CORNELL, George Nelson

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Cornell II with George Cornell's second
father-in-law, Mr. Moll, aboard,
Santa Catalina Island

Photo courtesy of Catalina Island Museum.

CORNELL, George Nelson (1861-1932), Michigan born of a Canadian-French father and English mother, was a boatman on Santa Catalina Island at the turn of the century. He and his wife Etta F. Ester (1870-1904), also from Michigan, had been married for 11 years when the 1900 Avalon census was taken. They had no children. After her death, in 1905 Cornell married Josephine Catherine Moll (1876-1854), and they had five children:

  • Ester Georgeanna Cornell (1906-1961)
  • Dorothy Otilie Cornell (1907-1962)
  • George Frederick Cornell (1910-1962)
  • Richard Eugene Cornell (1914-1996)
  • Jack Wilborn Cornell (1917-2005)

The Cornells moved to an avocado ranch near Oceanside, California in 1917. Cornell died on September 19, 1932 at age 71. He is buried in the IOOF (Odd Fellows) Cemetery, Fallbrook, CA., next to his second wife, Josephine Catherine Moll (1876-1954).

Boats:

  • Mascot 1899-1906
  • Mascot II launched 1914
  • Cornell 1908-1909
  • Cornell II 1908-1918
  • Par he built in 1918



In the News~

April 24, 1900 [LAT]: “Avalon, April 23. The launch Mascot is again the object of solicitude. The little boat has been making her way down from Monterey, having left there about two weeks ago. On the 18th she was at Santa Barbara, where Mrs. Cornell wrote a postal to Mrs. J. W. Williams of this place, saying they had arrived there the previous evening, and would remain that day, probably resuming their voyage the next day. They lost their skiff in the rough sea at Point Sur, but had rounded Point Conception safely… There were supposed to have been aboard the Mascot, Captain George N. Cornell and wife, Al Shade, and probably a San Pedro man by the name of Phillips…”


August 16, 1900 [LAH]: “While on the homeward run from a trip around the island, the launch Mascot broke her rudder post yesterday afternoon, off Empire Landing in a heavy swell, rendering her unmanageable. Captain Cornell was equal to the situation, however, and steered his boat into Goat Harbor by means of an oar. There he disembarked his passengers, and within an hour had rigged the rudder by means of a couple of poles, so that it steered the craft into Avalon Bay. He arrived about 8 o'clock with a tired crowd of pleasure-seekers, who were, however, thanful that the mishap was no worse.”


June 13, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. George Cornell, skipper of the Mascot, is interested to some extent in Haliam, the preacher with the disappearing whiskers. When the boat which he bought at San Pedro was being taken to San Pedro, their engine broke down off the east end of Catalina, and one of the men from the boat rowed in here for assistance, making the mistake of judging the distance as five miles, when it was really about fifteen, and the man reached here in an exhausted condition, having rowed from 5 o’clock in the morning until 4 in the afternoon of an exceedingly warm day, without a drop to drink, in a leaky boat, which he was obliged to bail out with his cap, and when his cap gave out he had to use his shoe. He engaged Captain Cornell to go out and tow the boat in, and two days and nights were spent by him in scouring the seas before giving up the search, when it was found that the disabled boat had been picked up by a passing schooner and towed back to San Pedro. Cornell would now like to see the joking preacher about $35 worth.”


November 8, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. George Cornell, skipper of the Mascot, and George Gimilier, had an experience a few days ago which they do not care to repeat. The Mascot is running between San Clemente and Santa Catalina islands carrying fish, and meets the steamer here every day when the weather permits. Last week in going to Clemente they encountered a very rough sea, with a northeasterly wind, and finding no shelter on this side of the island, they ran around to Smugglers Cove, on the south side. Here they were storm-bound for three days, not daring to venture out. All the provisions they had during that time was one loaf of bread, half a dozen tomatoes and an onion. They have provided against another such emergency, and now carry a culinary outfit and a well-stocked larder with them.”


