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From my book "Line of Descent of George Roger Gilbert"




An interesting tradition has been handed down concerning William Cornwall. A tolerably circumstantial version of this tradition was put into writing by the grandfather of the compiler of this book, Mr. David Cornwall ( born 1790, died 1874), who began to collect materials for a Cornwall genealogy in 1824. He did not proceed very far with the undertaking, and most of his papers relating to it have been lost, but fortunately his version of the Family Tradition was preserved.

According to this version of the tradition, William Cornwall came from England to New England in the reign of Charles I; he was accompanied by two brothers, one of whom went to Long Island and afterwards returned to England to recover an estate which had been confiscated; this brother, or William himself, had been an officer in King Charles's body-guard; William was a Cavalier and not a Puritan; he received a grant of land in Connecticut for servies in fighting the Indians.

Other versions of this tradition give the number of brothers who accompanied William Cornwall to America as one, two, and three; and one version says he had a brother in England who was an earl. All versions agree that one brother came with him who went to Long Island; and in at least two branches of the family the tradition of his connection with the King's body-guard has been preserved.

Notwithstanding the circumstantiality of this tradition and the persistency with which its main points have been held in different branches of the family, it would not deserve serious consideration if it did not have some documentary support. Fortunately, documentary evidence in support of its principal assertions has been found, and this makes its other assertions less improbable.

The statement made in one version of the tradition, that William Cornwall had a brother in England who was an earl, is not true. There was no earl of the name of Cornwall in England at that time, and the only contemporary nobleman of the name was not his brother. But it is possible that his family may have belonged to the lesser gentry, to which class many of the Puritan settlers of New England belonged; and if his family owned an estate in England during the troubled times between 1620 and 1660 its confiscation would not have been an unusual event. There is nothing in his character or career, as shown by the New England records, which is inconsistent with such an origin.

The statement that he was a Cavalier and not a Puritan seems incorrect in face of the fact that the first notice which we have of him in America is the record of his membership in a Puritan church. But he may have been a recent convert to Puritanism, and have come to New England in consequence of his conversion; and his family in England may have been Cavaliers and have suffered in consequence during Cromwell's ascendancy. If we accept the tradition about the "king's body-guard," it is not difficult to understand that his conversion to Puritanism might have lost him his position in the King's household.

Of the brother who went to Long Island we have what seems to be good documentary evidence. Shortly after the first appearance of William Cornwall in Hartford, Connecticut, we find the record of a Thomas Cornwall there. There is only one record of this Thomas Cornwall in Connecticut, but two years later, in the records of the Reformed Dutch Church in New Amsterdam, we find an account of the marriage of "Thomas Cornelis, of Hertfordshire, England." This thomas Cornwall joined the English settlement at Gravesend, Long Island, and died there in 1650. He did not return to England to claim a confiscated estate, - that statement may have been a distorted allusion to some fact or an ornamental frill added to the tradition, - but he certainly failed to return to Connecticut, which one version of the tradition says was the case. An account of this Thomas Cornwall is given in the Appendix, and also an account of another contemporary Thomas Cornwall, who may have been related to William.

The traditionary statement that William Cornwall was an "officer in the King's body-guard" seems to be confirmed by the early records of Hartford, Connecticut. This subject will be discussed in another place.

The statement that he received a grant of land in Connecticut for military services in the Indian wars is also supported by documentary evidence and will be alluded to again.

Taking this tradition for what it is worth, we learn from it that William Cornwall was born in England, near the beginning of the seventeeth century, of respectable parents of the middle class; that he probably served for a time as one of the little corps of sixteen sergeants-at-arms who were in attendance on Charles I; that he became a Puritan, and emigrated to New England in company with one brother who went to Long Island.

In what part of England William cornwall was born we can only conjecture, but the fact that many of the early settlers of Hartford, Conn., with whom he joined himself at an early date, were from Hertfordshire, and the fact that his probable brother, Thomas Cornwall, who married in New York in 1642, was from Hertfordshire, both point to that English county as the place of his origin.

Leaving tradition, we will now follow William Cornwall's history as it is given in the New England records. The first record which we have of him is found in the Reverend John Eliot's list of members of his church in Roxbury, Massachusetts, which includes the names of

" William Cornewell,

" Joane Cornewell, the wife of William Cornewell."

The date 1633 is given just before and just after the entry of these names.

