A genealogical voyage with one of the descendants
of Captain Aaron Cornelius


Although I am not a direct descendant of him; Elias II and Elizabeth's fourth child named Jonathan married Sarah Baldwin and together they had twelve children. Their first child was also named Elias (1758-1823. I know I’m getting a little off the beaten path from my direct ancestors but Elias was a famous Patriot during the Revolutionary War; unlike the rest of my family which were Loyalists and Torys. On January 1st 1777 and against his family’s wishes, Elias enlisted in the Continental Army. Since he had briefly studied medicine he obtained an appointment as surgeon's mate in the 2d Rhode Island regiment under the command of General Israel Angell.

At the very beginning of the war Angell took an active part and when an army was ordered raised by the General Assembly of Rhode Island in 1775, he was commissioned Major of a regiment under the commanded by Col. Daniel Hitchcock, which was dispatched to join General George Washington. Upon the death of Colonel Hitchcock the command of the regiment was given to Angell. Elias’ regiment not only participated in the battles of the Brandywine and Red Bank but was with General Washington’s army during the terrible winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge. 

However, prior to Valley Forge, Elias was briefly captured, moved from prison to prison and even shared a cell with Ethan Allen, the hero of Ticonderoga, amongst others. He was also briefly confined on the infamous prison-ship HMS Jersey. This was a decommissioned warship on which 1,100 men were crowded together between decks.
Records show that about a dozen prisoners died each night aboard this ship from dysentery, typhoid, smallpox, yellow fever, food poisoning, starvation and torture. When the war ended in 1783 less than 1,400 survivors were found aboard the prison fleet of twelve ships in the New York harbor. An estimated 11,000 had died of disease and malnutrition, their bodies merely dumped onto the mud flats of Wallabout Bay, where Brooklyn Navy Yard now stands. Elias did not stay long on HMS Jersey, luckily he was transferred to a shore prison.

Then, on January 7th 1778, in ill health, Elias was transferred from his cell to a hospital where, on January 16th of 1778, he managed to escape and rejoined his unit during the dreaded winter at Valley Forge. Elias later wrote of his exploits during the Revolutionar War in a small booklet called Journal of Dr. Elias Cornelius, A Revolutionary Surgeon. It was subtitled a Graphic Description of his Suffering while a Prisoner in Provost Jail, New York, 1777 and 177
This picture of LaFayette's sword appears in The History of the Cornelius Famly in America (Grand Rapids, Michigan January 1, 1926)
A few other books by Elias Cornelius
         Click HERE for page 5
     Between Wars

Copyright (C) Cornelius


After fighting in the Revolutionary War, Elias Cornelius married a woman by the name of Sallie Brewer. They had six children. Most notable was their third who was also named Elias (1794-1832). When Elias grew to manhood he became an associate minister of the Tabernacle Church in Salem, Massachusetts. This area had long held concern for the rights of Indians. The Rev. Samuel Worcester of the Tabernacle Church was the corresponding secretary for the Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from 1812 to 1821 and had directed its work from his church. He died on a visit to the board's Cherokee Mission in 1821. His associate minister, Elias Cornelius, wrote numerous short Sermons and narratives. His most notable being titled The Little Osage Captive (1822). It is a tragic tale of a young Osage Indian girl who was captured by the Cherokee, whose name was Lydia Carter.
Drawing from the frontpiece of Memoir of the Rev. Elias Cornelius by Bela Edwards  (1833) 
While Elias Cornelius was traveling around Georgia he was taken by Cherokee guides to the massive Etowah Indian Mounds which were rising on the north bank of the Etowah River near Cartersville. His memoirs and journals from around 1817 are filled with graphic descriptions of the “stupendous pile” of dirt and of local Indian legends. They are considered to be the earliest written accounts of a white person visiting the site. According to Elias' journals the Cherokees were uncertain about the significance of the mounds and they even told him that the mounds “were never put up by our people.”

There is a biography written about Elias Cornelius titled a Memoir of the Rev. Elias Cornelius (1833) which gives us a fascinating window into his life. It was written by Bela Bates Edwards (1802-1852).
Boston: Perkins & Marvin / Philedelphia: Henry Perkins, HB, 1833, 4 3/4 x 7 1/2, 360 pgs.

A partial list of books and pamphlets known to be published by or about Elias Cornelius.

*  1. The Design, Rights and Duties of Local Churches, a Sermon at the Installation of Rev. Elias Cornelius as
Associate Pastor of the Tabernacle Church in Salem on July 21, 1819 by Lyman Beecher  (1819)
*  2. Travels in Lower Canada with the Author’s Recollections of the Soil, and Aspects, the Morals, Habits
and Religious Institutions of that Country, with Elias Cornelius; Tour in Virginia and Tennessee ,
&c. &c. &c.. by Joseph Sansom  (1820)
*  3. God’s Ways, Not as Our Ways, a Sermon occasioned On The Death of the Rev. Samuel Worchester. (1821)
*  4. The Little Osage Captive (1822) 
   5. A Sermon delivered in the Tabernacle Church, Salem, on Sept. 25, 1823 at the Ordination of the Rev.
Edmund Frost, as a minister to the heathen ... in Georgia (1823) 
   6. A Sermon delivered in the Tabernacle Church, Salem on Oct.20, 1824, The Moral and Religious
improvement of the Poor (1824)
*  7. A Review of the Rev. Mr. Colman’s Sermon, delivered at the opening of the Independent Congregational
Church in Barton Square, Salem (1825) 
   8. A Reply to Mr Colman’s Notes (date unknown)
*  9. A Sermon on the Doctrine of the Trinity  (1826)
   10. A Brief View of the American Education Society: With the Principles Upon Which It Is Conducted (1826)  
*  11. A Sermon Preached at the Funeral of Rev. Elias Cornelius who died in Hartford, Ct on Feb.12, 1832, age
37 by Joel Hawes  (1832)     
*  12. Memoir of the Rev. Elias Cornelius by Bela Edwards  (1833) 

* = Books and pamphlets in the private library of J. Edward Cornelius
Elias Cornelius
and the Cherokees
from Osage Captive (1822)