Biography of Mason A. Cornwall

This honored citizen of Moscow has now attained the venerable age of seventy-seven years, yet largely possesses the vigor of a man in his prime. His life has been a busy, useful and honorable one, and has been crowned with a rich measure of success as the fitting reward of his labors and his well directed energies. He is still actively interested in business affairs and in all that is connected with the state’s prosperity and progress, and is one of the most valued citizens of Idaho. Old age is not necessarily a synonym of weakness or inactivity. It need not suggest as a matter of course want of occupation or helplessness. There is an old age that is a benediction to all that comes in contact with it, that gives out of its rich stores of learning and experience, and grows stronger intellectually and spiritually as the years pass. Such is the life of Mr. Cornwall, an encouragement to his associates and an example well worthy of emulation to the young.

Mason A. Cornwall was born in Truxton, Cortland County, New York, December 2, 1821, and is a descendant of an old English family that numbers many prominent men among its representatives. Four Cornwall brothers emigrated to New England in 1636, and founded the family in Connecticut and Rhode Island. William Cornwall settled in Hartford, Connecticut, and became the progenitor of the branch of the family to which our subject belongs. Benjamin Cornwall, his grandfather, served as a captain in the colonial army throughout the Revolutionary war, thus valiantly aiding in the struggle for independence, and after the establishment of the republic he removed from Connecticut to Montgomery County, New York. He had a large family of boys, and with there he divided his landed possessions in Truxton, Cortland County, and they all settled around him. There he resided, surrounded by the comforts of life, until called to his final rest, in 1835, at the age of seventy-five years. His wife bore the maiden name of Esther Carrington.

Their son Enos Cornwall, the father of our subject, was born in the Nutmeg state, and located on a farm near his father in Cortland County, New York. Loyalty to his country prompted his service as captain of a company in the war of 1812, and at all times he was faithful to his duties of citizenship. He married Miss Betsy Fox, a native of Montgomery County, and they became the parents of ten children, six of whom reached years of maturity. The mother departed this life at the age of forty years and the father died in the seventy-fourth year of his age. They were Baptists in their religious faith and were people of the highest respectability.

Mason A. Cornwall, their youngest son, is now the only surviving member of the family. He was educated at Cornwall Hill, the place of his nativity, so called in honor of his father. Removing to the Western Reserve of Ohio, he settled in Cuyahoga, and while there he worked in order to secure further educational advantages afforded in the Berea Seminary. After leaving that institution he taught school for several years and then entered the Fredonia Academy, wherein he became a teacher of French. Subsequently he removed to Canada, where he was successfully engaged in educational work for more than twenty years, having the happy faculty of imparting clearly and readily to others the knowledge he had acquired. From Canada he removed to Lorain county, Ohio, where he purchased a large ranch at a bargain, retaining possession of that property until 1864, when he sold the farm (for which he had paid twelve hundred dollars) for forty-seven hundred dollars. Mr. Cornwall also resided for about twenty years in the township of Eagle, Richland county, Wisconsin, and became the owner of a number of farms there. He also purchased a portable sawmill, which was to be operated by another man, but the one who took charge of it did not make a success of the business, and Mr. Cornwall converted it into a store, carrying on merchandising there for several years. The confinement, however, made inroads upon his health, and he went to New Orleans, where he became interested in sugar plantations and both made and lost money.

In 1883 he arrived in Idaho and secured from the government a ranch of eighty acres, six and a half miles east of Moscow. There he built a store, opened trade, secured the establishment of a post office, which was called Cornwall, and continued merchandising until 1887, when he removed to Moscow. Here he engaged in money loaning and in speculating, and subsequently established the Bank of Moscow, in partnership with McConnell, McGuire & Brown. He held half of the stock and was elected president, but after five months he withdrew, and in 1890 erected the Cornwall Block, sixty-two and a half feet front, on Third Street, and seventy feet deep. It is a fine substantial structure, three stories in height, and stands as a fitting monument to his business ability and enterprise. He now owns nearly the whole of that valuable block, one hundred and twenty-five feet front, and his building brings him a rental of four hundred dollars per month. He continues his money speculations and is still the owner of the ranch which he entered from the government, together with many other fine ranches, which are principally planted to wheat. He has built and occupies one of the finest residences in the town, and it stands in the midst of twenty-seven acres of ground. Mr. Cornwall is also largely interested in several gold quartz mines, among which is the Ozark mine, at Florence, and the Oro Fino, which assays as high as one hundred and twenty-five dollars to the ton, and of which he and his son own one-half interest. He has shares to the value of one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in the Golden Gate mine, six and a half miles from Moscow, its ore assaying seventy-six dollars to the ton, and is a shareholder in many other rich mining properties.

In 1849 Mr. Cornwall married Miss Barbara Wise, a lady of German descent, who was born in Canada. Their union was blessed with four sons and two daughters. They lived happily together for about twenty years, when death claimed the loving wife, during their residence in Wisconsin. All of the children of that marriage still reside in the Badger state, except the eldest daughter, who is deceased, and the second child, Frank E., who resides in Moscow and is his father’s partner in various enterprises. Mr. Cornwall was again married July 17, 1881 when Annie Maria Olson became his wife. She was born in Wisconsin and is of Norwegian descent. Their children are: Lulu A., Mason H., Enos C. and Corwin E., all living at home with their parents, although the two eldest are now attending the state university. Mrs. Cornwall is a valued member of the Presbyterian Church and Mr. Cornwall contributes liberally to its support. He was made a Master Mason many years ago in Orion Lodge, No. 70, F. & A. M., in Wisconsin, filled every office and is now past master. He has now reached the age of seventy-seven years, but is still hale and hearty. The record of his life is a history of business ability and success, and his taxes now amount to one thousand dollars annually. He has been a liberal giver to church and public enterprises and has taken a deep interest in the upbuilding and prosperity of the town. In his business dealings he has ever been just and honorable, and on no occasion has he ever oppressed or cramped a debtor whom he believed to be honest, but who through unfortunate circumstances was unable to meet his obligations. His life has been one of the highest integrity. He is a man of broad scholarly attainments, of culture and ability, and he belongs to that class of representative Americans who, while advancing individual success, also promote the general welfare.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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