William B. Cornwell

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William B. Cornwell
William B. Cornwell.jpg
Portrait of William B. Cornwell as a young lawyer, prior to 1897.
Prosecuting Attorney for Hampshire County
In office
1892–1900
Preceded by Robert W. Dailey, Jr.
Succeeded by Joshua Soule Zimmerman
Personal details
Born (1864-11-25)November 25, 1864
Hampshire County, West Virginia, United States
Died April 8, 1926(1926-04-08) (aged 61)
Romney, West Virginia, United States
Resting place Indian Mound Cemetery, Romney, West Virginia, United States
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Nannie V. Dellinger
Sophie H. Colston
Relations Jacob H. Cornwell (father)
Mary Eleanor Taylor (mother)
John J. Cornwell (brother)
Marshall S. Cornwell (brother)
Stephen Ailes (great-nephew)
Alma mater West Virginia University College of Law
Profession lawyer, businessperson, newspaper editor and publisher, and railroad and timber executive

William Benjamin Cornwell (November 25, 1864 – April 8, 1926) was an American lawyer, businessperson, newspaper editor and publisher, and railroad and timber executive in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Cornwell was an older brother of writer and newspaper publisher Marshall S. Cornwell (1871–1898) and of West Virginia Governor John J. Cornwell (1867–1953).

Cornwell studied jurisprudence at the West Virginia University College of Law, and afterward began practicing law in Romney. In 1890, he and his brother, John J. Cornwell, purchased the The Review and South Branch Intelligencer newspapers. Following their acquisition of the South Branch Intelligencer, Cornwell and his brother renamed the newspaper Hampshire Review. In 1900, Cornwell sold his ownership in the Hampshire Review to his brother. During his ownership of the newspaper, Cornwell served as the Prosecuting Attorney for Hampshire County (1892–1900). In addition to serving as Prosecuting Attorney, Cornwell served as the Commissioner of School Lands for Hampshire County in 1900. In 1902, Cornwell relocated to Fairmont, where he engaged in the practice of law until 1910.

He and his brother, John J. Cornwell, were corporators and shareholders of the South Branch Boom and Lumber Company following its incorporation in 1901. Cornwell and his brother were also corporators and shareholders of the Potomac White Sand Company of Green Spring following its incorporation in 1902. He served as the president of the Hampshire Southern Railroad and it was constructed under his leadership, beginning in June 1909. The Hampshire Southern Railroad Company continued to operate this rail line until 1911, when it was purchased by the Moorefield and Virginia Railroad Company.

Cornwell organized and became the president of the Winchester and Western Railroad which had been incorporated in 1916. In addition to serving as the railroad company's president, Cornwell also served on the board of directors of the Winchester and Western Railroad. Cornwell also organized a subsidiary, Winchester Lumber Corporation, in 1921 for the purpose of developing the timber resources of Hampshire and Hardy counties in West Virginia and Frederick County in Virginia. Cornwell served as the president and general manager of the Winchester Lumber Corporation. Cornwell died in 1926 in Romney, West Virginia. and was interred next to his first wife Nannie and second wife Sophie at Indian Mound Cemetery.

Early life and family[edit]

William Benjamin Cornwell was born in Hampshire County, West Virginia on November 25, 1864 and was the eldest child and son of Jacob H. Cornwell and his wife Mary Eleanor Taylor.[1][2][3][4] Shortly after Cornwell's birth, he and his parents moved west to Ritchie County, West Virginia, where his mother's twin brother John Taylor and uncle Eli Taylor were residing.[1] Cornwell and his family returned to the Cornwell family farm on South Branch Mountain (also known as "Jersey Mountain") in Hampshire County in 1869.[1]

Legal education and career[edit]

Cornwell studied jurisprudence at the West Virginia University College of Law and graduated from the institution.[5][6] He commenced practicing law in Romney, and shortly thereafter, Cornwell was elected Prosecuting Attorney for Hampshire County in 1892, and continued to serve in that position until 1900.[5][6][7][8] In addition to serving as Prosecuting Attorney, Cornwell served as the Commissioner of School Lands for Hampshire County in 1900.[8] His brother John Jacob studied law in Cornwell's law office in Romney, and was admitted to the state bar association in 1894.[6]

Cornwell married on June 30, 1891 to Nannie V. Dellinger (1869–1893) of Middletown, Virginia. Cornwell and his wife Nannie had two children before her death on June 29, 1893.[2][9] Cornwell married a second time on June 14, 1899 to Sophie H. Colston (1878–1928) in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Colston was the daughter of W. B. Colston and his wife Minnie Colston of Martinsburg.[2][10] Cornwell relocated to Fairmont in 1902, and engaged in the practice of law there.[1][11] In 1906, lawyer Raymond J. Abbaticchio arrived in Fairmont and entered Cornwell's law office and later became a junior member of the law firm of Cornwell & Abbaticchio.[11] Cornwell and Abbaticchio maintained their law firm partnership until Cornwell's departure from Fairmont in 1910.[11]

In August 1908, Cornwell predicted in a newspaper interview that Democratic Party West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Louis Bennett would win the state's 1908 gubernatorial election by 25,000 votes against Republican Party candidate William E. Glasscock.[12] Glasscock went on to win the 1908 election, and served one term as Governor of West Virginia from 1909 to 1913.

