April 29, 1954
Transcribed By: Vada Sutton
* CAL’S COLUMN *
The Cornwell Family
Cornwell is the name of one of our oldest families and the facts given in this article are far from full. We wish that we had more data, but this is all we have ready for publication at this time. The editor of the Times obtained the information below more than 20 years ago, but this is the second time it has ever been published. At the request of a member of the family we are giving such facts and figures as we have at hand.
The family originated in Ireland, according to our records, although perhaps some may think the family is of English origin. Whether they originated in Ireland and later went to England, or whether they started in England and later went to Ireland is not fully known. The first member of the family of whom we have any record was Coleman Cornwell, born in the latter part of the 17th century. His wife was Mahala Cole, who with her brother, John Cole, was kidnapped in England. She was then ten years of age and her brother two years younger. They were said to have been of wealthy parentage. After they had been taken by their kidnapper to Maryland, they were taken to Virginia, where both served as slaves, so our report indicates. Perhaps this should have been “indentured servants,” as may of those who came to early American paid for their passage across the ocean by serving as “indentured servants,” which was only another form of slavery. After eight years of such labor and toil, the young woman, then 18 years of age married Coleman Cornwell. She died about 1812 at the age of 115 years. This places the date of her birth at about 1697. One son, Coleman Cornwell, Jr., was born to the original Cornwell and Mahala Cole Cornwell.
Only two of the sons of this Coleman, Jr., are known. They were Collet and Francis. If there were other children in the family, we have no record of them. Collet Cornwell had one son that we know about, his name being Charlie Cornwell. He married his first cousin, Millie Cornwell, daughter of Francis. Charlie Cornwell was born 1784 and died October 11,1877.
The children of Charlie and Millie Cornwell were: Mary F. Cornwell, born November ll, 1802, died November 19, 1879; Artemisia Cornwell, married Elam Russell; Delia Cornwell, married King Robinson; Betsy Cornwell, married Madison Smith; Coleman Cornwell, married a Fagg; Francis Cornwell, married Hanes and later Potter; and Jesse Cornwell married a Draper.
Mary F. Cornwell married James Sutton on January 21, 1819. He was born August 25, 1795 and died April 5, 1864. Their children were as follows: Martha Sutton, born February 21, 1820 and died in September 1883. She married Barnett Cornwell, a grandson of Francis Cornwell; second child was James Tyrel Sutton; born November 25, 1821; died April 20, 1868, after having lived for a number of years at Coldwater, Wayne County, Missouri. No record of his wife’s name is at hand, but he , James Tyrel Sutton, was the father of Simpson Clay Sutton, married a Cosner and went to Missouri; Ben F. Sutton, Mary E. Sutton married a Oliver; James N. Sutton, William Jasper Sutton, married a Bennett; Martha Susan Sutton, Joel Warren Sutton and Jane Sutton, who married a Glover.
The third child of James Sutton and Mary F. Cornwell was Mahala who married Barnett Cornwell and died without children. Later her sister Martha, older than Mahala, married Barnett Cornwell as is given in the preceding paragraph.
The fourth child of James and Mary Cornwell Sutton was Betsy, who married a Kemp. Their offsprings included the following: Harvey, Mary Grissom, Carroll (Tobe), married first a Green and then a Reeves; Martha married a Jones; Minerva, married a Clay; John Head Kemp, married Mary Williams; Cary Kemp, married a Williams; and Leroy Kemp.
The fifth child of James and Mary F. Cornwell Sutton was Johnson Sutton, who married Austin. Johnson was born November 25, 1833, just twelve days after the falling of the stars, and died February 19, 1914. His children were: James M. Sutton, born July 22, 1856, and a former member of the Macon County Quarterly Court, a man possessed of a most remarkable memory and who gave the editor of the Times much of this information relative to the Sutton and Cornwell families. His children were: Annie, married a Overstreet; Martha, married a Russell; Victoria, married a Slate; and Joel Sutton’s second child was Sarah Sutton, born October 20, 1858, married a Wright and married a Seagraves. She died November 5, 1878. The third child was William T. Sutton, born May 22, 1862, and died April 14, 1907. He married a Morrow and became the father of Barnett, Lucy, Ray and Ellen Sutton The family went to Texas. The fourth and last child of Johnson Sutton was Jeff Sutton, born October 11, 1869, and died June 14, 1905. He married Louvella Canter and became the father of Hugh and Tommie J. Sutton.
