The Bellingham Reveille - September 27, 1904
Death Comes to P.B. Cornwall Prominent Pioneer of Pacific Coast Passes Away
Helps to Make this City
The First Man to Invest Outside Capital on Bellingham
Bay -- For Many Years President of B.B.I. Co. and B.B.
& B.C. --
Was 84 Years Old and Had Been Ailing for Months -- Only Recently Retired From Active Life.
Pierre B. Cornwall, a pioneer on the Pacific coast,
and one of the pioneers of industrial enterprise in Whatcom county, died
Saturday night at his San Francisco residence.
Had Retired From Active Life.
For several months he had lain ill with bronchitis,
which had developed from a severe cold, besides also suffering from a
weak heart. Feeling the need of rest after a long life of
successful business activity, he in February last, retired from the
presidency of the B.B.& B.C. company here and on June 1 stepped from
the presidency of the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company, about the
same time giving up his executive duties in the Black Diamond Coal Co of
King county, which recently passed in the hands of the Pacific Coast
Company for a sum of over on million dollars. The tide of emigration
westward carried Mr.Cornwall across the plains from his Ohio home to
California two years before Marshall struck gold, in 1849.
Early Interested in Bellingham Bay
Sometime in the'60's he became connected with the
Bellingham Bay Coal Mining Company, and seeing from the first great
natural advanges here than must one day makea city, he in 1883,
organized the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Company and
began the construction of a road to connect with the C.P.R. line.
In 1890 to facilitate the development of the lumber industry to advance
land interests and to further the growth and permanency of the
electrical establishment here instituted he organized the B.B.I.
Company. Of this company and of the B.B. & B. C. Mr.
Cornwall became president.
In 1889 the railroad was completed and simultaneous
w--- its opening operations steps were taken to convert the timber along
its lines into lumber. About this time the B.B.I.Company's
milling plant, in this city, was constructed. He was also a
pioneer in Mt. Baker mining explorations, placing large sums of money in
this direction and becoming the owner of a number of mining properties.
Evidence of His Public Spirit.
Mr. Cornwall was prominently identified with the
establishment of the public library in Whatcom in 1890, and has done
much since to further its advancement, the site and building at Magnolia
and Dock streets and a large number of books counting among his
donations. He also donated a part of the land on which St. Luke's
hospital stands, and his company controls the land on which is built
most of the churches of this city.
Practicially every movement having for its aim the
advancement of Bellingham or any of its varied interests could always
count on the sympathy and assistance of Mr. Cornwall.
Father of This City.
J. J. Donovan, general superintendent of the
Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Company, says he feels that
Mr. Cornwall was the father of this city, not in manner that several
pioneers were founders, but that he was the first man who came here with
capital back of him to develop the country.
"While I know,"said Mr.Donovan, "that there were many
who looked for more raid development as a result of Mr. Cornwall's
investments here, after the closing of the coal mines in the early days,
Mr. Cornwall was always a leader among his _________ance would permit
in the quick opening and development of the country.
"He was the prime mover in the establishment of both
the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Companies, the founder
of the water works, electric light and the big mill. He has always been
enthusiastic in the belief of the resources of the county, in the
perfection of our harbor and in the possibility of building here a city
the equal of any on the coast. I am sure it can be said of him
that he has favored the most liberal treatment toward everything that
tended towards the development of the moral and intellectual standard of
the people here. Assisted by local people he established the
first public library in this city and has given not only much property
but donations in books and has aided its maintenance.
Short Sketch of His Life.
Pierre B. Cornwall was a native of New York.
The greater part of his early youth was spent in Ohio. While
Mr.Cornwall was yet very young, his father died, and thereafter he was
the support of the entire family, bringing them to the coast following
his arrival in California.
In 1848 he crossed the plains locating first at
Sutter's Fort, now Sacramento, California. For a number of years
he engaged in the mercantile business, when his great executive talent
and the qualities of administration which so strongly marked his
character asserted themselves and he rose to the presidency of the
California Electric Light Company. But a nature so enterprising
and a business ability so consummate as his could scarce reside within
the bounds of a single enterprise, so giving play to his executive force
he organized the Mutual Electric Light Company of San Francisco with
him as president. This position he held until his death.
Being thus engaged in productive deeds of activity he
was over alert to embrace other properties giving the raw materials for
consumption, so the opportunity offering he entered the coal business
in the Black Diamond region in California.
Politically Mr. Cornwall was a prominent figure in
his adapted state. With his death chronicles the passing of the
only surviving member of the first California legislature. He was a
member of the first constitutional convention, chairman of the
republican state central committee from 1880 to 1888, he has been
president of the Society of Pioneers of California, a member of the
board of regents of California University and for eight years, dating
from 1880 he was president of the Mechanics Institute. Mr.Cornwall was a
man of excellent constitution strong business acumen, and rare
executive ability. He was a firm and aggressive character yet
kindly and charitably disposed.
Surviving him are his wife and four children.
Bruce Cornwall, the attorney, Arthur Cornwall and Mrs. F.C. Moore, of
San Francisco, and Mrs. Edward Fischer of this city.
Funeral Occurs Today.
The B. B. I. mill was yesterday and will today also be closed, likewise the office of the company here.
The funeral takes place at 2:30 this
afternoon in San Francisco. The engines of the B. B. & B.C.
will be draped with crepe today.
Tribute From His Associates.
At the time of his resignation early in the year,
from the leadership of the local corporations, he was so largely
instrumental in establishing, the following resolution was adopted by
the corporate bodies:
"Hon. P. B. Cornwall, who since the date of the
organization of this corporation, has been its president, having
signified his desire of being relieved from the responsiblilites of such
office; it is with regret that this board accedes to his request, and
it takes this opportunity of expressing its appreciation and that of the
company, of the years of faithful, conscientious and efficient service
rendered to this company and community by Mr. Cornwall. To his
unfaltering belief, in the resources, possiblities and destiny of this
portion of the state is largely due to the construction of the
Bellingham Bay and British Columbia railroad and other improvements and
industries which have so materially contributed to the growth of this
city,enabling it to attain the population which now entitles it to
become a city of the first class in this new and growing state.
The remaining members of the board wish for Mr. Cornwall many years of
happiness and prosperity and express the hope that his capacity of
trustee and as a member of the executive committee, this corporation
will long continue to have the benefit of his valuable counsel in the
direction of its corporate affairs."