Marshall S. Cornwell

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Marshall S. Cornwell
Marshall S Cornwell.png
Born Marshall Silas Cornwell
(1871-10-18)October 18, 1871
near Springfield, Hampshire County, West Virginia, United States
Died May 26, 1898(1898-05-26) (aged 26)
Romney, West Virginia, United States
Resting place Indian Mound Cemetery, Romney, West Virginia, United States
Nationality American
Citizenship United States of America
Occupation newspaper publisher and editor, journalist, writer, and poet
Parent(s) Jacob H. Cornwell
Mary Eleanor Taylor
Relatives William B. Cornwell (brother)
John J. Cornwell (brother)
Stephen Ailes (great-nephew)

Marshall Silas Cornwell (October 18, 1871 – May 26, 1898) was a 19th-century American newspaper publisher and editor, writer, and poet in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Cornwell served as the publisher and editor of the Gazette newspaper in Petersburg and of the The Inter-Mountain newspaper in Elkins. During his convalescence from an illness, Cornwell began writing poetry, a volume of which was published posthumously in 1899 entitled Wheat and Chaff. Cornwell was a younger brother of railroad and timber executive William B. Cornwell (1864–1926) and West Virginia Governor John Jacob Cornwell (1867–1953).

Early life and education[edit]

Marshall Silas Cornwell[1] was born on his family's farm on South Branch Mountain (also known as "Jersey Mountain")[1] near Springfield, 12 miles (19 km) from Romney, in Hampshire County, West Virginia on October 18, 1871.[1][2][3][4][5] He was the third-eldest son and child of Jacob H. Cornwell and his wife Mary Eleanor Taylor.[1][4][5] Cornwell's older brothers were railroad and timber executive William B. Cornwell (1864–1926) and John Jacob Cornwell (1867–1953), who served as the 15th Governor of West Virginia (1917–1921).[1][5]

Cornwell grew to adulthood on his family's farm and although he did not have access to a liberal education, he received his education at home and in rural schools.[2][3][6] As an autodidact in various subjects, he was well-read, exhibited an "insatiable thirst for knowledge," and possessed a remarkable memory.[2][6]

Newspaper publisher[edit]

Upon leaving his family's farm, Cornwell began editing and publishing the Gazette newspaper in Petersburg in Grant County.[2][3] The Gazette became a successful newspaper under Cornwell's leadership, and its success and his editorials received the attention of United States Senator Stephen Benton Elkins.[3] Elkins invited Cornwell to take charge of The Inter-Mountain newspaper in Elkins in Randolph County.[2][3] Cornwell accepted the position from Elkins and made a success of the paper just as he had done with the Gazette in Petersburg.[3] During this time, Cornwell filled a position as an assistant clerk during a session of the West Virginia Legislature.[3][7]

Declining health and death[edit]

Cornwell's health began to fail and in 1896, he gave up his career as editor of The Inter-Mountain.[3] He sought relief during the winter of 1896 in Florida, where he began studying the "character of the country and people."[2][3] It was during his convalescence in Florida that Cornwell began writing poetry.[2][3]

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

Cornwell began a correspondence with American writer and poet James Whitcomb Riley.[8] In a letter dated March 12, 1897, from Indianapolis, Indiana, Riley commended Cornwell on a collection of poems he had sent him, with special attention given to his poem "Success."[8] Riley further wrote Cornwell regarding "Success", "...your gift seems genuine and far above that indicated in verse, meeting general approval."[8]

Following Florida, Cornwell travelled to the Rio Grande before returning home to West Virginia, where he died on May 26, 1898, at the age of 26.[2][4][5] He was interred in Indian Mound Cemetery overlooking the South Branch Potomac River in Romney.[2][4]

Literary works[edit]

Cornwell's volume of poems Wheat and Chaff were published posthumously in 1899[2][9][10][11] as a memorial to Cornwell by his surviving brothers William B. and John Jacob Cornwell.[12] It consisted of "verses, letters, and extracts" of Cornwell's writings.[12] According to West Virginia historian Virgil Anson Lewis in his History and Government of West Virginia (1912), Wheat and Chaff was Cornwell's "best and most enduring monument."[2] Cornwell's poem "Success" was published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and republished in The Railroad Trainman in 1906.[13][14][15]


  1. ^ a b c d e Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 161.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lewis 1912, p. 271.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 448.
  4. ^ a b c d "Indian Mound Cemetery: Hampshire County's Most Historic Cemetery – List of Interments",,, Charles C. Hall, retrieved September 28, 2013 
  5. ^ a b c d (1880), 1880 United States Federal Census; Year: 1880; Census Place: Springfield, Hampshire, West Virginia; Roll: 1403; Family History Film: 1255403; Page: 534D; Enumeration District: 29, retrieved September 28, 2013 
  6. ^ a b Painter 1907, p. 322.
  7. ^ West Virginia Department of Archives and History 1906, p. 274.
  8. ^ a b c Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 449.
  9. ^ Ambler 1933, p. 497.
  10. ^ Callahan 1913, p. 567.
  11. ^ "West Virginia Authors & Other Appalachian Authors", West Virginia Storytelling Guild website, West Virginia Storytelling Guild, retrieved September 28, 2013 
  12. ^ a b Painter 1907, p. 321.
  13. ^ Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen 1906, p. 809.
  14. ^ Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen 1906, p. 812.
  15. ^ Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen 1906, p. 816.


External links[edit]

Media related to Marshall S. Cornwell at Wikimedia Commons