The sixth and last child of James and Mary F. Sutton was Campbell Sutton, born May 23, 1845 and died December 23, 1909. He married Millie Kennedy and became the father of Ben A. And Jeanie Sutton.
We now return to the children of Charlie and Millie Cornwell, Mary F. Cornwell having been the first. Their second child was Artemisia Cornwell, who married Elam Russell. Their descendants in part were: Polly Russell, married a Murray and went to Ill., Silas married a Cornwell, a first cousin of his, once removed; Ben Russell, married Lottie Knight; Patsy Russell, married Pink Law, and went to Illinois; Pink Russell, married Minerva Knight; Franklin Russell, married Sarah Austin; and Hamp Russell, married Liza Knight.
Polly Russell Murray was the mother of Elam, Judy and Ben Murray. Silas Russell was the father of Simpson, Martha, Mary, Artemisia, William, Sarah and Bettie Russell. Bettie Russell married James Sutton above referred to as the man with such a remarkable memory. Many things have been told of his retentive memory. But one thing stands out perhaps over all the others in matters pertaining to his efforts to remember. On one occasion when he lived in the Bethany section of the County, he came to Lafayette riding muleback. His wife asked him to bring her a spool of thread. To save his life he could not recall just what she had told him to bring home. All day he tried to recall what his wife had asked him to bring home on his return. Finally he mounted his mule and left Lafayette. On Long Fork Creek about five miles from Lafayette, he recalled the request of his wife to bring her a spool of thread. He dismounted from his mule, hitched the animal to a sycamore tree and started back to Lafayette, five miles away, on foot, remarking to himself, “I will teach my memory to do better.” Thus he covered a distance of ten miles on foot as a matter of training his memory to retain what he did not wish to forget. The William Russell in the last group above named was the father of our County Register, Cayce Russell.
Ben Russell, third child of Elam Russell and Artemisia Cornwell, married Lottie Knight and became the father of Jane, Hamp, Jesse, Bettie, Pink and Elam Russell. Pink Russell was a primitive Baptist preacher, Elam was doctor. Pink Russell, the preacher, was the grandfather of J. P. Russell, who is employed at this time in the local bank. Patsy, fourth child of Elam and Artemisia, married Pink Law and became the mother of Hailey, Mary, Harve, Jeff and Milt Law. The family left Tennessee for Illinois many years ago. Pink, the fifth child of Elam and Artemisia, married Minerva Knight and became the father of Louisa, Henry, Harvey, Louella and Susan Russell. Louisa married a Morman by the name of Choate and left Tennessee for Utah the day after her marriage. Franklin Russell, sixth child of Elam and Artemisia, married Sarah Austin and became the father of G. F. M. Russell, C. C. Russell, Silas Russell, Willard Russell and Dora Russell. Hamp Russell married Liza Knight, but the names of their children are not at this time available. However, we have their names somewhere, if our memory serves us aright.
Having finished with the descendants of Artemisia Cornwell and her husband, Elam Russell, we give next Delia Cornwell, a sister of Mary and Artemisia. She married King Robinson and became the mother of Artemisia, Jim, Will, Betsy, Melinda, Tyrel, Nathan and Jane Robinson. Artemisia Robinson married Brice Draper, the family going to Illinois. Two of their offspring were Newt and Wade Draper. They went to Illinois in 1867. Jim Robinson married a Craver; but if they had children, their names are not known to the writer. Will Robinson married first a Pankey and later married five other women, he having been married six times, which is a record for this family and perhaps for most other families. He had one daughter, name not known. Betsy Robinson married Silas Evetts and moved to Illinois and here our record ends. Melinda Robinson married Jim Chaffin, and we have no further record of them. Tyrel Robinson was killed during the Civil War. Nathan Robinson went to Illinois; and Jane Robinson, the last of the children of Delia Cornwell and King Robinson, married James Flowers and there is no further record so far as we know.
