Search billions of records on


One of the first settlers of Brown county was E. R. Cornelison, who came to the county some years prior to the admission of Kansas to the Union. He has witnessed the entire growth and development of this section of the state, has seen its wild lands claimed by pioneers who have borne the hardships and trials of the frontier in order to settle on homes of their own, has watched the introduction of business enterprises and the establishment of towns and villages, and has ever borne his part in the work of progress and improvement, giving his encouragement and ofttimes material support to the measures and movements which have contributed to the general prosperity.

For many years he was actively connected with the agricultural interests of the county, but is now living retired in a pleasant home in Reserve, where he is surrounded by the comforts of life which he has secured through his own well directed efforts.

Mr. Cornelison was born in Madison county, Kentucky, January 8, 1826, of German lineage. The family was founded in America in colonial days and the grandfather, Edward Cornelison, a native of North Carolina, loyally served in the Revolutionary war, after which he settled on the frontier of Kentucky, where he improved a farm and reared his family. He married Susan Skinner, a native of Georgia, and their children were John, Richard, William, Thomas, Eli, Andrew, Jane and Malinda. The family were strict members of the Baptist church. Some of the children were born in North Carolina, but the younger members were natives of Kentucky.

Andrew Cornelison, the father of our subject, was born in the Blue Grass state, and was there married and reared his family. He wedded Margaret Boggs, a daughter of John Boggs, of Delaware, one of the heroes of the war for independence. After the colonies had gained their liberty he emigrated to Kentucky, where he died. His children were Margaret, Robert, John, Benjamin and Mrs. Hannah Turley. After their marriage the parents of our subject took up their abode in Kentucky, where the father carried on farming and stock raising until 1848, when he removed to Missouri, spending the residue of his days upon a farm in that state. In his family were ten children: Robert, who died in Kentucky, in 1897; Thomas, who died in the same state; Mrs. Elizabeth Gillespie, who died one year after her marriage; E. R., whose name begins this record; John, who died at the age of twenty one years; Hannah N., who was three times married, her first husband being Mr. Boggs, her second Mr. Shunk and her third Mr. Davison; Cordelia M., the wife of J. Gillespie; William, who died in Kansas, leaving a family: Mrs. Susan C. Davison, who married for her second husband John Crisler; and Mrs. Margaret Hare.

Born and reared in Kentucky, E. R. Cornelison is indebted to the common-school system of that state for the educational privileges which he enjoyed. He was married there to Miss Elizabeth Gillespie, who was born May 5, 1830, a daughter of Wilson and Mary (Gentry) Gillespie, both of whom were natives of Virginia and early settlers of Kentucky. The father was a farmer and slave owner and died in Kentucky. His family numbered the following: James; Nancy, now Mrs. Hart, of Brown county; Elizabeth, the wife of our subject; Thomas; Mrs. Sally A. Coffman; Henry, of Brown county; Jefferson and Mrs. Mary McKinney. Mrs. Gillespie married for her second husband Robert Boggs, by whom she had one son, Robert.

After his marriage Mr. Cornelison removed to Andrew county, Missouri, where he engaged in farming until 1855. In 1854 he came to Brown county, Kansas, and located a claim, which had not been surveyed. The following year he moved his family to their new home and immediately began improving his land. His claim was located on Walnut creek and contained the best timber strip in the county. He built a cabin, made rails for fencing, and for two years was the only settler in that locality. Then the emigrants from the east began to arrive, the land was rapidy claimed and the work of civilization was carried steadily forward. For two years after his arrival Mr. Cornelison had to go to Missouri for mill prodticts and other supplies. After a time, however, he raised grain of his own and had a home market. There was only a narrow strip of land between his farm and the Indian reservation, but the red men were friendy, occasioning no trouble to the settlers. They belonged to the Sac and Fox tribes. When the land was surveyed and came into market Mr. Cornelison entered his claim, which by that time, 1857, had been transformed into a nice little farm. All the settlers at first located along the creek, but as the population increased claims were made on the high prairie. He has witnessed the entire growth and development of the county and taken a deep interest in its progress. Hiawatha at that time was not known and other flourishing towns of the present day then had no existence. About 1870 the Missouri Pacific Railroad was built and the town of Reserve was platted by Mr. Clark, of Covington, Kentucky, its location being a mile west of Mr. Cornelison's farm. In his business ventures he has prospered. He borrowed two hundred dollars with which to enable him to lay the foundations for his present success. With this small capital he undertook the work of improvement and in the course of time his well tilled fields yielded to him abundant harvests. As his financial resources increased he added to his property until he became the owner of eight hundred and eighty-eight acres of valuable land, contained within two farms, which are splendidy improved with all modern accessories and conveniences. He has made a specialty of stock raising, feeding his farm products to his stock. He has also been interested in commercial affairs in Reserve, has purchased grain for some time and he and his son, Robert, are the owners of the elevator and ship grain on an extensive scale, thus adding materially to his income.

About 1894 Mr. Cornelison built a commodious and tasteful residence in Reserve and has since made his home there, having retired from farm life, giving his attention now only to the control of his property interests. The year after their removal to the town the mother died, being called to her final rest October 21, 1895. She was a consistent member of the Christian church and was held in high regard by her neighbors and friends, while by her family she was greatly beloved, having ever been a faithful and loving wife and mother. She had four children : John Frank, of Reserve; Robert, who is in the grain business; Henry, who died at the age of twenty-three; and William, who is engaged in the grocery business in Fairfield.

Like his wife Mr. Cornelison is also a member of the Christian church, interested in its welfare and growth. In politics he has always been a Democrat and for six years served as justice of the peace, after which he resigned, caring nothing for political preferment. He desired rather to give his undivided attention to his business affairs, in which he has met with signal success. His business has always been carried on along legitimate lines and with strict regard to commercial ethics, and thus he has not only gained prosperity but has also won the confidence and respect of his fellow men.