No further record of him is found in Roxbury, but we have evidence that in May, 1637, he was one of the sevety-seven soldiers, all but nineteen of whom were from Hartford and the other Connecticut River towns, who attacked and all but exterminated the Pequot Indians in the fort at Mystic. Whether he was in Hartford before this campaign, or came from Massachusetts with Captain John Underhill, and was one of the nineteen soldiers of Captain Underhill's company who joined the little Connecticut force under Captain Mason at Saybrook, is an open question. It is certain that he was settled in Hartford very soon after the Pequot expedition.

In 1638, the next year after the Pequot fight, he accompanied Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Goodwin in an expedition sent by the Colony of Connecticut to consummate the purchase of Stratford from the Indians. Many years later, in 1659, The Reverend John Higginson, who acted as interpreter for this expedition, gave testimony concerning it which he ends as follows: " and I suppose if Mr. Goodwin is asked he can say the same thing for substance as I do, and William Cornwell at Sebrook, who was there." Mr. Higginson, in 1659, evidently thought that William Cornwall was living in Saybrook; he was, in fact, living in Middletown at that time.

In 1639, when the land records of Hartford begin, William Cornwall had a house lot of eight acres in the village, "no. 54, west of South Street, south from the Lane," which corresponds to a location near the north end of the present Village Street. One half of his house lot lay in the "Souldier's Field," a choice tract which was divided among the veterans of the Pequot War. His possession at this early date of a share of the "Souldier's Field" confirms the family tradition that he received a grant of land for military services against the Indians. The total amount of land recorded to him in Hartford in 1649 was about sixteen acres.

Though an early settler in Hartford, he was not one of the original proprietors of the town. We find his name third in a list of forty-two householders who, in 1640, held their rights of pasturage on the Common and of drawing wood and water "by the courtise of the town."

In the earliest record of his land in Hartford, which is dated Feb., 1639, he is styled "William Cornwell, Sergeant-at-arms." In view of the statement in the Family Tradition that William Cornwall had been "an officer in the King's body-guard," and because of the difficulty of accounting for the presence in this early Harford record of the unusual title, Sergeat-at-arms, in any other way than by taking it as a reference to his position in England, it is not unreasonable to suppose that William Cornwall had been in England one of the sixteen sergeants-at-arms, who, in the time of Charles I, were devoted to the special service of the King, while four more were attendant on the Houses of Parliament and the Lord Chancellor. It is easy to believe that the Hartford recorder put this title after William Cornwall's name because he had known him in England and the position which he held there. It is also significant that in this first record in Hartford of the name Cornwall it is spelled with the w, while in the earliest know autograph of Wiliam Cornwall (1648), as well as in his signature to his will, the w is omitted. Had not the recorder been sufficiently acquainted with William Cornwall's family in England to know how the name should be spelled, he would probably have entered it, as it appears in so many other early records, in the corrupted form Cornell.

It was probably about 1639 that William Cornwall married his second wife, Mary, who, it is highly probable, was the mother of all his children who are mentioned in his will; she certainly was the mother of his daughter Sarah. Of his first wife, Joane, no record has been found other than the mention of her name in the list of the members of the Roxbury church.

He removed before March 5, 1648 from the village of Hartford to the east side of the Connecticut River at Hocanum. On that date he bound out his second son, William who was seven years old, to Susannah Hooker of Hartford, widow of the Reverend Thomas Hooker, with provision for his education. The original indentrue in the handwriting of Governor Edward Hopkins is still in existence.

Sept. 6, 1649, "at a perticular Court in Hartford," he was sued and judgment was rendered against him: " Thos. Osmore, Plt. contra William Cornewell, defnedt. in an action of the case, to the damage of 4 l."

In 1650 or 1651, he removed with the first settlers to Middletown, fifteen miles below Hartford on the Connecticut River. There his house lot of five acres, with ten acres on the opposite side of the street, was in the cente of the village, "Lower Houses," "near ye landing place, by ye spring," at the southwest corner of the junction formed by the highway leading up from the river and the highway running north and south, which corresponds to the corner of the present Main and Washington streets.

His lands in Middletown were first formally recorded Feb. 30, 1657, though a grant to him is alluded to as early as March 15, 1652, about which time the land records begin. The total amount recorded to him is none hundred and three acres. Besides this amount he had a "great lot over the Great River" and an original proprietor's share in the undivided lands of the township. His descendants received this share whenever a new division was made. In a deed dated 1775 allusion is made to land "which was laid out in the right of old Sergeant Cornwell."

He was representative from Middletown in the Colonial Legislature in 1654,1664,and 1665. He was constable in 1664.

