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Pierre Barlow Cornwall 1821-1904


Contributred by John F. Barlow

1849 daguerreotype

Pierre Barlow Cornwall was born on November 23, 1821, near Andes, Delaware County, New York.  His parents were William Cornwall and Theodosia Barlow. Theodosia was born on August 29, 1793, daughter of the Revolutionary War veteran, Samuel Barlow and Ann Hawley (Barlow of Barlow newsletter Feb. 2002).

According to the February 2002 issue of the Barlow of Barlow newsletter, Samuel Barlow is thought to be the son of Benajah and Ann Barlow. That would make Pierre Barlow Cornwall an 8th generation descendent of John Barlow of Fairfield, Connecticut.

In 1848 Pierre Barlow Cornwall traveled from Ohio to California with his younger brother Arthur (age 16) and Tom Fallon, a famous trapper and scout. He settled in Sacramento, where on January 05, 1850 he married Georgiana Cutler. Pierre and Georgiana had three children, Florence, Bertha and Arthur. Georgiana died in 1864. In 1867 Mr. Cornwall moved his family (which now included his mother and his sister Emily) to San Francisco.

On June 25, 1871 Pierre married Sada Davis. In 1906 their son, Bruce Cornwall, wrote the Life Sketch of Pierre Barlow Cornwall .

Pierre Barlow Cornwall made his fortune in real estate and mining.  He was president of the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia RR. Co., Black Diamond Coal Mining Co. and the California Electric Light Co.

Pierre Barlow Cornwall also served as president of the Society of California Pioneers and was the last surviving member of the first California legislature.

1885 daguerreotype

Pierre Barlow Cornwall died on September 25, 1904 at San Francisco, California.

Photographs from The Life Sketch of Pierre Barlow Cornwall by Bruce Cornwall

The Bellingham Reveille - September 27, 1904

Death Comes to P.B. Cornwall   Prominent Pioneer of Pacific Coast Passes Away

Helps to Make this City

The First Man to Invest Outside Capital on Bellingham Bay  --  For Many Years President of B.B.I. Co. and B.B. & B.C. --

Was 84 Years Old and  Had Been Ailing for Months --  Only Recently Retired From Active Life.

Pierre B. Cornwall, a pioneer on the Pacific coast, and one of the pioneers of industrial enterprise in Whatcom county, died Saturday night at his San Francisco residence.

Had Retired From Active Life.

For several months he had lain ill with bronchitis, which had developed from a severe cold, besides also suffering from a weak heart.  Feeling the need of rest after a long life of successful business activity, he in February last, retired from the presidency of the B.B.& B.C. company here and on June 1 stepped from the presidency of the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company, about the same time giving up his executive duties in the Black Diamond Coal Co of King county, which recently passed in the hands of the Pacific Coast Company for a sum of over on million dollars. The tide of emigration westward carried Mr.Cornwall across the plains from his Ohio home to California two years before Marshall struck gold, in 1849.

Early Interested in Bellingham Bay

Sometime in the'60's he became connected with the Bellingham Bay Coal Mining Company, and seeing from the first great natural advanges here than must one day makea city, he in 1883, organized the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Company and began the construction of a road to connect with the C.P.R. line.  In 1890 to facilitate the development of the lumber industry to advance land interests and to further the growth and permanency of the electrical establishment here instituted he organized the B.B.I. Company.  Of this company and of the B.B. & B. C.  Mr. Cornwall became president.

In 1889 the railroad was completed and simultaneous w--- its opening operations steps were taken to convert the timber along its lines into lumber.  About this time the B.B.I.Company's milling plant, in this city, was constructed.  He was also a pioneer in Mt. Baker mining explorations, placing large sums of money in this direction and becoming the owner of a number of mining properties.

Evidence of His Public Spirit.

Mr. Cornwall was prominently identified with the establishment of the public library in Whatcom in 1890, and has done much since to further its advancement, the site and building at Magnolia and Dock streets and a large number of books counting among his donations.  He also donated a part of the land on which St. Luke's hospital stands, and his company controls the land on which is built most of the churches of this city.

