Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

John Jacob Cornwell

West Virginia

photo used with permission of the

West Virginia Archives & History

15th Governor of West Virginia (1917-1921)

John Jacob Cornwell was born on a farm in Ritchie County and in 1870, when he was three years old, he move with his family to Hampshire County. He attended Shepherd College and at age sixteen became a school teacher. In 1890, Cornwell and his brother acquired the Romney Hampshire Review and became publishers and editors. Cornwell was admitted to the bar in 1898 and served as a state senator from 1899 to 1905. He was defeated in his first gubernatorial bid in 1904, but was elected governor in 1917 and served until 1921. During his term in office, there was labor unrest in the coal fields and violence in Matewan, Mingo County, where miners and coal company guards fired on each other. Two months before Cornwell left office, the state capitol was destroyed by fire.

After leaving office, Cornwell served as a director and general counsel for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. Upon retirement he lived in Romney. He died in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1953. [Source: John Jacob Cornwell,West Virginia Archives & History]

John Jacob Cornwell

John Jacob Cornwell
West Virginia State Archives

John J. Cornwell, Knock About Notes 122-139 (Romney, West Virginia, 1915)(16 poems coming at the end of a small book of sensible commentary written over the course of some seventeen years; the commentary appeared originally in the form of a newspaper column Cornwell wrote, which he called "Knock About Notes")

Geo. W. Atkinson, Bench and Bar of West Virginia 256
(Charleston, West Virginia: Virginian Law Book Co., 1919)


John J. Cornwell, The Utilization of the State's Water Power (Parkersburg, West Virginia: West Virginia Bar Association, 1913)(a paper read before the West Virginia Bar Association at Wheeling, July 17, 1913)

_____________, A Mountain Trail: To the Schoolroom, the Editor's Chair, the Lawyer's Office, and the Governorship of West Virginia (Philadelphia: Dorrance and Company, 1939)

Photogragh and signature: John Jacob Cornwell, Knock About Notes
(Romney, West Virginia, 1915)