July 21, 1909 [LAH]: “Avalon, July 20. Flying signals of distress, and their launch, Cornell, half full of water, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Robinson of the Boston department store were picked up off the west end of San Clemente Island by Captain George Romans of the launch Ramona early this morning. On board the sinking launch with Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were C. H. Knapp of Seabreeze, Florida, and H. C. Davidson of Los Angeles. A large hole had been made in the launch Cornell as it had passed over a sunken reef. At the time of the mishap Mr. Robinson was steering the boat, while Captain Cornell was attending to some minor details of the engine room. The Cornell was abandoned and the party arrived safely at Avalon from Clemente late this evening. They are now quartered at the Metropole. Three days ago Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, with Mr. Davidson and Mr. Knapp as their guests, chartered the launch Cornell for a trip to Clemente. They were in search of bluefin tuna. Owing to the fact that Mr. Robinson was steering against the sun, he had not seen the reef over which the launch passed. The boat will probably be a total wreck. An effort will be made to float it if possible tomorrow. The Cornell was valued at $3000 and would probably weigh five tons. During the trip the party caught several varieties of large fish, including black sea bass, yellowtail and albacore.”


January 7, 1912 [LAT]: “Through surf upon a raft the first lumber from Comet’s wreck is hauled in. Odd contrivance rigged to save the cargo. Over rows of rocks, which stand like formidable teeth blocking the pathway to the wrecked schooner Comet of San Francisco, on the north side of San Miguel Island, the first raft of lumber was hauled through the breakers yesterday. Immediately the raft was unhooked from the ‘endless rope’ and made fast to the side of the steamer Cornell a joyful shout came from those on the beach who had witnesses the successful venture…”


February 24, 1912 [SBI]: “Captain Short, who is now at the Cottage Hospital, was reported this afternoon to be doing exceptionally well. It is thought that he will be able to be out of the hospital in a week, or at least ten days. Short’s right hand and leg were crushed by a falling rock while he was working on the wreck of the Comet on San Miguel Island. He was brought to the mainland by Captain Cornell.”


April 14, 1912 [SBI]: “Captain Short left Sunday in his launch, Charm, for San Miguel Island, where he, in company with Captain Cornell, will continue the work of recovering lumber from the hull of the Comet.”


June 17, 1912 [SBI]: “Captain Short and Captain Cornell left Sunday afternoon in their launches for San Miguel Island where they will continue to recover lumber from the wreck of the schooner Comet. There remains about 40,000 feet of good lumber to be saved.”


October 22, 1912 [SBI]: “Another attempt to recover the lumber stored aboard the schooner Comet, wrecked on San Miguel Island, is to be made by Captain Cornell. Captain Waters, owner of San Miguel Island, who returned here late Monday, said that the hull of the wreck was still in good condition and the lumber safe aboard. About six months ago Captain Short and Cornell brought to this port several large rafts of lumber from the wrecked schooner. Their attempt to recover the cargo was beset with many difficulties. Unfavorable weather kept their crews on the islands for weeks when no work could be done. Attempts to plant buoys near the vessel from which to string cables proved futile because the sea bottom near the wreck is too solid to drive anchors in. In this second attempt on the old wreck Captain Cornell has in partnership with him a lumber merchant from the south. It is understood that the two men mean to begin work immediately. They will attempt to raft the lumber to this port as was done before. Captain Waters in reporting the conditions on his island said that the weather was excellent and the sheep, of which there are thousands, are in fine condition.”


November 8, 1912 [SBI]: “A raft of lumber from the wreck of the schooner Comet on San Miguel Island is expected in port next week. Captain Cornell, who is making this second attempt to secure the valuable lumber, still safe in the unbroken hull of the Comet which was wrecked over a year ago near San Miguel Island, has had a camp established near the boat for several weeks. A year ago Captains Cornell and Short attempted to secure the lumber, but for a long time in their work by rough weather and unforeseen obstacles. Several large rafts of planks and heavy lumber were secured from the wreck however, and landed here. The work dropped soon after the second or third raft was towed to this wharf.”


November 13, 1912 [SBMP]: Captain Henry S. Short has sold his salvaging interest in the wrecked schooner Comet to Captain Cornell and a Los Angeles lumber man who will undertake to bring the balance of the cargo which is now ashore at San Miguel Island, to this city in rafts.”


February 9, 1915 [[TI/Avalon]: “A rumor that George Michaelis of the launch Juanita was drowned in the channel, was vigorously denied by that able seaman himself at 10 o’clock last Thursday evening to a searching party on board the launch Cornell, headed by Captain George Cornell who made the run to San Clemente Island in 3 hours and 20 minutes.”


