Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tracking Down Cornelius

As I was looking for something associated with today's date about which to blog, I saw that there was a death of a Cornelius Taylor in 1849 in the Gulf of Mexico near Mazatlan, Mexico. At first I was thrilled to discover an item that sounded quite interesting, but then I read my notes on it. It was something I didn't completely trust.  The information on that person came from a cousin who had received the data from another cousin. It did not have sources that I could trust. When I had looked up that individual in online family trees, I found this death date attributed to several different Cornelius Taylors. Not all of them could possibly be correct.  I suspected that the person my cousin was trying to identify as the brother of my Stephen Taylor was actually someone else. It was something that I had on a to do list, but I had not been to the repositories in which I needed to do further research to try to locate this alleged third great grand-uncle in records. Indeed, I had what was a non-story because I had not taken the time to solve this problem that I had identified. 

What I know about my family who is that Stephen Taylor was born about 1780 in New York. Stephen's sister Debora was born in New York in 1782. Their father was Isaac Taylor and his wife Elizabeth.  Both Stephen and his sister Debora married members of the Rathbone family. Stephen's wife was Lovica; Debora's husband was Gideon. Cornelius is attributed as a brother to them. I have not found a great deal of information on Cornelius, but then I don't know how much I had really looked.  I had really focused my attention on Stephen's family and Debora's because of the double connection there with both the Rathbone and Taylor families.  When I went to Ohio in 2011 to research, the Taylor question on which I was focused had more to do with Lovica's second marriage and the whereabouts of the family after Stephen's death. I was also looking for additional corroboration of Stephen's death in the War of 1812. (I'm descended through their son Stephen who married Betsey Dearborn.

What I did have documented on Cornelius was this: There is a Cornelius Taylor in the 1820 Crawford County, Illinois census. A quick summary of the information is:

3 males under 10
1 male 10-15
3 males 16-26
3 males 26-45
2 females under 10
1 female 16-25
1 female 26-45
7 employed in agriculture

It's a rather strange age distribution. If Cornelius was born in 1784 as has been said, then he would have been about 35 or 36 in the 1820 census, making him one of the 3 males 26-45. One point in favor of this being our Cornelius is that Edmund and Debora Rathbone are also living in Crawford County, Illinois in 1820.

I decided to do a bit of additional searching today to find more about the Cornelius Rathbone in Crawford County, Illinois. I found out that he was a quite notorious individual. has the full text of History of Crawford and Clark Counties, Illinois which was published in Chicago in 1883.

Here's a brief summary of what I learned from that source:

  1. Cornelius was an early settler of Crawford County.
  2. Cornelius owned a tavern but was not permitted to serve alcohol to Indians. Because of this, the Indians murdered surveyor Thomas McCall.
  3. Cornelius had his own share of legal problems. He was indicted on charges of larceny, assault and battery, and rape. He was accused of stealing horses and hogs, etc.
A transcription of the 1818 Crawford County census shows both a Cornelious and a Cornelius Taylor listed. The former had 1 free white male age 21 and above and 12 additional white inhabitants. The latter had 9 free white males age 21 and above and 11 other white inhabitants. Again, these show a rather strange age distribution, just as the 1820 census a couple of years later did.

There is a rather curious indictment against Cornelius recorded on this page:  The indictment (a federal charge) was for "bringing home a hog without the ears." That's a new one for me!

There is a book entitled Lawrence County, IL published by Turner Publishing for the Lawrence County (Iliinois) Historical Society in 1995 which also turns up a biographical sketch for Cornelius. According to this article, he was in the northwest Territory by 1815 (after serving in the War of 1812 from Ohio). Debora and Edmund came to Illinois in 1817. Cornelius helped construct the jail in Lawrence County in 1822. By 1826, Cornelius was residing in Pablo, East Florida. It then goes on to tell that he died in 1849 in a hurricane as he was heading for the California Gold Rush. Quite a story!

Perhaps the most interesting account I found of Cornelius Taylor is the one found in the (Robinson, Illinois) Daily News in an article dated 1 October 2008. I have tried to locate the second of the two part article without any success. If any of my readers have better luck, please post a link in the comments. I would really love to "finish the story." I'll eventually try to get a photocopy of the article if I'm unable to gain electronic access. This article shows that he lived briefly in Kentucky before heading to Florida. The second part of the article picks up his life story in Florida.

Obviously, heading for the California Gold Rush sounds like something this Cornelius would do, so maybe there is a story. I just have a lot more research to do on this individual. He's certainly an interesting character as portrayed. However, I have a lot of clues to help me find more about him. Bring on those court records!

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