Newspaper publishing career[edit]

In 1890, shortly after Cornwell began practicing law in Romney, he and his brother John Jacob Cornwell purchased the newspaper The Review from D. F. Poland, who assured the newspaper's subscribers in a November 6, 1890 "farewell editorial" that Cornwell and his brother would continue to publish the Hampshire Review while following "Jeffersonian principles."[1][6][13][14][15] At the time of their purchase of the newspaper, The Review utilized the Wirgman Building's second floor for its offices and printing plant.[1][16] Later that same year, Cornwell and his brother purchased The Review's rival newspaper in Romney, the South Branch Intelligencer.[15] Following their acquisition of the South Branch Intelligencer, Cornwell and his brother added "Hampshire" to the newspaper's name and included "and the South Branch Intelligencer" in smaller print within the masthead underneath "The Hampshire Review."[15] The Hampshire Review continued to operate from the second floor of the Wirgman Building until 1895 when Cornwell and his brother relocated the newspaper's office and printing plant to the first floor of their new brick building on West Main Street.[16] In 1900, Cornwell sold his ownership in the Hampshire Review to his brother, and in 1902, he moved to Fairmont.[1][13]

Business and railroad career[edit]

Portrait of Cornwell's brother, John Jacob Cornwell, prior to 1897. Cornwell and his brother were partners in various business ventures prior to John Jacob Cornwell serving as Governor of West Virginia.

Cornwell and his brother John Jacob were corporators and shareholders of the South Branch Boom and Lumber Company following the issue of its incorporation charter on May 1, 1901.[17] With its principal office located in Romney, West Virginia, the South Branch Boom and Lumber Company constructed a log boom on the South Branch Potomac River to collect and contain floating logs timbered from nearby forests.[17] Cornwell and his brother John Jacob were also corporators and shareholders of the Potomac White Sand Company of Green Spring, West Virginia, following the issue of its incorporation charter on May 10, 1902.[18] The Potomac White Sand Company engaged in the mining, preparation, manufacturing, and distribution of sand and other extracted minerals.[18]

Hampshire Southern Railroad Company[edit]

On August 20, 1906, the Hampshire Southern Railroad Company was incorporated to facilitate the construction and operation of the Hampshire Southern Railroad rail line along the South Branch Potomac River connecting Grant and Hardy counties to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Green Spring via West Romney Station at Romney.[6][19][20][21] In addition to Cornwell, the company's corporators included Cornwell's brother John Jacob Cornwell, Duncan Sinclar, and Cornwell's law firm partner Raymond J. Abbaticchio.[20] Cornwell served as the president of the Hampshire Southern Railroad and it was constructed under his leadership, beginning in June 1909.[21] The Hampshire Southern Railroad was constructed 18 miles (29 km) from the southern terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's South Branch line at West Romney Station to McNeill and operations commenced along this completed span on April 20, 1910.[19] Later in 1910, both freight and passenger service commenced between Romney and Moorefield.[19][21] By October 1910, the remainder of the rail line was completed and commenced operations from Moorefield to Petersburg.[19]

In May 1910, Cornwell and his wife purchased a property known as "Mill Meadows", located at the confluence of Mill Creek and the South Branch Potomac River near Vanderlip.[22] Cornwell made significant improvements to the Mill Meadows property, including the construction of a bridge over Mill Creek connecting the residence to U.S. Route 50, and the building of additions to the residence utilizing materials from the property's mill, which had been razed around 1908.[23] Cornwell also built a barn and several other ancillary structures on the property.[23] Cornwell and his wife sold Mill Meadows in August 1920 to James H. Blue.[23]

The Hampshire Southern Railroad Company continued to operate this rail line until December 11, 1911, when it was purchased by the Moorefield and Virginia Railroad Company.[19][21] The Moorefield and Virginia Railroad Company assumed the $700,000 mortgage against the rail line.[21] Cornwell and Eugene Ailes, the son-in-law of his brother John Jacob, served as officers of the conveyancing company for the transaction.[21] The Moorefield and Virginia Railroad Company subsequently transferred the rail line to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company in November 1913.[21]

Winchester and Western Railroad Company[edit]

Cornwell organized and became the president of the Winchester and Western Railroad which had been incorporated in Virginia on August 16, 1916 and received its charter on August 31, 1916 to build and operate a rail line connecting Wardensville and the Lost River valley of West Virginia to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Cumberland Valley Railroad at Winchester, Virginia.[24][25][26][27] In addition to serving as the railroad company's president, Cornwell also served on the board of directors of the Winchester and Western Railroad.[24] Fellow Romney lawyer and businessman Joshua Soule Zimmerman served as the company's secretary.[26][27] Residents of Winchester and Frederick County, Virginia purchased $75,000 worth of stock in the Winchester and Western Railroad company prior to its construction.[27] By May 17, 1921, 40 miles (64 km) of the Winchester and Western Railroad had been completed by the Inter-Mountain Construction Company between Winchester and Wardensville.[24] The Winchester and Western Railroad line was serviced by gasoline engine locomotives for the hauling of freight and passengers.[28]