July 26, 1915 [LAT]: “Avalon. For over three hours the gasoline launch Calypso of San Pedro, used by the White Star Catalina Tours, drifted in the Catalina channel Saturday afternoon while its engineer was unable to start the engine, owing to a burned-out spark plug. There were no facilities on board to repair the damage. The launch had probably seventy persons on board, men, women and children, who had made the cross-channel trip to Avalon and who were then returning to their homes on the mainland. It was only by mere chance that the launch Cornell, Captain George N. Cornell, which was returning from the Isthmus to Avalon, sighted the disabled craft and went to the rescue. When first sighted by the Cornell, the launch Calypso was flying distress signals, but owing to the fact that there was but little wind at the time Captain Cornell stated that he was not sure whether the craft needed assistance or the parties on board were fishing. In the swift currents the craft was rapidly drifting out of the regular course of the cross-channel traffic. The Calypso left Avalon shortly after 3 o’clock and it was almost dark when their rescuers hove to so that the captain of the Cornell could ask the usual questions required from operators of vessels disabled on the high seas. Many of the passengers cheered as the Cornell approached, but it was found that the Calypso carried too many persons for the Cornell to haul at one time. Neither the Calypso nor the Cornell is equipped with wireless apparatus. Although unable to repair the damage done to the spark plug, Captain Cornell devised a scheme to set the disabled engine in motion. From his own engine room he connected electric wires to the engine of the Calypso, running the electric current up to 110 volts and by this means the machinery was once more set in motion, after which it could be operated from a magneto located in the engine room of the Calypso. Until assured of the safety of the passengers the launch Cornell remained within speaking distance… The launch Calypso is one of the competing boats used by the White Star Line in an effort to force the Freeholders’ Improvement Association of Avalon to allow passenger and freight-loading privileges at the Association’s wharf. A suit is ow pending in the Superior Court to settle the legal side of the problem…”


September 28, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “The daily trips to the Isthmus made by the Cornell and the Greeley Stage Coach Company are still well patronized by tourists and others. The dinner and the interesting explanation of the many points of interest by Mr. Cornell are features of the boat trip.”


February 29, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “To bring back the relic hunters of San Nicolas Island, the launch Cornell, Captain George Cornell will leave here at midnight Tuesday. In the island party are: A. B. Chappell, Ralph Glidden and A. Taschenberger who left Avalon November 13, 1915 to search for Indian curios. Only once since leaving here has news of them been received. Many valuable relics had been collected.”


March 13, 1916 [LAT]: “Returning with a collection of San Nicolas Island relics that would cause envy in the mind of any museum curator in the country, Captain A. P. Chappell, Ralph Glidden and A. Taschenberger arrived at Avalon last night on the launch Cornell after four months of self-exile on the outermost of the Channel Islands. During their stay on the islands the men opened scores of ancient graves and brought back with them an as yet unclassified collection of mortars and pestles, wampum, ‘feast recording tablets,’ stone pipes, arrow points and heads, flat knives, flutes, paint-pots, treasure boxes, bone and abalone fish hooks, abalone ear-rings, and many other relics that have not yet been classified by the hunters… The curios brought from San Nicolas Island are now of greater value than previously believed, owing to the fact that two valuable life-time collections were destroyed in the Avalon fire. With this destruction a collection owned by Mrs. Blanch Trask was also lost.”


August 8, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “More campers are at the Isthmus this season than there has been for many years. Daily runs are made by the launch Cornell, and ‘good time’ exclamations can be heard from those who participate…”


August 15, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Every day the launch Cornell, Captain George N. Cornell, leaves Avalon for the Isthmus.”


March 20, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Lost. At Empire Landing, a white fox terrier dog answering to the name ‘Teddy.’ Finder please notify Captain G. N. Cornell, so that the dog can be returned to Empire.”


September 4, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “The trip to the Isthmus by boat is one of the most popular outings for visitors to Catalina Island. The launch Cornell, Captain George N. Cornell, taken many happy pleasure seekers from Avalon to barbecue dinners served on the beach at the Isthmus…”


September 25, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain George N. Cornell on Monday towed two of the city pier floats to Wilmington to have them repaired for use this winter.”


November 13, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Many of the scenes of Down to Earth, featuring Douglas Fairbanks, were filmed on Catalina Island. A number of the pictures are shown in Physical Culture Magazine for October. The scenes were taken at Pebble Beach, showing the party shipwrecked, with nothing but hardtack and beans. It’s a regular Douglas Fairbanks comedy.”


