Charles C. Cordill

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Charles C. Cordill
Louisiana State Senator for Concordia and Tensas parishes
In office
Preceded by George L. Walton
Succeeded by George Henry Clinton
Personal details
Born (1845-10-13)October 13, 1845
Coahoma, Coahoma County
Mississippi, USA
Died November 22, 1916(1916-11-22) (aged 71)
Resting place Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi
Political party Republican-turned-Democratic (c. 1878)
Spouse(s) Never married
Residence Tensas Parish, Louisiana
Occupation Cotton planter

Charles C. Cordill (October 13, 1845 – November 22, 1916), was a cotton planter[1] and politician from Tensas Parish in the northeastern portion of the U.S. state of Louisiana. He was a member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1884 until 1912 in which he represented both Tensas and neighboring Concordia Parish to the south.[2]


Cordill was born in rural Coahoma in Coahoma County near Clarksdale in northwestern Mississippi, the oldest of four children of Joseph Cordill (1816 – 1887) and his first wife, the former Mary Jane Sisson (1828 – 1860). Mary Jane died in childbirth when Charles was fourteen years of age though the child, Francis Marion Cordill (1860–1901), Charles' brother, survived. In 1868, Joseph Cordill married Mary Lu Woodward, and the couple had four children between 1869 and 1877, Charles' half-siblings. It is unclear when Cordill moved to Tensas Parish, probably 1867 or 1868, but it seems likely that he was reared prior to the American Civil War in adjoining Franklin Parish to the west. He was a merchant before he amassed a fortune as a planter.[1]

According to the 1899 property tax rolls, Cordill owned more than three thousand acres, the majority on his Kenilworth Plantation. He had ninety mules and some twenty-five wagons. His annual tax bill exceeded $1,000.[1]

Political career[edit]

In the state Senate, Cordill was for a time the chairman of the Agriculture, Commerce, and Levee committees. The latter was particularly important to a river parish like Tensas. Cordill was considered the political boss of Tensas Parish. He was elected parish judge, based in St. Joseph, as a Republican c. 1874, before he was yet thirty years of age. During Reconstruction, he was an ally of Carpetbagger Governor Henry Clay Warmoth. When Reconstruction ended, Cordill quickly turned Democrat to preserve his political power. The judge held court in all kinds of cases every other month six times a year. Cordill was also for twenty-five years the president of the Tensas Parish Police Jury, the parish governing body;[3] at the time a legislator could also serve on the police jury, as both are part-time positions. Cordill's political power rested on the firm support from the white landowners at a time when the African-American constituency was disenfranchised despite the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Tensas Parish at the time had a much greater black population than it does today though it is still a majority black parish. The 1900 census showed Tensas with 1,231 whites and 17,839 blacks.[4]

Cordill's power was challenged in the 1878 general election by a coalition of former Confederate white yeoman farmers and blacks who joined together in the "Country People's Ticket". He quickly beat his opponents into submission with physical force even before the election to unseat him could be held.[5]

In 1878, Judge Cordill, a staunch segregationist,[6] pursued a band of African Americans who had killed a Captain Peck of Catahoula Parish. According to "Vignettes" of the American Civil War by Francis McRae Ward, Cordill and his posse of one hundred reached Bass Lane, about a mile north of Waterproof in southern Tensas Parish, in the area near Cordill's plantation, and came upon some approximately one thousand blacks. Rather than wait for reinforcements, Cordill ordered an attack with the expectation, correct as it turned out, that the blacks would flee, rather than fight. Cordill's hunch was based on an event during the Civil War when he, still teenager, and four other soldiers routed a whole company of black soldiers in this same area. Cordill and his men charged, fired their weapons, and yelled loudly. As Cordill had expected the blacks dismounted their horses, fled, and hid in the nearby cotton fields. The challenge to Cordill's rule hence ended with a whimper. The posse members included Carneal Goldman, Sr., a Waterproof planter, and William Mackenzie Davidson, later the first mayor of St. Joseph after incorporation.[1]

Cordill also exercised for years what was called "almost dictatorial power" of the Fifth District Levee Board, whose member also included the influential Jefferson B. Snyder, a St. Joseph native who served for forty-four years as an area district attorney.[3][7]

Death and legacy[edit]

Cordill's will was probated in New Orleans less than a month after his death. Sources do not indicated his place of death. He had more than a million dollars in assets at the time of his passing. Having never married, Cordill left much of his wealth to siblings, nieces, and nephews. He designated $50,000 to a sister, Mattie Cordill Cassidy, of Greenwood, Mississippi, and $40,000 to his namesake nephew, C. C. Cordill, a son of his brother, William Cordill. The other sons of William Cordill receive lesser amounts. Cordill left $10,000 to New Orleans Charity Hospital. He left $1,500 to a servant, Nathaniel Cullens. The will had four codicils and stipulated that anyone contesting its validity or findings would forfeit whatever he would have otherwise received.[8]

Cordill is interred at Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "113. Charles C. Cordill". Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana State Senate, 1880-2012" (PDF). Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Tensas Gazette, November 24, 1916
  4. ^ Matthew Reonas, Once Proud Princes: Planters and Plantation Culture in Louisiana's Northeast Delta, From the First World War Through the Great Depression, p. 274 (PDF). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Ph.D. dissertation, December 2006. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  5. ^ William Ivy Hair, Bourbonism and Agrarian Protest: Louisiana Politics, 1877-1900. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 1969. pp. 72–73. ISBN 0-807-10206-7. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ William Ivy Hair, The Kingfish and His Realm: The Life and Times of Huey P. Long. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991, p. 59; ISBN 0-8071-1700-5. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  7. ^ Frederick W. Williamson and George T. Goodman, eds. Eastern Louisiana: A History of the Watershed of the Ouachita River and the Florida Parishes, 3 vols. (Monroe: Historical Record Association, 1939, pp. 569-571)
  8. ^ "Genealogical Trails: The Will of Hon. C. C. Cordill Probated". from Tensas Gazette, December 8, 1916. Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
Political offices
Preceded by
George L. Walton
Louisiana State Senator for Concordia and Tensas parishes

Charles C. Cordill

Succeeded by
George Henry Clinton