Newell family papers  1726-1900
full text File Size: 34 K bytes


In the mid-19th century, Arthur W. and Cornelia E. (Smith) Newell lived in Medina, Orleans Co., N.Y. and owned a farm in nearby Middleport, where they grew tobacco and vegetables with the help of a tenant. Arthur's father was probably Solomon Newell, who moved from Southington, Conn., to Barkhamsted, Litchfield County, Conn., in the 1780s. Cornelia (Smith) Newell's parents apparently lived 40 miles to the west of Medina, in Lockport.

Arthur ran a mercantile establishment at the corner of Canal and Main Streets, formerly the site of the Eagle Hotel, which had burned in the winter of 1841-42. His involvement in local politics spurred him to "r[i]de the goat of the Loyal League", which initiated him into the Loyal National League of the State of New York in 1864. He also attended the New York state convention as a delegate of the Union League in September 1865.

Arthur's political involvement, however, was overshadowed by his business ventures. In the true American entrepreneurial spirit, he had struggled with various speculative enterprises. Arthur had sold some "Oswego land" previous to his stints as oil speculator and carpetbagger, indicating that he had a history of land speculation. He was caught up in the oil craze in 1865 and formed a stock company, The Medina Petroleum Company. "Oil on the brain" prompted him, as president of the company, to buy land in the center of the oil-producing district, Venango County, Pa., sight unseen. His land investments took him to Titusville, the first place where oil was discovered. During his five weeks in the oil district he also went to Pithole City, a place Arthur described as "a Pit of debauchery, drunkenness, crime, mud & Oil". The Company's land investments sadly did not yield much oil or revenue for the stockholders.

After having had little success at pumping oil, Arthur was caught up in the new "epidemic": "cotton on the brain." Within a year he had turned his capitalistic attention to the South, and traveled through the Tennessee Valley with his two business associates, Mr. Castle, also from Medina, and Mr. Wheeler. They were seeking likely land to lease and settled on a 700 acre plantation near Courtland, Ala. Arthur returned to Medina to sell the Middleport farm and together with Myron, went back to the plantation to relieve Castle. Arthur was left with most of the responsibility for setting up the plantation and getting the cotton and corn planted. He hired more "darky" hands, bringing the total to 35, endured an "indolent slut" for a housekeeper, fired the superintendent Prince, and had to cope with mules with dysentery. Cornelia was preparing to visit the plantation in July, 1866, however, there is no further information on the Newell's after this point. There is a possibility that Arthur and Cornelia did permanently relocate to Alabama, satisfying her "long cherished desire to live in a warmer climate". If they did move to the south, Arthur intended to get into the lumber trade.

Arthur and Cornelia had two sons, George Albert, born 11 January 1846, and Myron S., Albert's younger brother. George studied law at Yale, graduating in 1868, and was admitted to the bar the following year. In 1875 he was one of four attorneys in Medina, living on West Street, close to the commercial center of town. He became a prominent citizen, serving as justice of the peace, county clerk, county treasurer and president of the Union Bank of Medina. He also devoted considerable time and attention to Free Masonry and was elected to receive the 33rd and last degree at the meeting of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite held in Boston in 1894. George married Anna E. McGrath in 1886 and they had one son and two daughters. The only information available about Myron S. lists him as a chief engineer of the Medina Fire Department after 1880.