Peter Cornia (1829 - 1887)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Richelieu, Quebec, Canada
Death: Died in Woodruff, Rich County, Utah
Managed by: Victor Ellsworth Welker
Last Updated:

About Peter Cornia

This story was written by Peter Cornia's wife, Ruth C. Cornia.

The Church was organized April 6, 1830 and Peter was born nine days later, April 15, 1830.

His parents were of the Catholic faith. He somehow could not believe in it because he felt that the priest had not the power to forgive sins.

At the age of fourteen years he left home. He went to find work in the lumber business, floating logs and cutting cord wood. He could not speak a word of English - a vocabulary of French was all that he had and he was so very young to go out among strangers. Many times have I heard him tell of when he was without a job, or was hungry, how he would always seek his Lord in prayer and his prayers were always answered. Though young, strong was the faith that he had.

Peter, in his wanderings, found a wonderful friend in John Telford. (Millie, a daughter of the Telfords, wrote in her diary that Peter Cornia came from Essex County, Ontario, Canada with her father and followed him wherever he went for a long time. Peter was a fine fellow and her folks all thought a great lot of him.)

When the Telford family left Canada in January 1838, Peter Cornia left with them. They sailed down the St. Lawrence River and settled on the Great Lakes in the midst of a great maple sugar orchard.

January 17th of this 1838, John Telford was baptized into the L.D.S. Church by Elder John Witt. Mrs. Telford already was a member, having been baptized on the third day of the same month.

After joining the Mormons, John Telford, his wife, and their five children moved again so they might join the main body of Saints. Because of the prejudice of the people against the Mormons, Mr. Telford did not try to sell his home or any of his property. He just locked up his house, which was newly built and furnished, and left everything as it stood.

They crossed the border into Detroit in a wagon with only the few things allowed by the United States Government, and later joined the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio. They were in all the mobbings and drivings out of the Saints in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. They were in Independence at the time of the Haun's Mill Massacre, October 30th 1838. Many times were they destitute, ill and without food, and weary from wandering.

This was the time of the gold-rush in California. Peter Cornia was excited about it and eager - anxious to move westward, thinking that a fortune awaited his coming. He had heard that men found wealth in a day, so when the Telford's talked of starting for Utah, he was elated to be one of John Telford's teamsters. Immediately after all plans had been made, Peter took ill and was unable to leave his bed. It seems that Mr. Telford too, decided to wait until the springtime to begin so long and rough a journey.

Upon a farm belonging to a widow and her daughter, Peter found work, and the winter passed quickly. During this time the widow's daughter had fallen in love with their hired help. So much did the girl think of Peter Cornia that when Mr. Telford came for him in the spring, the mother offered him her farm and everything she owned if he would stay and marry her daughter. But the gold fields were calling and the widow's offer was not accepted. Gold was the greater incentive.

They crossed the plains with the Harry Walton Company, and John Telford was the captain of fifty. The Company arrived in Salt Lake City in September 1851. However, they did not settle in Salt Lake, but in Bountiful. For now, Peter made his home with John Duncan. His intentions were to stay and work until he had earned enough to take him to California State. But how often plans never, never mature, and how true that man's extremities are God's opportunities.

Peter, one day, was led into an argument. It started over an irrigating turn. After so much talking it ended in a fist-fight with Peter striking the first blow. He was arrested and fined one hundred dollars, which was every cent that he had saved for his fortune-finding.

Isn't it often "what appears to be our great misfortune, turns out to be our greatest blessing," a blessing that we cannot see today, but somewhere in the tomorrow.

When Peter Cornia left home, he promised his mother two things. One was that he would always say his prayers and the other, that he would never be profane. These promises were to him like a protecting arm.

The Captain Lot Smith Company was called into the service of the United States Government by President Abraham Lincoln on the 30th day of April 1862. It was made up of two Companies, A and B of First Cavalry, Utah Militia. They were under the command of Colonel Collins, and served with troops for the defense of the overland mail. There were in all 106 men, 23 officers, 72 privates and 11 teamsters.

