Thomas R. Cornelius

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Thomas R. Cornelius
Thomas R. Cornelius 1896.jpg
Member of the Oregon Territory Council
In office
Preceded byA. P. Dennison
Succeeded byposition dissolved
Constituency Washington, Multnomah, & Columbia counties
Member of the Oregon State Senate
In office
1859 1876 (except 1862)
Preceded byposition created
Succeeded byA. B. Wait
ConstituencyWashington, Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook
President of the Oregon State Senate
In office
Preceded by John H. Mitchell
Succeeded by Benjamin Franklin Burch
Constituency Oregon
Personal details
BornNovember 16, 1827
DiedJune 24, 1899(1899-06-24) (aged 71)
Political partyWhig, Republican
Spouse(s)Florentine Wilkes (m. 1849)
Missouri Smith (m. 1866)

Thomas Ramsey Cornelius (November 16, 1827 June 24, 1899) was a prominent American politician and soldier in the early history of Oregon. Born in Missouri, he moved to the Oregon Country with his family as a young man, where he fought in the Cayuse War and Yakima Indian War against the Native Americans. He settled in Washington County near what later became Cornelius, named in his honor.

Oregon U.S. state in the United States

Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region on the West Coast of the United States. The Columbia River delineates much of Oregon's northern boundary with Washington, while the Snake River delineates much of its eastern boundary with Idaho. The parallel 42° north delineates the southern boundary with California and Nevada.

Missouri U.S. state in the United States

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States. With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state of the Union. The largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. Missouri is bordered by eight states : Iowa to the north, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee to the east, Arkansas to the south and Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to the west. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals and recreation. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center of the state into the Mississippi River, which makes up Missouri's eastern border.

Oregon Country Early 19th century US fur trade district in North America

In the nineteenth century, the Oregon Country was a disputed region of the Pacific Northwest of North America. The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from the Columbia River frequented by ships from all nations engaged in the maritime fur trade, most of these from the 1790s through 1810s being Boston-based. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended disputed joint occupancy pursuant to the Treaty of 1818 and established the British-American boundary at the 49th parallel.


A Whig and later a Republican, he served in the Oregon Territorial Legislature where following statehood, he served in the Oregon State Senate. In the Senate, he served one term as the president of that chamber. He also built the Cornelius Pass Road that bears his name. He was the father of Benjamin P. Cornelius, who was also prominent in state politics.

Oregon Territorial Legislature

Oregon's Territorial Legislature was a bicameral legislative body created by the United States Congress in 1848 as the legislative branch of the government of the Oregon Territory. The upper chamber Council and lower chamber House of Representatives first met in July 1849; they served as the region's legislative body until Oregon became a state in February 1859, when they were replaced by the bicameral Oregon State Legislature.

Oregon State Senate

The Oregon State Senate is the upper house of the statewide legislature for the US state of Oregon. Along with the lower chamber Oregon House of Representatives it makes up the Oregon Legislative Assembly. There are 30 members of the State Senate, representing 30 districts across the state, each with a population of 114,000. The State Senate meets at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

Cornelius Pass Road is an arterial road over Cornelius Pass in the Tualatin Mountains west of Portland, Oregon, United States, also extending several miles to the south. Running north–south, the road stretches between U.S. Route 30 on the north and Blanton Street, just south of Oregon Route 8, on the south. The road passes through Washington and Multnomah counties, crossing the Tualatin Mountains at Cornelius Pass, 581 feet (177 m) above sea level. TriMet's MAX Light Rail line travels over the road on a bridge.

Early life

Cornelius was born in Missouri, on November 16, 1827, to Elizabeth and Benjamin Cornelius. [1] In 1845, Thomas and his family traveled over the Oregon Trail to the Oregon Country and set up a farm on the Tualatin Plains, north of what would become the community of Cornelius. [1] After the Whitman Massacre in late 1847, Thomas volunteered for the militia of the Oregon Provisional Government in 1848. [2] The militia prosecuted the Cayuse War in an attempt to punish those responsible for the killings at the Whitman Mission. [1]

Oregon Trail Historic route to and through the American Old West

The Oregon Trail is a 2,170-mile (3,490 km) historic East–West, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail in the United States that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of the future state of Kansas, and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the future states of Idaho and Oregon.

Tualatin Plains Region in Oregon, United States

The Tualatin Plains are a prairie area in central Washington County, Oregon, United States. Located around the Hillsboro and Forest Grove areas, the plains were first inhabited by the Atfalati band of the Kalapuya group of Native Americans. Euro-American settlement began in the 1840s.

The Cayuse War was an armed conflict that took place in the Northwestern United States from 1847 to 1855 between the Cayuse people of the region and the United States Government and local American settlers. Caused in part by the influx of disease and settlers to the region, the immediate start of the conflict occurred in 1847 when the Whitman Massacre took place at the Whitman Mission near present day Walla Walla, Washington when fourteen people were killed in and around the mission. Over the next few years the Provisional Government of Oregon and later the United States Army battled the Native Americans east of the Cascades. This was the first of several wars between the Native Americans and American settlers in that region that would lead to the negotiations between the United States and Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau, creating a number of Indian reservations.

