William LaFayette Cornett biography

The year 1873 witnessed the advent to Young county of William L. Cornett, then a young man, fitted and inured by long service to the range on the frontier and then doing what proved to be his last pony act in the drama of cowboy life. A year more in the saddle and he began the more prosy as well as more profitable career of a farmer by joining, for a brief year, the old settlers, Brooks, Pirtle and Fulkerson of the Caddo Reservation. In 1875 he settled in Upper Tonk valley, on the reserve of the Tonkaway Indians and near the head of Tonk branch where, being a single man, the state declined to patent to him more than eighty acres of land. For his reception he erected a log cabin, which, however humble, was for some years in reality his home. With the lapse of years and the coming of greater prosperity, he provided more commodiously and conveniently for himself and his growing family in the erection of his present home.

While our subject acquainted himself with the broad prairies and the frontier as a cowboy beginning with a few years subsequent to the war, he learned something about independent action and gained business experience first as a freighter over the old-time trails prior to the scream of the iron horse on the Texas prairies. The opening of his career began in Dallas county where his education was finished after attendance on the Cedar Springs and Dallas schools, giving him a fairly good insight into the common branches then taught. He learned to farm before he reached his majority, and its recollections and the promising future for the husbandman in the early seventies, led him to his first love out on the Young county frontier.

In Logan county, Kentucky, February 12, 1846, William L. Cornett was born. His father, Dr. Cornett, was born near the corners of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia, February 16, 1 817, and lived there some eighteen years. He married Mary, a daughter of a farmer, John Ward, and resided in the cornering states for a few years. He finally established himself in Logan county, Kentucky, and left there in 1861 for Texas, driving through and reaching Dallas while recruiting for the Confederate service was well under way. He enlisted and was assigned to duty as a surgeon and died at Tyler just before the “breakup” in 1865. His wife died in Kentucky in 1855 and he married the second time before leaving the Corn Cracker state. His second wife was Rebecca Simons who died in Dallas county as Mrs. W. B. Payne. Of Dr. Cornett’s children, Flavius J. served in the Confederate army and died soon after reaching home at the close of the war from exposure while in prison at Camp Douglas, Chicago; Augustus A., for many years a member of the northwest Texas Methodist Episcopal Conference, but now retired in Fort Worth; Eliza J., wife of S. Y. Burr, of Fort Worth; William L., our subject; Alexander L., of Louisiana; Mary J., who died in Fort Worth as Mrs. David McAnally; and Hester A., wife of George Pirtle, of Oklahoma.

Mr. Cornett’ recollections of the results obtained by him as a farmer during his first years in Young county lead him to believe that the seasons then were more reliable than of recent years, and that planting was more surely attended with substantial results. While much labor has been expended without requisite reward, on the whole his material progress has been forward instead of backward, as is evidenced by his possession of more than four hundred acres of land instead of the eighty acres with which he was originally endowed.

January 18, 1877, William L. Cornett and Mary M. Davis were married in Young county. Mrs. Cornett was a daughter of John Davis, who came to Texas from Berry [Barry] county, Missouri, where she was born in 1851. Her mother’s sisters are Mrs. Margaret Mondell and Mrs. Adaline Askew, of Young county, and John F. Davis, a brother, resides in McCulloch county, Texas. Mr. and Mrs. Cornett’s children are: Rufus M., a teacher in Gray county, Texas; Maud, a member of the family circle; William A., of Gray county; and Ophelia, Alvy and Armelia.

Mr. Cornett has ever maintained a lively interest in public affairs, local and state, takes a strong moral position on all social questions and supports Democracy when policies of government are at issue.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 484-485.