Practicially every movement having for its aim the advancement of Bellingham or any of its varied interests could always count on the sympathy and assistance of Mr. Cornwall.

Father of This City.

J. J. Donovan, general superintendent of the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Company, says he feels that Mr. Cornwall was the father of this city, not in manner that several pioneers were founders, but that he was the first man who came here with capital back of him to develop the country.

"While I know,"said Mr.Donovan, "that there were many who looked for more raid development as a result of Mr. Cornwall's investments here, after the closing of the coal mines in the early days, Mr. Cornwall was always a leader among his _________ance would permit in the quick opening and development of the country.

"He was the prime mover in the establishment of both the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Companies, the founder of the water works, electric light and the big mill. He has always been enthusiastic in the belief of the resources of the county, in the perfection of our harbor and in the possibility of building here a city the equal of any on the coast.  I am sure it can be said of him that he has favored the most liberal treatment toward everything that tended towards the development of the moral and intellectual standard of the people here.  Assisted by local people he established the first public library in this city and has given not only much property but donations in books and has aided its maintenance.

Short Sketch of His Life.

Pierre B. Cornwall was a native of New York.  The greater part of his early youth was spent  in Ohio.  While Mr.Cornwall was yet very young, his father died, and thereafter he was the support of the entire family, bringing them to the coast following his arrival in California.

In 1848 he crossed the plains locating first at Sutter's Fort, now Sacramento, California.  For a number of years he engaged in the mercantile business, when his great executive talent and the qualities of administration which so strongly marked his character asserted themselves and he rose to the presidency of the California Electric Light Company.  But a nature so enterprising and a business ability so consummate as his could scarce reside within the bounds of a single enterprise, so giving play to his executive force he organized the Mutual Electric Light Company of San Francisco with him as president.  This position he held until his death.

Being thus engaged in productive deeds of activity he was over alert to embrace other properties giving the raw materials for consumption, so the opportunity offering he entered the coal business in the Black Diamond region in California.

Politically Mr. Cornwall was a prominent figure in his adapted state.  With his death chronicles the passing of the only surviving member of the first California legislature.  He was a member of the first constitutional convention, chairman of the republican state central committee from 1880 to 1888, he has been president of the Society of Pioneers of California, a member of the board of regents of California University and for eight years, dating from 1880 he was president of the Mechanics Institute. Mr.Cornwall was a man of excellent constitution strong business acumen, and rare executive ability.   He was a firm and aggressive character yet kindly and charitably disposed.

Surviving him are his wife and four children.  Bruce Cornwall, the attorney, Arthur Cornwall and Mrs. F.C. Moore, of San Francisco, and Mrs. Edward Fischer of this city.

Funeral Occurs Today.

The B. B. I. mill was yesterday and will today also be closed, likewise the office of the company here.

The funeral takes place at 2:30 this afternoon in San Francisco.  The engines of the B. B. & B.C. will be draped with crepe today.

Tribute From His Associates.

At the time of his resignation early in the year, from the leadership of the local corporations, he was so largely instrumental in establishing, the following resolution was adopted by the corporate bodies:

Resolution.

"Hon. P. B. Cornwall, who since the date of the organization of this corporation, has been its president, having signified his desire of being relieved from the responsiblilites of such office; it is with regret that this board accedes to his request, and it takes this opportunity of expressing its appreciation and that of the company, of the years of faithful, conscientious and efficient service rendered to this company and community by Mr. Cornwall.  To his unfaltering belief, in the resources, possiblities and destiny of this portion of the state is largely due to the construction of the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia railroad and other improvements and industries which have so materially contributed to the growth of this city,enabling it to attain the population which now entitles it to become a city of the first class in this new and growing state.  The remaining members of the board wish for Mr. Cornwall many years of happiness and prosperity and express the hope that his capacity of trustee and as a member of the executive committee, this corporation will long continue to have the benefit of his valuable counsel in the direction of its corporate affairs."

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