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Holt Stimpson Cornelius

     Holt Stimpson Cornelius, son of the late Daniel and Elizabeth (Campbell) Cornelius, was born Dec. 18, 1857, at the Old Cornelius Homestead located nine miles south of Jerseyville, Illinois, south of East Newbern, on what is now State Highway, Route 109. He was the fifth of six children consisting of two girls and four boys.
     On April 13, 1879, at the age of 22 he went “Out West” settling near Laramie, Wyoming which at that time had not become a state called Wyoming Territory.
     He was employed as a “cowboy”, his main job being to help drive large herds of range cattle across the plains from Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado to Denver from where they were shipped by railroad to stock markets in Omaha and Kansas City thence to other points such as Chicago and St. Louis.
     At that time (1879) there were no railroads within or near the great cattle grazing plains of the far Northwest. Denver was the nearest shipping point. People in that territory had to travel by horseback, covered wagon, or stage.
     Cowboys lived a rugged life during the long treck across the plains driving large herds of cattle. They ate their crude meals from a chuckwagon that accompanied the outfit, retiring at night in their sleeping bags on the ground.
     They all could not retire at night though – at least two had to “ride the range” all night long. This consisted of riding in a circle round and round the herd after the cattle had lain down to rest, and chew their cuds. This procedure necessary to protect the cattle from rustlers, Indians, and prairie wolves called “coyotes”.
     In relating some of his experiences he described the hospitality that prevailed among the homesteaders whose settlements were few and widely spaced. These crudely built sod shanties were varitable cases of the plains.
     A weary traveler was always welcome as a guest and invited to share their meager food and lodging usually an overnight stay before continuing upon his journey. Occasionally a traveller would encounter a homesteader’s settlement and find the occupants absent; perhaps gone to far-off trading posts for supplies requiring several days for the round trip.
     If their latchstring was hanging through the door to the outside the traveler entered and helped himself to food and remained overnight sometimes leaving the next morning before the return of the owner. This was the general practice of both travelers and homesteaders – “The Spirit of the West.”
     The western plains were treeless and for fire the pioneers used long grass twisted and tied for kindling and “buffalo chips” for fuel. The latter are piles of buffalo manure that had become dried from the hot sun.
     Heeding the pleas of his mother and sister, May, he returned to Jersey County in the spring of 1881 and secured employment in building the old “Bluff Line” Railroad (Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis) which trains from Springfield to St. Louis with a spur at Lockhaven extending northward along the Mississippi River to Grafton, Illinois.
     The roadbed was graded with horsedrawn scoops with handles manipulated by men walking behind them. After completion of the railroad in 1881 he went to live and work among his cousings (last name, Callis) near Virden, Ill. On Feb. 8, 1883 he returned to Jersey County and married Annie Burley, then went back to Virden and worked on the farm of a Mrs. Shutt where their first child, Oren, was born on Jan. 17, 1884.
     The family returned to Jersey County in the spring of 1885 and lived temporarily at the Old Cornelius Homestead where Madge was born, Dec. 18, 1885. He later moved to what was known at the “Little Brown House” nearby where Jessie was born on August 23, 1888.
     In the spring of 1889 he moved to a farm 3-1/2 miles [sic] of Shipman, Ill. On Coop’s Creek (Macoupin County) temporarily occupying the “Big House” on the Hill until he and Shelby Wilson could build a small two-room house on the same farm. This became known as “The Little House” where Homer was born on May 1, 1895, and Hattie on Sept. 14, 1897. To accommodate the increase in family, another room was added!
     In the summer of 1898 he moved back into the “Big House” after it had been vacated by his sister and family (F.T. Harrison). Born in this house were Octie on Oct. 7, 1899 and Sylvia on July 13, 1901.
     In March, 1903 he moved to Fidelity, Illinois where he engaged in veterinary work and had a sideline of raising pedigreed Collie dogs for stock handling the remainder of his life. He died on May 7, 1943 (age 84) due to a complication of old age infirmities. His wife preceded him in death Dec. 18, 1937 (age 77). Both are buried at the old Union Cemetery northwest of McClusky since renamed The Lamb Memorial Cemetery.
     In spite of his rugged life as a cowboyo in the West, he remained a Godly man and all through life never used tobacco or alcoholic drink in any form. He never used profane language or even rough slang; he would refer to his enemies as “scalawags” and when disappointed or disgusted would say “pshaw” or “fiddlesticks.”
     He was an expert horseback rider, roper and pistol-shot, and could wield a 14-foot blacksnake whip with uncanny accuracy. As a veterinarian it wasoften necessary to separate the ailing animal from a herd. He could not be excelled in lassoing and tying an animal for treatment.
     He was particularly expert in the art of dehorning cattle and was frequently called upon by more modern, younger veterinanrians to do many things including dehorning which they were unable to do successfully.
     The ranches on which he became so familiar with cattle were in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado and were owned by brothers of his mother by the name of Campbell.

Note: Homer D. Cornelius and Madge C. Ely referred to on the first page were his children; Homer F. Ely, his grandson.

Old Cornelius Homestead (Six rooms – two floors & fruit cellar)

     The Old Cornelius Homestead built by the late Daniel Cornelius in 1851 is located nine miles south of Jerseyville, Illinois, in Jersey County, on what is now State Highway Route 109 near East Newbern and close to the junction of Route 100 leading to Grafton.
     The home structure was built in 1851 and 97 years later (1948) his grandson Winfield Cornelius, razed the building and erected one of modern design. The original structure might be referred to as a “salt-box” design.
     Daniel’s father, Joseph Cornelius, was born in 1788 and lived near Caseyville, Illinois, in St. Clair County. He owned 740 acres of land and many negro slaves. This tract of land was willed to his youngest son, Daniel, who later sold it for the sum of $500. The land is now rich in coal mines and worth millions of dollars.

     The following record of building costs was copied from the original papers:

Year 1851:

    Jan. 1 – $16.93 -1 load of timber
    Jan. 1 – $30.00 – Timber
    Jan. 1 – $ 4.75 – 1 keg of #6 nails
    Jan. 1 – $ .65 – 7 lbs. spike nails
    Jan. 7 – $ 1.25 – 25 lbs. #12 nails
    Jan. 7 – $ 5.50 – paid to Jonathan Wolf
    Jan. 7 – $ .80 – nails
    Jan. 7 – $ .10 – Bolt-screws and latch
    Jan. 7 – $34.25 – Cash to E. P. Calliss
    Jan. 7 – $10.00 – Paid to Jonathan Wolf
    Jan. 25 – $ 3.75 – Paid to E. P. Calliass
    Mar. 15 – $30.10 – Paid cash
    Mar. 15 – $30.12 – Paid cash
    Mar. 17 – $32.00 – Cash to Thomas Utt
    Oct. 1 – $100.00 – John Briggs for masonry
    Oct. 1 – $36.30 – Thomas Ford for plastering
    Total – $336.50

Contributed by Marty Crull and his volunteers.

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