Biography of Andrew Cornwall


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ANDREW CORNWALL, associated with his partner, John F. Walton, was the practical founder of the now world-famous Thousand Islands as a watering place. He was born in. Puitneyville, Wayne county, N. Y., March 25, 1.814. His father, with two brothers, Ancil and William, had left Connecticut about 1800 and removed to what was then looked upon as the “far west,” or Genesee county. They first located near the present site of the city of Rochester, but thinking it was not a good place to settle, went to what is now Pultneyyule, where there was a small settlement with a saw and grist mill. The advent of the family to this country was in 1710 and three generations lived and died in old Chatham, Conn. (now Portland). The third of the line was the grandfather of the subject of this notice. He was a soldier of the Continental army and died from the effect of a wound received at Bennington. Andrew Cornwall attended the district schools and worked on the farm until he was thirteen years old. At this time he entered the country store of John Reynolds, with whom he remained for thirteen years as clerk and bookkeeper. At the end of this period, his health having failed from too close application to business, he purchased a small sailing vessel and went on the lakes as a sailor. He was engaged in this business for three years, and then, his health fully restored, sold his vessel and left the water. In July, 1844, he removed to Redwood, N. Y., and entered the employ of De Zing & Burlingame, manufacturers of cut glass. He was given the management of their store and remained in this capacity until November, 1846, when at the solicitation of Azariah Walton he removed to Alexandria Bay and took an interest in the firm of L. A. Walton & Company. This firm continued for seven years or until the death of Mr. Walton (1853). At this time a new firm was organized under the firm name of Cornwall & Walton, John P. Walton being the junior partner. Cornwall & Walton were undoubtedly the largest business men in this section for several years. They both retired April 1, 1877, and a new firm, Cornwall Bros., was formed, consisting of the four sons of Andrew Cornwall: Andrew C., Charles W., John I. and Harvey A. This firm is still in business and very popular, dealing in everything required in a country store.

In 1845 Azariah Walton bought of Henry Yates of the firm of Yates & McIntyre of New York city, the north half of Wells Island and all the small islands in the river St. Lawrence in American waters, from Round Island in Clayton to the village of Morristown in St. Lawrence county. After his death the new firm of Cornwall & Walton bought them from his estate and for many years cut steamboat wood from them, often getting as high as 16,000 cords in a year. After the wood was mostly cut off the larger islands were sold for farms, and when wood began to give way to coal they determined to sell all these lands at a nominal price to induce people to build summer homes and thus make the St. Lawrence River a famous watering place. They gave the site for the Thousand Island House, negotiated the purchase of other hotel and park property, and can be truly said to have made the Thousand Islands what they are.

Mr. Cornwall has always been a prominent figure in the politics of this section. He was supervisor from 1852 to 1856 and again from 1861 to 1865. A War Democrat, he was made a member of the Jefferson County War Committee, although it was largely Republican. He served the committee faithfully in recruiting and filling the quotas of his own town and the county. In 1867 he received the nomination for member of assembly and although the Republican candidate of the year previous had been elected by a large majority, Mr Cornwall was successful. In the Legislature of 1868 he was a member of the subCommittee of the Whole, the Committee on the Manufacture of Salt and the Committee on Ways and Means. In 1868 he was a candidate for Congress against Hon. A. H. Laflin; his party was largely in the minority but Mr. Laflin’s majority was comparatively small, and it has often been said that had Mr. Cornwall’s friends been given ten days more he would have been elected. Mr. Corwall commenced his business career with very limited means but with a determination to succeed. By close application, thrift and great energy, he has succeeded in his desire to attain a reasonable competency. Many who know him speak of his peculiar business qualifications and ability to handle men. He has never been an ostentatious man, and when he came before the people for political preferment, it was generally recognized that merit, not money, had placed him in a candidate’s position. The example of such a life is a benefit to any community. Mr. Cornwall is one of the three surviving charter members of Alexandria Lodge No. 297, F. & A. M. He is also a member of Theresa Chapter and Watertown Cornmandery. It is somewhat remarkable that all of his sons hold membership with him in all these bodies, and in addition two are Shriners.

Mr. Cornwall married, in Jaunuary, 1843, Mary C. Caihoon, a daughter of Captain Calhoon of Williamson, Wayne county, N. Y., who was a pensioner of the war of the Revolution and a captain of volunteers in the war of 1812. Four sons were born of their union: Andrew C., Charles W., John I. and Harvey A. Mrs. Cornwall died August 13, 1890, after a life of faithful devotion to her family.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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