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.
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
"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
"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:
"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