After gold was discovered in California, Cornelius journeyed there for a brief time, returning to the Oregon Territory in 1849. [1] The next year, he married Florentine Wilkes, and they had six children together before she died in 1864, including son Benjamin. [2] The family would settle on 640 acres (2.6 km2) of their Donation Land Claim near Cornelius. [1] In 1855, a second war against the Native Americans started east of the Cascade Mountains against the Yakima tribe. Cornelius volunteered again for the militia. [1] For three months, he led a company with the rank of captain before being elected as colonel after James W. Nesmith resigned his commission. [2] Cornelius continued as colonel until the end of the war in 1856. [2]

California Gold Rush gold rush from 1848 until 1855 in California

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) was a gold rush that began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. The sudden influx of gold into the money supply reinvigorated the American economy, and the sudden population increase allowed California to go rapidly to statehood, in the Compromise of 1850. The Gold Rush had severe effects on Native Californians and resulted in a precipitous native population decline from disease, genocide and starvation. By the time it ended, California had gone from a thinly populated ex-Mexican territory, to having one of its first two U.S. Senators, John C. Frémont, selected to be the first presidential nominee for the new Republican Party, in 1856.

The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Oregon. Originally claimed by several countries, the region was divided between the UK and US in 1846. When established, the territory encompassed an area that included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. The capital of the territory was first Oregon City, then Salem, followed briefly by Corvallis, then back to Salem, which became the state capital upon Oregon's admission to the Union.

Benjamin P. Cornelius American politician

Benjamin Peyton Cornelius was an American politician and judge in Oregon. A Republican, he served in the Oregon House of Representatives and as the mayor of Hillsboro, Oregon. The son of Thomas R. Cornelius, he was also the sheriff of Washington County and a judge in that county.

Political career

In 1856, Cornelius was elected to upper chamber of the Oregon Territorial Legislature, called the Council. [3] Serving as a Whig, he represented Washington, Columbia, and Multnomah counties in District 8. He won re-election to the Council in 1857 [4] and again in 1858 to the final session of the territorial legislature. [5] In 1859, he continued holding office in the newly formed Oregon State Senate after Oregon entered the Union on February 14, 1859 as the 33rd state. [6]

In the Oregon Senate, Cornelius continued as a Republican, representing Washington County and several other counties through the 1874 legislature. [7] His service was interrupted by the American Civil War during 1862 session, [8] when he was authorized by President Abraham Lincoln to raise a regiment of cavalry for federal service. [2] He was chosen as colonel of the troops and they deployed to a military post at Walla Walla, Washington, where he assumed command. He resigned during the summer of 1862 and returned home. [2]

American Civil War Internal war in the U.S. over slavery

The American Civil War, one of the most studied and written about episodes in U.S. history, was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North, which also included some geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights in order to uphold slavery.

Abraham Lincoln 16th president of the United States

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.

Walla Walla, Washington City in Washington, United States

Walla Walla is the largest city and the county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, United States.

During the 1866 legislature, Cornelius was selected as President of the Oregon Senate. [9] In 1886, he won the Republican nomination for Governor of Oregon, but lost the general election to Sylvester Pennoyer. [10]

Later life and family

After his first wife died in 1864, Cornelius remarried in 1866 to Missouri A. Smith. [2] In 1872, he moved to Cornelius, which would be renamed after him, and opened a store. [1] [2] In addition to the store, Cornelius owned a total of 1,500 acres (6.1 km2), including covering three farms, a warehouse, and a sawmill. [1] He built the Cornelius Pass Road that linked the Tualatin Valley to the Columbia River. [11] Cornelius died on June 24, 1899, at the age of 71. [1] He was buried at the Cornelius Methodist Church Cemetery. [12]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Corning, Howard M. (1989). Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, p. 63. OCLC   488068
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Lang, H. O. (1885). History of the Willamette Valley, Being a Description of the Valley and its Resources, with an Account of its Discovery and Settlement by White Men, and its Subsequent History Together with Personal Reminiscences of its Early Pioneers. Portland, Or: G.H. Himes, pp. 634-635. OCLC   16739827
  3. Oregon Legislative Assembly (8th Territorial) 1856 Regular Session. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  4. Oregon Legislative Assembly (9th Territorial) 1857 Regular Session. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  5. Oregon Legislative Assembly (10th Territorial) 1858 Regular Session. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  6. Oregon Legislative Assembly 1859 Special Session. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  7. Oregon Legislative Assembly (8th) 1874 Regular Session. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  8. Oregon Legislative Assembly (2nd) 1862 Regular Session. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  9. Oregon Legislative Assembly (4th) 1866 Regular Session. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  10. Evans, Elwood. (1889). History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington... Portland, Or: North Pacific History Co., Vol. II, p. 286.
  11. Baron, Connie and Michelle Trappen. "Paths linking past and present", The Oregonian , March 6, 2008.
  12. Taylor, Joshua. Cemetery Photos; Cornelius Methodist Church Cemetery: Washington Co., Oregon A - M. [ permanent dead link ] RootsWeb. Retrieved on August 2, 2008.