Betsy Cornwell, fourth child of Charlie and Millie Cornwell, married Madison Smith and moved to Illinois. Their children were Jesse, Addison, Sheperd, Coleman, and Martha Smith. Jesse Smith had a son, Newt, and here our record stops, so far as this branch is concerned.
Next in the list of the children of Charlie and Millie Cornwell was Coleman Cornwell, named for his great-grandfather. He married a Fagg and we have and incomplete record of their offspring, two children having been born to them, and perhaps others. One of these was a daughter, who married McKinney. One Thing is recalled about this man, Coleman Cornwell, and that is that he killed a man near Red Boiling Spings with his bare fist in 1833.
Next in the line of the children of Charlie and Millie Cornwell was Francis Cornwell, who married Hanes. Francis was named for his maternal grandfather, Francis, the grandson, becoming the father of Tom Cornwell, who married a Spears, a Draper, a West and one other woman whose name is not known; Steven Francis Cornwell, for many years a merchant near Lafayette and whose son, Girfin, is one of the leading country merchants of this county; Ben S. Cornwell, who died from injuries received in the Civil War; Adeline Cornwell, who married a Payne and removed to Texas; Becky Cornwell, who married Hickman; Jane Cornwell and Charlie Cornwell, both of who died in infancy. Tom Cornwell, son of Francis Cornwell and the Hanes woman, was married four times as set forth above. By his first wife he had the following children: Lon Cornwell, who went to Texas; Alice, who married a Dotson; Ada, who married a Jent; and Nan, who married a Simmons; by the second wife he had: Almer Cornwell, who committed suicide; Virgil Cornwell, who lived for a time in Kentucky, and who now resides in the Westmoreland section of Sumner County; and Ida, who became the wife of Dr. Carman. By the third wife, Tom Cornwell was the father of Roxie, married a Simmons; Lilly, married a Freeman; and Mae, who married Harland Law.
In the record of Francis Cornwell, it was stated above that he married a Hanes and the names of his children were: Tom, Steven, Ben, Adeline, Becky, Jane and Charlie. It should have also been stated that Francis Cornwell married a second time, his wife having been a Miss Potter. By her he had two sons, Louis Cornwell and Clay Cornwell. Louis is reported to have died unmarried, and Clay’s descendants have not been learned.
Steven Francis Cornwell, son of Francis Cornwell, married the daughter of his first cousin, a Miss Hanes, and became the father of : Flaura Cornwell, married Dr. Willie King; Pearl, married Jim Hall; Cora, married a Simmons; Rudolph Cornwell, married a West; Miss Mae Cornwell, Girfin Cornwell, married a Miss Hanes; and Dr. Dallas Cornwell, who died a few years ago, married a Miss Bell.
We next go back to the father of Millie Cornwell, above mentioned, named Francis Cornwell. Francis was born about 1750, but we do not have the exact date. However, his daughter, Millie, was born in 1784, and died October 11, 1877. Millie had brothers, one of them, Thompson Cornwell and the other Burrell Cornwell. Our record of Burrell ends with his name, not one other thing being known of his or his descendants, if any.
Thompson Cornwell was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia on June 4, but the year is unknown. He married Miss Jennie Yeaman. Their children were as follows: Elijah, Enoch, Josiah, Barnett, Fushie, Luranie, Jane, Susan and Thompson, Jr. Elijah married a Mickleberry, but there is no record of his children. Enoch’s wife’s name is not known, but he was the father of Mary, Martha, Louisa and Wash Cornwell. Josiah had one son, Elijah Cornwell. Barnett Cornwell married first Mahala, the daughter of his first cousin Mary F. Cornwell Sutton. By her he had no children. After her death, Barnett married his first wife’s sister, Miss Martha Sutton, and by her he had a daughter, Mary, and a son, Lee Cornwell. It might be said here that there is reason to believe that Mary F. Cornwell was called Polly by her family, although her real name was undoubtedly Mary F. Cornwell. Lee Cornwell, son of Barnett and Martha Sutton Cornwell, married a Clay and became the father of Jim, Marie, Estelle, George, Thompson R., Deering, Mallie and Alice Cornwell.
