W. D. Cornell

W. D. Cornell
Short Name: W. D. Cornell
Full Name: Cornell, W. D. (Warren Donald), 1858-?
Birth Year: 1858

Warren D. Cornell (1858-1930s?) was born in Whiteford, Michigan, and in 1877--at the ripe old age of 19 years--went to Texas, where he spent a year teaching in the "colored" department of the newly formed Dallas Public Schools. Licensed by the Southern Methodist conference in 1879, he was appointed to preach in Denton and Gainesville, both of the North Texas area, for a year each. It would be interesting to know what caused this young man to go so far from home; but in 1881 he removed to the vicinity of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he spent the majority of his preaching career. After serving various Methodist congregations in Waupaca and Outagamie counties, he was appointed on a more permanent basis to the Methodist church in Berlin, Wisconsin, where he preached at the time this song was written.

In 1894 Cornell was engaged as the minister of the People's Christian Association, which met in the Fond du Lac opera hall (Centralia Enterprise And Tribune, 24 November 1894, p. 20). This congregation met for about 10 years, then seems to have disbanded ("Old landmark"). By 1905 Cornell was described as a resident of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and "former pastor of the Christian Church in that city" (Janesville Daily Gazette, 31 May 1905, p. 5). The 1905 state census of Wisconsin gives his occupation as "real estate." I have found no reference to him holding a full-time ministerial position after that year; his interests led him in other directions.

Cornell seems to have had an attraction to political and social issues from early days, serving in the 1880s as the secretary of the locally powerful Paving Cutter's Union. In the 1890s, however, he came to widespread attention as the leader of the "Anti-Tramp Society." As Todd Wiebe discusses in his blog post on this movement, the Panic of 1873 and the successive failures of multiple industries put many men out of work and on the move, creating a serious social crisis. It was a problem deserving attention; but language such as "utterly wiping out the tramp evil" was hardly the most Christian approach! Cornell's efforts were met with mixed reactions.

During the early decades of the 20th century Cornell took to the lecture circuit, and by 1920 was at the center of another controversy. Though it is more remembered today for the progressive populism of Senator Bob La Follette, it was during this period that Wisconsin elected Victor Berger, the first Socialist Party member of the U.S. Congress (Biographical Directory). Cornell was a founding member of Wisconsin's anti-socialist Constitutional Defense League (New York Times, 22 January 1922), and spent much of his time in this cause. Newspaper coverage noted that he was no longer a member of clergy, but had been a touring lecturer for some years (Sheboygan Press 23 September 1920, p. 1). By 1925 Cornell and his family had moved to New York (New York state census, 1925), and in 1930 William Titus wrote that Cornell was "spending the evening of his life in New York" (Titus II:513). The U.S. census of 1940 shows his wife, Jennie, as a widow living with her daughter Florence, but I have not been able to determine the exact date of Warren Cornell's death.

--drhamrick.blogspot.com/2013/10/ (excerpts)

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