In 1666 he received a grant of land in East Hartford of twenty-four acres in a general division. This may have been given to him as a veteran of the Pequot War, but it is more likly that he received it as a citizen of Hartford, his rights in which he may have retained. The grant of land referred to in the family tradition was no doubt his four acres in the " Souldier's field."

In 1667 the General Court at Hartford "freed William cornwell's head from the paying of rates."

"3rd of 10th, 1668, Sergeant Cornwell" joined the recently organized church in Middletown.

In 1670 he was assessed in Middletown on £ 160, which was the fifth largest assessment in the list of fifty-two householders. In the same list his son John was rated at £ 40, and his sons William and Samuel at £ 45 each. In 1673 he was rated at £ 231.

April 7, 1674, he made his will, which he signed with a very feeble hand. In it he speaks of himself as "well stricken in years and much abated in any natural strength."

Nov. 4, 1676, he deeded land on the east side of the Connecticut River to his sons William and Samuel. This deed was witnessed by his son John Cornwell and his son-in-law John Hall, Jr., by the assignment of their father Sergeant William Cornwell, he not being able to sign it," which shows that the "abatement of his natural strength" alluded to in his will two years before had progressed.

He died in Middletown, Feb. 21, 1678, and was probably buried in the old cemetery by the Connecticut River, though there are no tombstones standing there of so early a date.

His will and inventory are on file in Hartford Probate Office.

Last will and testament of Sergeant William Cornwell of Middletown.

"Whereas I, William Cornwell, Sr., of Middletown, being well stricken in years and much abated in my natural strength (though, through mercy, in perfect use of my understanding and memory as ordinarily men are of my years), expecting my change to be very near, as duty binds me to prevent all future trouble in consequence to my children and to others, I do leave this as my last will and testament covering that portion of my outward estate which God hath given me as followeth:

"imprimis: I give to my son John Cornwell so much addition to his present house lott out of my house lott as may make up his present house lott the full half of the whole, the sayd addition to be taken out next to the dividing line betwixt us. I also give to my said son John the one half of that wood land in the south division of the land beyond the Mill lying below the land of my son William and William Lucas, the other half of said land to my dauter Sarah Cornwell, this land to be equally divided between them. Moreover I give to my son John two acres of the meadow and swamp at the Riverlet at the eastern end of the meadow and swamp to begin next the Riverlet at the end next the boggy meadow and so to carry a straight line north and south through the said meadow and swamp as it divides the line betwen the aforesaid two acres and the remaining of my meadow at the Riverlet.

" I give to my son William Cornwell ten acres of my land upon the Indian Hill at the east end, the whole breadth of the lot, moreover I give to my said son one third part of my land yet to be divided by the list of 1674 on the east side of the river, the other two thirds of the aforesaid land to my sons Samuel and Thomas equally to be divided between them. I give moreover to my son Samuel one hundred acres of my wood lot at the Long Hill, the ten acres as above mentioned being taken out of it.

"I give to my dauter Hester Willcox my whole lot on the east side of the River lying against Goodman Coales swamp at the upper end of the rocks west . . . . in the pond. . . .

" I give to my dauter Elizabeth hall one parsell of upland lying in the Boggy meadow quartered betwen the bounds of Deacon hall and my son Samuel Cornwell.

" I give my loving wife mary Cornwell my household, all the buildings, houshold stuff and moveables whatsoever with the remainder of my meadow at the Riverlet quitly and peacefully to enjoy the same with all the benefits thereof during the term of her widdowhood, and also the whole stock of cattle during the said term. It is also my meaning here and will that while my dauter Sarah continues in single state, living with and being a comfort to her mother, she should have her maintenance out of the same so far as her mother's comfort will allow. After my wife her decease I will the above mentioned house, houshold and meadow land at the Riverlett, remaining to my son jacob Cornwell, he to pay all just debts and the charges of my decent funeral out of the same, and also to his sister Sarah Cornwell one third part of the valuation of the forementioned housing and land as shall be offered and invited in current pay of the country within twelve months after his possession of the same. In case my wife in the term above mentioned see cause to change her condition by marriage it is then my will that my living wife should leave all the household stuff whatsoever to Jacob, he to allow her four pounds sterling a year so long as she live in good current pay of the country in case she find need and demand of him and that at her decease my three daughters shall have the houshold stuffs equally divided among them, only my son Samuel to have ( upon a former promise) one of the feather beds first taken out and delivered to him, and the long table, johnt stools and bedstead in the new room to be left to Jacob with the house.