From the pages of the diary kept by Isaac Atkinson, we get this bit of a story:

"Pacific Springs Station, where the water divides at the south Pass. During the night there was sleet and rain and a high wind, tearing down every tent but one. The tent of Isaac Atkinson was the only one that remained.

"The gale was so fierce that nothing could be done to put the tents up again; they were forced to spend the rest of the night huddled under the canvass coverings, securing what protection they could from the storm, by holding to the tent with their hands."

"Peter Cornia's horse did not have a hair left on its mane or tail in the morning. One horse was found dead. That morning the wind ceased, the sun rose in all its splendor, giving promise of a beautiful day. 'Ike' and his comrades cheered the hearts of their comrades by inviting them into their one remaining tent and serving them with a fine hot breakfast. (This same Isaac Atkinson became a resident of Bountiful.)"

- Pieced together by Zelda Davis Howard -

After the death of my father, Peter Cornia, who died in Woodruff, June 29th 1887, my mother moved to Bountiful to take care of her stepmother, Cordelia Hotchkiss Carter, who lived to be almost ninety-six years. By living close to the temple, mother was able to do a great deal of temple work which gave her much joy.

One day, not long after she came to Bountiful, she met William Streeper of Centerville, who was with father in the Lot Smith command.

"So you are the wife of Peter Cornia," he said. "He was one of the most unselfish men I have ever known." He then related how after one of their meals there was a large dough-god left. (The same was made of flour, water and a little salt, and baked in a large camp kettle.) No one thought it was worth taking along, but Peter, who put it into his saddle bag, He carried it for days.

There had been no food replenishment and their supply was getting low. When they were forced to eat wild berries and horse meat and with nothing else, Peter brought out the hard tack. It was so hard he had to break it with an ax. But everyone was ravenous for a piece. Cake had never tasted better. "I believe," said Mr. Streeper, "I would have gone behind some bushes and eaten my fill, then had there been any left, I would have passed it around."

The Lot Smith expedition was no pleasure trip because of the weather and rough roads, with deep snows, and high water to encounter making travel hazardous and laborious. The year 1862 is remembered as the season of the highest water ever experienced in the Rocky Mountains.

On August 14th the Company was mustered out of service. The war records state that as a company or individuals, their conduct was above reproach. There were always morning and evening prayers, and these men endeavored to live up to President Young's advice.

One night father was out on picket duty. When he returned to camp he saw upon the pillow by a sleeping comrade a large rattlesnake. The snake was coiled, already to strike. The men thought of shooting it, but that was risky work, so they pulled away their companion by his feet. It happened so quickly that the man, between sleep and waking, shouted, "What are you trying to do?" His temper climbed until they pointed, "Look at your bed fellow." Imagine his feelings if you can, when he saw what had been sharing his pillow.

Peter Cornia, son of John Baptiste Cornia, born 1789 and Frances St. Martins, born about 1791, was the eighth child of a family of fourteen, eleven boys and three girls.

- Harriet Cornia Davis __________________

Peter was in the Harry Walton/Garden Grove Company (1851)


Departure: 17 May 1851 Arrival: 24-25 September 1851

Company Information: About 21 families from Garden Grove plus other individuals and 60 wagons were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Kanesville, Iowa (present day Council Bluffs). They left Garden Grove, Iowa on 17 May 1851.

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Peter Cornia's Timeline

1829
April 4, 1829
Richelieu, Quebec, Canada
1857
October 13, 1857
Age 28
Bountiful, Davis, Utah, United States
1859
August 16, 1859
Age 30
Bountiful, UT, USA
1861
August 20, 1861
Age 32
Bountiful, UT, USA
1863
September 18, 1863
Age 34
Bountiful, UT, USA
1865
July 9, 1865
Age 36
Kamas, UT, USA
July 9, 1865
Age 36
Kamas, UT, USA
1867
July 21, 1867
Age 38
Kamas, Summit County, Utah
1869
July 8, 1869
Age 40
West Point, Clark, Nevada, USA
1871
April 18, 1871
Age 42
Woodruff, UT, USA