Fushie Cornwell married a Miss Garrett an became the father of five children, but we have only the names of Robert and Sam Cornwell, whom we once knew personally. In fact we helped hold the funeral of Robert Cornwell, who was a very successful farmer of the Cato section. We also knew his father, Uncle Fushie, as he was called.
Luranie Cornwell married Silas Russell, a first cousin once removed. Their descendants in part at least, have already been given in this article.
Jane Cornwell, daughter of Thompson and Jennie Yeaman, married Silas Austin and became the mother of Elmina, who married a Winkler; and Dr. Dayton Austin, who married a Purnell, and who was a well-known physician of Greenwood, Miss. Susan, the daughter of Thomas and Jennie Yeaman Cornwell, burned to death. Thompson, Jr., died young.
From the best information available, it appears that the family located on the high ridge, about two miles southeast of Gibbs’ Cross Roads in the southeast part of Macon County. Larn Price now lives on what was once the old Cornwell farm. Here lived Thompson Cornwell and his wife, Jennie Yeaman Cornwell. He was an expert blacksmith in the long ago when being a blacksmith was one of the highest and most useful callings of a country citizen. Even our own George Washington was an expert blacksmith. In that early day, the factories and manufacturing plants and machinery of this day and time were unknown, and many, many things had to be made in a blacksmith shop. Barnett Cornwell, a son of Thompson, was perhaps the most expert blacksmith the Pleasant Shade section ever had. He was the grandfather of Thompson Cornwell, of Carthage, whom we have known for many years. A shovel Barnett Cornwell had made was in our family for many years. It was a heavy, narrow shovel, with a long, curved handle, with a knob at the top. However, the most artistic thing about the shovel was an almost perfect hexagon on the handle at the point one took hold of the shovel to use it. It made an impression on the writer in his childhood more than 45 years ago that has lingered until the present. We wondered in our childish minds how one could take a hammer and a rod of hot iron and form such a perfect hexagon on a shovel handle, and also how one could form an almost perfectly rounded head for the end of the handle.
The family appears at this time to be on the decline, so far as members go. In other words, there are but few young Cornwell men and boys to carry on the name. Steven F. Cornwell, for many years one of our leading citizens, does not have a Cornwell grandson, or great-grandson. And the same holds true of other male members of the family.
The family has been mixed religiously in the past, some being Baptists, come Presbyterians, and in later years a number of them have been identified with the Church of Christ. Generally they have been Democrats, so far as politics goes. Generally they have been a substantial family and many have gone out into the world of medicine and other professions from the family.
One episode or incident connected with the Cornwell family while living near Russell Hill has come down to us through the years. One of the Cornwells, perhaps Thompson or one of his sons, owned a very speedy and fine mare. While at Difficult one day, a heavy cloud arose as Mr. Cornwell was about ready to start for his home, which was four or five miles away. Cornwell was told that he would get wet; but, having great confidence in the running quality and ability of his mare, he left the store at Difficult with the rain then in sight. The story is that the mare out ran that storm for a distance of four or five miles, her tail getting soaking wet from the heavy rain that struck the animal’s tail, while her owner and rider, perhaps in his shirt sleeves, escaped without one drop of water striking him. We do not vouch for the truthfulness of the story, but we heard it in the days gone by. The name of that speedy mare, we have somehow forgotten but might be able some time to recall it.
The above record is far from perfect and perhaps some names have been left out. Such omissions, if any, were wholly unintentional and we shall be glad to add them to a later report if such is necessary. Again, perhaps there are errors. If such are noted, corrections will be gladly made.
This record is being published because the writer cannot hope to live many years longer and he might die at any time. Perhaps he may be pardoned for the feeling that he has more of the record of this family than any other person living. A copy of the Times is filed each week in the State Library at Nashville, and will be available for research workers in the years to come, long after the writer has “gone the way of all the earth”.