Thomas Cornell (settler)

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Thomas Cornell was one of the earliest settlers of Rhode Island and the Bronx and a contemporary of Roger Williams and the family of Anne Hutchinson. He is the ancestor of a number of Americans prominent in business, politics, and education.

Thomas Cornell born about 1595 in Essex, England and died in Portsmouth, RI in 1655. He married Rebecca Briggs, born in 1600, in about 1620. Their eldest son also named Thomas Cornell (Jr.) was born October, 1627 in Saffron Walden, Essex, England. Thomas Cornell and his family immigrated from England to Boston in 1638 when their eldest son Thomas Cornell (Jr.) would have been age 11.

Thomas Cornell was an innkeeper in Boston who was part of the Peripheral Group in the Antinomian Controversy, a religious and political conflict in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1636 to 1638.[1] Cornell sold his inn in 1643 and left for Rhode Island, where others from the Antinomian Controversy had settled in 1638 after being ordered to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.[2]

Cornell became friends with Roger Williams and co-founded the village of Westchester north of New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1643. He returned to Rhode Island in 1644 and obtained a land grant for 100 acres in Portsmouth, RI on Aquidneck Island that became the Cornell homestead. His neighbor was Edward Hutchison, a son of Anne Hutchison from the Antinomian Controversy.[2]

In 1646, Cornell was granted a patent on an area of about four square miles that later became part of the Bronx. It was bounded by Westchester Creek, Bronx River, village of Westchester and East River and was called Cornell's Neck. The area is now known as Clason Point.[2]

Controversial Murder Trial of Thomas Cornell Jr.[edit]

Thomas' son Thomas Cornell (Jr.) was accused, tried, convicted and hanged for the alleged murder of his mother, Rebecca Briggs Cornell, in Portsmouth in 1673. He was convicted using circumstantial evidence as well as spectral evidence, where witnesses recounted dreams involving ghosts pointing to his alleged guilt. American jurisprudence was later modernized to exclude the use of apparitions and dreams as evidence in trials. This case and its history has been chronicled in the book Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell by Elaine Forman Crane.[3][4]

Notable Descendants[edit]

Thomas Cornell is an ancestor to a number of prominent and notorious Americans, including Ezra Cornell, founder of Cornell University, Bill Gates, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, Senator Bob Graham, Daniel Webster, Secretary of State John Kerry, Amelia Earhardt and axe murderer Lizzie Borden by way of Thomas Cornell (Jr.)'s daughter, Innocent, born after his death to his second wife Sarah Earle Cornell.[5]

Thomas Cornell (Jr.) fourth-great-grandson donated the original endowment for Cornell University, which is named after that descendant of Thomas. That man was Ezra Cornell (1807-1874), son of Elijah b. 1771, son of Elijah b. 1730, son of Stephen who m. Ruth Pierce, son of Stephen b. 1656, son of Thomas-the-executed and his first wife, Elizabeth Fiscock. [6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Battis, Emery (1962). Saints and Sectaries: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-0863-4.
  2. ^ a b c Cornell, John (1902). "Genealogy of the Cornell Family." New York: Press of T.A. Wright.
  3. ^ WikiTree: Thomas Cornell, Jr. http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Cornell-73
  4. ^ Haunting Tales From Aquidneck Island Newport Patch October 31, 2011 http://newport.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/video-haunting-tales-from-aquidneck-island
  5. ^ Ancestry of Senator John Kerry http://www.wargs.com/political/kerry.html
  6. ^ http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mcmanigle/3721.htm