November 20, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain George Cornell started Wednesday morning on the good ship Cornell for a vacation trip to San Miguel Island, off Santa Barbara. He was accompanied by E. Windle and G. W. Gibson.”


November 27, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain Cornell and party returned Saturday from their northern trip.”


December 11, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Around Santa Cruz Island. After a substantial breakfast of wild boar, fried egg, a stack of hot cakes, etc… Captain Cornell and Captain Gibson broke out the anchor of the Cornell at Fry’s Harbor…”


March 19, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “A new boiler has been installed at the Johnson’s Cove power plant near the Isthmus. Captain George N. Cornell transported the boiler from Avalon to the plant.”


May 28, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “Another palatial cruiser has been added to the Avalon fleet. Captain George N. Cornell announced Thursday that he had purchased the cruiser Par, and that he would use the vessel in making daily trips from Avalon to the Isthmus, commencing July 1st. The Par is 64 feet 6 inches in length, with 13-foot beam, and is equipped with a 125-50 h.p. six-cylinder Imperial engine. There is a fuel tank capacity for a cruising radius of 1000 miles. The electric lighting system is of the Carlisle-Finch auxiliary type. The cruiser has sleeping accommodations for fourteen persons, and a speed of twelve miles per hour. Speaking of his purchase, Captain Cornell said: ‘The boat is under government inspection, with all the latest specifications for passenger-carrying service. I expect to use the 5000-candle-power searchlight, with its latest telescope attachment, for searchlight trips during the summer season. The Par was built under my own supervision five years ago, and I consider it one of the most seaworthy vessels on the Pacific Coast.”


February 4, 1919 [CI/Avalon]: “The Metro company which is filming The Island of Intrigue, from the novel by Isabel Ostrander, and which has been busy for several weeks about Catalina and San Pedro, left Friday afternoon on the cruiser Par, Captain George N. Cornell, for Santa Cruz Island, to secure some exterior scenes. The company is under the direction of Henry Otto. Miss May Allison, the leading lady, had been quite fearful of sea sickness, but it is reported that her fears have all vanished, and that on some of the recent sailing trips about Catalina every land-lubber on board was sick except Miss Allison. We understand that she left ‘Pelican Bill’ in Avalon. An exciting incident occurred Wednesday. While boarding the Par, Miss Allison’s maid fell overboard. Being unable to swim she was rescued by the prompt action of Mr. J. Kennedy, who had been taking the part of a butler. The cameramen were on shore and so did not ‘catch’ the unexpected ‘action’.


September 28, 1932 [TI/Avalon]: “A letter from Oceanside brings to the people of Avalon the sad news of the death of Captain George N. Cornell, aged 71, who passed away September 15th at his home, ‘Sunnybrook Farm,’ near Fallbrook. The funeral services were held September 19th, under the auspices of the Christian Science Society of Fallbrook, and the interment was at the Odd Fellows Cemetery. The deceased is survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons. George Nelson Cornell was born in Detroit, Michigan, April 10, 1861. He came to California in 1895. On April 15, 1905 he was married to Josephine Moll of Pasadena, and during that year the happy couple came to reside in Avalon with the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. Moll, who at that time were the proprietors of the Avalon Dry Goods, located at the corner of Crescent and Sumner avenues. During the winter of 1906, Mr. Cornell qualified as Captain of the launch Mascot. In 1908 he purchased the launch Cornell, and operated the vessel for ten years. In 1918 he built the launch Par, a palatial craft that was later purchased for use in the motion picture industry. In 1926, with his family, Captain Cornell moved to Fallbrook where he purchased an avocado ranch named “Sunnybrook Farm.’ Because of his genial disposition, his knowledge of the Channel Islands, the coastline of Lower California, and his skill as a navigator, the services of Captain Cornell were always in demand. Many trips were made by him to San Miguel, San Nicolas, Anacapa and Santa Rosa islands, with hunting and fishing parties. Indian relic hunters frequently chartered his vessel for cruises to various points of interest. In the early days, during the Banning Company’s ownership of Catalina, Captain Cornell operated his launch Cornell from Avalon to the Isthmus, and served the famous Cornell barbecue dinner, consisting of clam chowder, barbecued fish, beans, coffee, pie and cake… He is survived by his wife Josephine; daughters, Mrs. Dorothy Newman of Fallbrook, and Mrs. Esther Fitzpatrick of Terminal Island; his sons George, Eugene and Jack, and two grandchildren, James and Catherine Fitzpatrick.”