" I request my respected and loving brothers and friends Deacon Stocking and Deacon Hall to be my overseers in order to the execution of this my last will and testament which is that it be so in all repects as above mentioned and so left by me. I witness by subscribing my hand and fixing my seal.

William Cornell [seal]

"Signed in the presence of us

Nath. White

Nath. Collins

" the 2d. 12th 1674.

"Lieut Nath. White made oath that he and Nath. Colins were present when Sgt. William Cornwell signed and delivered on the other side his last will and testament.

John Allyn, attest,


(1) WILLIAM CORNWALL, born in England: died Feb. 21, 1678, in Middletown, Conn.; married first, Joan ____; married second, probably before 1640, Mary _____.

Children born in Hartford, Conn.

2. John, b. April 1640

3. William , b. June 24, 1641.

4. Samuel, b. Sept. 1642.

5. Jacob, b. Sept. 1646.

6. Sarah, b. Oct. 1647; m. (as 2nd wife), Oct. 16, 1675, Daniel Hubbard of Middletown. children (Hubbard); 1 Margaret, b. July 20, 1676; m. John Ward. 2. Mary, b. Jan. 16, 1678; d. 1679. 3. Sarah, b. March10, 1680; m.Edward Foster. 4. Mehitable, b. Aug.18, 1683. 5. Mary, b. March 23, 1686.

7. Thomas, B. Sept. 1648.

8. Esther, b. May, 1650; d. May 2, 1733; m. 1st (as his 4th wife) John Willcox, Jr., of Middeltown. He died May 24, 1676, and she m. 2nd 1677, John Stow of Middletown. Children (Willcox); 1 Ephraim, b. July 9, 1672;m. Silence Hands. 2. Esther, b. Dec. 9, 1673; m. Benjamin Hands. 3. Mary, b. March 24, 1676. Children (Stow); 4.Hope, b. Sept. 10, 1679; m. Capt. George Phillips. 5. Samuel, b. 1684; d. 1700 6. Thankful, b. 1690; d. 1704.

9. Elizabeth, b. Jan. 1652; m. Capt. John Hall of Middletown. children (Hall); 1. John, b. Oct. 28,1670. 2. Richard, b. March 23, 1672. 3. Jacob, b. Dec. 20, 1673. 4. Jonathan, b March 25, 1676. 5. Samuel, b. Oct. 27, 1678. 6. Capt. Giles, b. Oct. 3, 1680. 7. Elizabeth, b. March 9, 1584; m. 1st Mr. Lewis; m. 2d. April 7, 1726, Capt. Joseph Cornwall. 8 Daniel, b. Jan. 12, 1689.

(2) JOHN 2 CORNWALL (William 1), born April, 1640; died Nov. 2, 1707; married June 8, 1665, Martha, daughter of Deacon Paul and Hannah Peck of Hartford. He lived in Middletown. his house stood next to his father's, near the corner of the present Main and Washington streets. He was sergeant in the militia. In his will he mentions nine children and his wife, for the possibility of whose second, and even third marriage he provides. His estate amounted to £317.

Children born in Middletown, Conn.

10. Mary, b. Nov. 20, 1666; was living in 1707. (See Doolittle)

11. Martha, b. Aug. 30, 1669; m. March 31, 1692, Richard Hubbard of Middletown. Children (Hubbard) : 1. Martha, b. Jan. 3, 1693. 2. Elizabeth, b. July 1,1694. 3. Hannah, b. June 12, 1696. 4. Mary, b. April 9, 1699; d. 1699. 5. Mary, b. April 17, 1700. 6. Richard, b. Aug. 25, 1706; d. 1709.

12. John, b. Aug. 13, 1671

13. William, b. Aug. 17, 1673.

14. Paul, b. June 6, 1675.

15. Hannah, b. Sept. 5, 1677; d. Jan. 16, 1736: m. Daniel Doolittle of Wallingford and Middletown. Children (Doolittle): 1 Hannah, b. Jan. 27, 1699; m. Joseph Doolittle. 2. Elizabeth, b. Oct. 15, 1700. 3. Matthew, b. April 16, 1703. 4. Dinah, b. Oct. 4, 1705. 5. Daniel, b. Feb. 3, 1707. 6. Joseph, b. July 3, 1709. 7. Steven, b. Sept. 14, 1710. 8. Abigail, b. May 6,1712. 9. Ezra, b. July 24, 1718.