Winchester Lumber Corporation[edit]

Cornwell organized the subsidiary Winchester Lumber Corporation in 1921 for the purpose of developing the timber resources of Hampshire and Hardy counties in West Virginia and Frederick County in Virginia.[28] Under Cornwell's leadership, the Winchester Lumber Corporation acquired 35,000 acres (14,000 ha; 55 sq mi) of tracts of mountainous woodlands Hardy, Hampshire, and Frederick counties in proximity to the Winchester and Western Railroad line.[29] Cornwell served as the president and general manager of the Winchester Lumber Corporation, and planned the construction of 20 sawmills, several general woodworking and finishing plants, power stations, and a cooperage plant.[28][29] Cornwell operated the Winchester Lumber Corporation from the Winchester and Western Railroad Building in Winchester.[29] Due to illness, Cornwell resigned as president and general manager of the company in the Summer of 1925.[28] In October 1925, after four years of operation, the Winchester Lumber Corporation filed for bankruptcy with debts estimated at $711,000 and assets worth slightly more than half of its debts.[28] The Winchester and Western Railroad Company was unaffected by the bankruptcy of its subsidiary.[28]

Later life and death[edit]

Gravestone at the interment site of William B. Cornwell at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney, West Virginia.

As a member of the Winchester business company, Cornwell was a founding member and director of the Winchester Rotary International Club in 1921, and served as chairman of the club's initial nominating committee.[30]

In December 1923, while visiting the Winchester residence of W. A. Baker, a fellow director of the Winchester and Western Railroad, Cornwell was rendered unconscious after a large longcase clock toppled over in a hallway and struck him in the head, thus knocking him over.[24][25] The toppled longcase clock inflicted a severe wound in the back of Cornwell's head.[25] He was administered first aid treatment by a physician present at the residence and was taken to his Winchester home where he regained consciousness.[25]

Cornwell died as a result of ventricular hypertrophy at 5:00 p.m. on April 8, 1926 in Romney, West Virginia.[2][3][4] Dr. Robert W. Dailey had attended Cornwell from March 13, 1925 until his death.[3] Cornwell was interred on April 10, 1926 next to his first wife Nannie and second wife Sophie at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney.[2][3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 161.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Indian Mound Cemetery: Hampshire County's Most Historic Cemetery - List of Interments", HistoricHampshire.org (HistoricHampshire.org, Charles C. Hall), retrieved April 27, 2014 
  3. ^ a b c d "Death Record Detail: William B. Cornwell", West Virginia Vital Research Records (West Virginia Division of Culture and History), retrieved April 27, 2014 
  4. ^ a b c "Death Record Detail: William B. Cornwell", West Virginia Vital Research Records (West Virginia Division of Culture and History), retrieved April 27, 2014 
  5. ^ a b Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 496.
  6. ^ a b c d e Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company 1920, p. 6.
  7. ^ Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 278.
  8. ^ a b West Virginia Auditor's Office 1901, p. 54.
  9. ^ Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 704.
  10. ^ "Marriage Record Detail: William B. Cornwell", West Virginia Vital Research Records (West Virginia Division of Culture and History), retrieved April 27, 2014 
  11. ^ a b c Butcher 1912, p. 1026.
  12. ^ Special Dispatch (August 24, 1908), "Bennett by 25,000: W. B. Cornwell Predicts Result In West Virginia", The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), retrieved April 27, 2014  (Subscription required.)
  13. ^ a b Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 111.
  14. ^ Harris 1917, p. 753.
  15. ^ a b c Hampshire County Extension Homemakers 1991, p. 141.
  16. ^ a b Pisciotta, Marla (Aug 12, 2012), "Hampshire Review newspaper moves after 104 years", State Journal (Charleston, West Virginia), retrieved April 27, 2014 
  17. ^ a b West Virginia 1902, p. 270.
  18. ^ a b West Virginia 1902, p. 245.
  19. ^ a b c d e Brannon 1976, p. 19.
  20. ^ a b United States Railroad and Mining Register Company 1906, p. 765.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g "History of the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad", Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad website (Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad), retrieved April 27, 2014 
  22. ^ Brannon 1976, p. 304.
  23. ^ a b c Brannon 1976, p. 305.
  24. ^ a b c d Poor 1922, p. 2087.
  25. ^ a b c d "Ancient Timepiece Falls, Injuring Man: Railroad President Rendered Unconscious When Grandfather's Clock Topples", The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), December 31, 1923, retrieved April 27, 2014  (Subscription required.)
  26. ^ a b Virginia State Corporation Commission 1917, p. 242.
  27. ^ a b c Camp 1916, p. 398.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Lumber Company Fails", Farmers Advocate (Charles Town, West Virginia), October 31, 1925, retrieved April 27, 2014 
  29. ^ a b c The Iron Age 1922, p. 513.
  30. ^ "A History of the Rotary Club of Winchester (1921–1935)", Rotary Club of Winchester website (Rotary Club of Winchester), retrieved April 27, 2014 

Bibliography[edit]

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