Home > support >  Family Tree Histories

Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor & John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the "Oklahoma Family Tree" memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Cornwell Family

Tales of how settlers came to Oklahoma are as interesting as the people who populated this state. Not many can boast of loading up their household furnishings, farm animals, and machinery onto a train boxcar to move to their new home, but such is the story of Alvin and Rachel Cornwell.

On 1 March 1901 they loaded everything onto the train in Tonkawa and traveled to Cashion to start their lives in a new place. A three room house located on the back of the property near the Cottonwood Creek was home for the next few years. At the urging of Rachel, the house was moved nearer the road and farther from the creek in the summer of 1908. This was accomplished by placing cottonwood logs under the house and pulling it with a steam engine. A four room two-story addition was built on the front the following year. Two of the original rooms were used for the kitchen and dining room and the third was used for the granary.

Alvin D. Cornwell was born 29 Apr 1865 in DeWitt County, Illinois, the fifth of nine children born to Thomas Newton Cornwell and Margaret James. Alvin moved with his family to Palestine Township, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1881 and there grew to manhood, marrying Rachel Edith Shay on 21 Dec 1889. Rachel was the daughter of Isaiah L. Shay and Ruthetta R. Hatfield and was born 24 Nov 1868 in Tazewell County, Illinois. Rachel's family moved to Kansas in 1869 finally settling in Sumner County in what became known as the "Hatfield-Shay Valley."

Alvin and Rachel started their family in Sumner County, Kansas, with the births of Ethel Aileen (3 Mar 1889), Thomas Newton (6 Apr 1891), John D. (26 Dec 1892), Nellie May (16 Feb 1896), and Admiral Dewey (7 Feb 1898). Looking across the border at the newly opened land, they moved their family to Oklahoma Territory in 1898 locating near Tonkawa in Kay County. Three years later they sold their 160 acres and made that boxcar move to Logan County near Cashion.

Their lives in Logan County centered on the Christian Church and fraternal organizations. The Scottish Rite Consistory of the Masonic Lodge in Guthrie played a large roll in Alvin's life as did the Odd Fellows Lodge. He was instrumental in the Red Cross, Liberty Loan, and other World War I efforts and was the Registrar for the Spring Creek Township Draft Board of Logan County. His two older sons were sent to fight that battle, Thomas in France and John in England.

Rachel was active in the Eastern Star, Rebekah, and Royal Neighbor lodges and was a devoted mother to her five children. Her early death at age 43 on 12 Aug 1912 prevented her from knowing her grandchildren; Maxine Wood and Donald, June, Warren, Robert, Patricia, Mary Ann, Helen and Michael Cornwell. Alvin lived just seven more years, dying at age 54 on 9 Jun 1919. They are both buried in the Cashion Cemetery, Kingfisher County.

Donors: June Cornwell Stone, Warren Cornwell, Bob Cornwell, Patricia Cornwell Thompson, Mary Ann Cornwell Manley, and Michael Cornwell.

Back to list