16. Capt. Joseph, b. Oct. 5, 1679

17. Thankful, b. March 1, 1682; d. young.

18. Thankful,b. July 26, 1685; d. June 1, 1758; m. July 6, 1710, Jonathan Sleed of Middletown, who d. Dec. 9, 1757, aged 78. Children (Sleed): 1. John, b. April 30, 1711. 2. Abigail, b. Sept. 10, 1712. 3. Elizabeth, b. July 8, 1714. 4. Thankful, b. Aug. 31, 1718; d. 1723. 5. Martha, b. Feb. 17, 1720. 6. Mary, b. Oct. 4, 1722. 7. Daniel, b. April 5, 1724 8. George, b. Sept. 23, 1727.

19. Benjamin, b. Dec. 23, 1588.

From my Ahnentafel List

3388. William Cornwall - born in England. May have been a member of "The King's Guard" and as a puritan was forced to leave England and come to Hartford, Ct. Married (1) Joan ___; (2) probably before 1640, Mary _____. Died in Middletown, Ct. 2/21/1678.

3389. Mary ______ -

Children: (Cornwall)

John - (#1694)

William - b. 6/24/1641

Samuel - b. 9/1642

Jacob - b. 9/1646

Sarah - b. 10/1647 m. Daniel Hubbard of Middletown

Thomas - b. 9/1648

Esther - b. 5/1650; d. 5/2/1733; m. (1) John Wilcox, Jr. of Middeltown; (2) 1677, John Stow of Middletown


1694. John Cornwall - b. 4/?/1640 in Hartford, Ct., son of William Cornwall and Mary ____. He married 6/8/1665, Martha Peck, dau. of Deacon Paul Peck and Hannah ___ , of Hartford. He lived in Middletown, Ct. where his house stood next to hif father's, near the corner of the present Main and Washington streets. He was a Sergeant in the militia. He died 11/2/1707.

1695. Martha Peck - b. 1641 in Hartford, Ct. She died 3/1/1708 in Middletown, Ct.

Children: (Cornwall/Cornwell)

1. Mary - (#847)

2. Martha - b. 8/30/1669; m. 3/31/1692, Richard Hubbard of Middletown, Ct.

3. John - b. 8/13/1671

4. William - b. 8/17/1673

5. Paul - b. 6/6/1675

6. Hannah - b. 9/5/1677; d. 1/16/1736; m. Daniel Doolittle, brother of sister Mary's husband, Samuel Doolittle.

7. Capt. Joseph - b. 10/5/1679

8. Thankful - b. 3/1/1682; died young

9. Thankful - b. 7/26/1685; d. 6/1/1758; m. 7/6/1710, Jonathan Sleed of Middletown, Ct.

10. Benjamin - b. 12 23/ 1688.


846. Samuel Doolittle - b. 7/07/1665 in New Haven, Ct., son ofÊAbraham Doolittle and his second wife, Abigail Moss. ÊMarried Mary Cornwall, dau. of Sergt. John Cornwall and Martha Peck. Living in Wallingford, Ct. , they moved to Middletown, Ct. after the birth of their second son. ÊSamuel died 9/25/1714 in Middletown, Ct.

847. Mary Cornwall - b. 11/20/1666 Middletown, Ct. and died 11/16/1742 in Middletown, Ct.

Children: (Doolittle)

1. Jonathan - b. 8/21/1689

2. Samuel - b. 8/31/1691

3. Mary - b. 11/24/1693; m. Solomon Goff

4. Abraham - b. 9/21/1695

5. Abigail - b. 4/10/1697; m. William Mark

6. Martha - b. 4/6/1698; m. Daniel Hall

7. Hannah - (#423)

8. Thankful - b. 6/3/1702; prob. m. John Hall

9. Joseph - b. 6/20/1704

10. Nathaniel - b. 1/15/1706

11. Esther - b. 7/16/1709


422. Stephen Turner - bapt. 8/29/1697, Milford, Ct., son of Edward Turner and Mary (Sanford?) . Married (1) 1/16/1722-23, Hannah Doolittle, dau. of Samuel Doolittle and Mary Cornwall, (2) 1/8/1739, Hannah Center. ÊHe died 1780 in Middletown, Ct.

423. Hannah Doolittle - born 10/29/1700 in Middletown, Ct. Died 9/10/1738 in Middletown, Ct.

Children: (Turner)

1. Sarah - b. 9/30/1723

2. Hannah - b. 7/14/1725: d. 7/28/1744

3. Stephen - b. 3/12/1727

4. Mary - b. 12/13/1728 (#211)

5. Elizabeth - b. 8/29/1730

6. Millicent

7. Jonathan - b. 2/28/1737