had started a retail business there and was listed as founder of the local Presbyterian Church in Sturgis.
Samuel’s other siblings had moved on to North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and the state of Washington.
Meanwhile, George, Sr., had returned to Cortland County where he lived with his daughter in the city of Cortland. That was Alzina (Cornwell) Hammond and her husband, Ira Hammond, and daughter. According to George W. Cornwell, Sr.’s death certificate filed with the state of New York, George died in 1904 in Cortland.
My branch of the Cornwell family can be traced along the very same lines which early settlers of Massachusetts had envisioned happening with Massachusetts extending across America to what is now Seattle and to the Pacific Ocean. Massachusetts had, at one time, tried to lay claim to that swath of territory from Boston to Seattle, but it never happened. Interesting to note that Interstate 90 extends from Boston, through upstate New York, south of the Great Lakes and heading west, and across the Rocky Mountains to the state of Washington. I-90 covers the territory which some had wanted to be Massachusetts. Those developing New Amsterdam, the Dutch, squashed the idea for allowing this to happen, by extending its hold up the Hudson River and starting the settlement of Fort Orange which changed its name to Albany. When the English took over that colony, they had an advantage over those further east. Did the government in England, not being supportive of Puritans as those who settled in Boston, have a strong influence in blocking this? After all, one of the first governors of New York under British rule, had come from an Anglican Church clergy class which likely did not approve of Puritans.
The Empire State of New York was born after the American Revolution. Likewise, the city of New York became a huge commercial center, due to “Clinton’s Ditch” (the Erie Canal), which extended travel westward past the Hudson River. Today, I-90 through upstate New York, parallels the old Erie Canal. Of course, I-90 extends further west to the Pacific.
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