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James Kennedy Cornwall
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Birth: Oct. 30, 1869
Ontario, Canada
Death: Nov. 20, 1955
Alberta, Canada


Calgary - Col. James K. Cornwall, 86, a former member of the Alberta legislature and a man who foresaw the agricultural possibilities of the Peace River district died in a Calgary hospital after a long illness.

Known to thousands in Canada's northland as "Peace River Jim", he had played many roles in his colorful career. In his time, Col. Cornwall had been newspaper salesman, hunter, trapper, fur trader, riverman, sailor, mail carrier, dog=team driver, freight packer, transportation executive, soldier and explorer.


He came to Alberta in 1896 and started railway construction work, mostly in the Crow's Nest Pass district. A short time later he went to the Yukon and then returned to the Peace River region. He was a successful Liberal candidate in the Alberta legislature in 1908, representing the Peace River constituency.

When the First World War broke out, he organized a unit and served overseas from 1914 to 1918. He was officer commanding the 8th Battalion, CEF, for three years, winning the DSO and promotion to Colonel during the fighting.

In the North, Col. Cornwall learned to speak Cree, Chipewyan, Dogrib and Eskimo.

Col. Cornwall earned two names by his missionary work on behalf of northern Alberta and the North West Territories. He became known as "Peace River Jim" and "The Apostle of the North." The two titles reflected his life story.


Born in Brantford, Ont., Oct. 29, 1869, James Kennedy Cornwall was the son of Thomas and Hannah Kennedy Cornwall. He was educated in the public schools of Brantford but his education didn't stop there. He studied everywhere he went and absorbed much through reading, particularly law books, within the Arctic Circle.

Wanderlust seized him early. When he was 14 years old he went to Buffalo, N.Y., and sold papers. Then he shipped aboard sailing vessels on the Great Lakes and in 1893 he continued his sailing on the Atlantic ocean.

Cornwall did a lot of travelling in 1896. He came to Alberta and started railway construction work. Then the lure of gold in the Yukon called him. A short stay in the Yukon convinced him there would be more failures than successes and he trekked back to Alberta.


His first views of the Peace River country were gained as he returned from the Yukon. The country appealed to him. He travelled into the Lake Athabasca area and like it. He explored the northland and studied it.

From 1896 onward his life was wrapped up in the north. He hunted and trapped in the district, carried mail under contract, drove dog teams, packed freight and engaged in fur trading. He saw prospects for a major transportation company, organized the Athabasca Shipping Co. Ltd. that operated steamers on the Mackenzie river and adjoining lakes, and became its president.

He experienced the hardships of the north. He was caught in many a blizzard and twice, with his partner Jim Breden, narrowly escaped freezing to death when in the North West Territories. He learned to master the north.

Because he talked their tongue, the natives welcomed him. He became their friend and spoke at Ottawa on their behalf.

Wherever he went he talked and urged transportation facilities for the north. Derided at first, he started carrying mail by canoe and dog team. He urged road construction and improvement of shipping.

Col. Cornwall is survived by his wife, Beatrice of Victoria and Calgary; two daughters, three grand-daughters; a sister and three nieces and a nephew in eastern Canada.

His only son, James Anthony, died in the sinking of the Canadian warship Valleyfield in 1944

Requiem High Mass will be celebrated in St. Mary's Cathedral, Wednesday at 11 a.m.


Front page of The Lethbridge Herald of Nov. 22, 1955

Family links: 
  Thomas Cornwall (____ - 1883)
  Hannah Kennedy Cornwall (1839 - 1893)
  Evelyn Beatrice Tierney Cornwall (1880 - 1977)*
  James Anthony Cornwall (1923 - 1944)*
  Ellen Cornwall (1868 - ____)*
  James Kennedy Cornwall (1869 - 1955)
  Thomas John Cornwall (1872 - 1954)*
  Frank Cornwall (1876 - 1895)*
  Richard Cornwall (1877 - 1887)*
  Margaret Esther Cornwall Ireland (1881 - 1976)*
*Calculated relationship
Burnsland Cemetery
Calgary Census Division
Alberta, Canada
Created by: Sue
Record added: Nov 11, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 61449440
James Kennedy Cornwall
Added by: Sue
James Kennedy Cornwall
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Added by: Milou
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Distinguished Service Order for service during WWI
 Added: Nov. 11, 2010
Never forgotten.
 Added: Nov. 11, 2010

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