Live Oak County Historical Commission
Live Oak County Historical Commission

                             Cornelia

     When the S.A.U. & G. Railroad [Locally referred to as "Sausage" Railroad], was built through Live Oak County in 1913, the southernmost depot was built on the Staples Ranch and was named Cornelia for Mrs. Henry Staples.

 

     The Staples family had owned the ranch for many years. W.W. Staples (November 6, 1827 - January 31, 1899) was born in Tennessee and his wife, Margaret Pugh Staples (August 5, 1833 - February 10, 1891) was born at sea coming from Ireland with her parents, Thomas and Margaret Pugh, with her birth being registered in New York City. [See note below for correction of Margaret's birth]. 

 

     [Every oral history is important; however as seen in the case of Margaret Pugh's birth, some oral histories contain pieces of misinformation, even though most of it may be correct. Errors may be memory slips or may have been handed down incorrectly over generations. In the case of Margaret Pugh, the ship manifest and the date of Margaret's birth coincide to tell us she was not born on the Dublin Packet during Thomas Pugh's voyage to America.]

 

     W.W. and Margaret Staples had only one son, Henry Thomas Staples (1862 - 1919), who married Cornelia Cox (1863 - 1913). The Cox family lived across the Nueces River in the Lagarto area. The Henry Staples had two daughters, May (1886 - 1926) and Fannie (1899 - 1976). May married John Hinnant whose brother, Willie Hinnant, supplied some of the information herein concerning Cornelia. Fannie married a Mr. Braun from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and lived most of her adult years there. However, she returned to live in Pearsall, Texas during her last years. 

 

     Reeves Brown bought the Staples Ranch, and his family lived there from 1919. His daughter, Mrs. Joe (Bera) Hill, having never met "Miss Fannie" traveled to Pearsall with her husband to see her in 1974, spending two days visiting and taping some of Miss Fannie's  memories. According to Mrs. Hill, Miss Fannie was a most unusual and fascinating character with a mind as clear as a bell and a wonderful memory at 86 years of age. She gave most of the information used herein concerning Cornelia.

    

     Miss Fannie's description of the excitement brought by the building of the railroad will probably not be found in the usual history books. According to her account, when a depot was completed, there was a big dance held. For each of these occasions, the railroad company brought a dining car and two pullman cars, one for the women and one for the men. Everyone danced all night. Miss Fannie gave graphic accounts of the celebration at Campbellton (in Atascosa County) and at Cornelia.

 

     Being a railroad stop, Cornelia became a trading center. Shipping pens for cattle were built there and many cattle, watermelons and so forth were shipped from the pens and large storeroom at the depot. In addition to the depot, Mrs. Alexander from Mathis built a home there and operated a fairly large store.

 

     Henry Staples gave two acres of land to the Mexicans for a cemetery. He kept a stack of new lumber and made the boxes for them when they died. He also kept large bolts of material and lined the inside of the boxes with white and put black on the outside. Mrs. Staples made most of the dresses.

 

     The cemetery continued to be used until the early 1920's. Old John, whose last name was Flores, it is thought, was the last person to be buried there. He was half Negro and half Mexican and had come from Mexico. He seemed to have no family at all and was able to only work around the yard and garden on the Brown ranch. He gave Gordon and Bera Brown their South Texas names, Anita and Capitan, which later became Gordene. They are still called those names by many of the Mexican-American people. When Old John died, he was given a very proper funeral in that little cemetery.

 

     Later when the second dam was built on the Nueces River near Mathis, all of the graves of that little cemetery were moved, except Old John's. The graves held no remains, except for a mound of red-colored dirt from each grave was placed in separate urns and were buried on the Brown Ranch on a hilltop facing old Highway 9.

 

     There seemed to be no one living who had known any of the people buried there, so Gordon Brown found himself in the position of making the decisions. Old John's grave was on higher ground than the others. Gordon Brown refused to let it be disturbed, saying that even if the water ever were to get that high, it wouldn't bother Old John.

 

     By the time the Browns arrived at Cornelia in 1919, Mrs. Alexander had moved away and the store building was vacant. A railraod employee and his family lived in the depot which still had a telegraph office, and cattle and watermelon shipping continued for some time.

 

     After the 1919 storm, Mr. and Mrs. Reeves Brown had the Alexander home, in which they lived, torn down and moved to the top of a hill overlooking the valley. The reason for that is accounted in the Reeves Brown story. The store building and the depot were later torn down also, and the material was used in the home of Gordon Brown.

 

     When the second dam was built on the Nueces River near Mathis, the railroad had to be moved to higher ground. The site of Cornelia was inundated and it is, of course, no longer found on a map as it would have to be pinpointed in the middle of Lake Corpus Christi. The little trading center has all but been forgotten.

 

     (This story graciously transcribed by an anonymous Live Oak County Historical Commission appointee after interviews with Bera Brown Hill and Willie Hinnant for The History of the the People of Live Oak County, Texas. 1982. ) 

 

     [Thomas Pugh (spelled Pew on the ship's manifest) came from Ireland to New York on the ship, Dublin Packet, and arrived on December 6, 1927. The Dublin Packet manifest has individual names of multiple families, all listed from parents to youngest child. Thomas is the only Pugh on the manifest. The family has no record of which ship Margaret (the mother) and Thomas Jr., their only child at the time, sailed on to America. However, records of Thomas Sr.'s citizenship registration and Margaret's birth on August 5, 1833, five years after her father's arrival, are recorded in New York City.

     Thomas and Margaret's family was recruited about 1834 by James McGloin to become McMullen - McGloin Grant recipients (Hebert, R.B. The Forgottten Colony - San Patricio de Hibernia. Fort Worth: Eakin Press, 1981. 69.). Read the story of the Pugh's in the Thelma Laura Pugh - Lindholm narrative written for her Texas Historical Marker now resting on the lawn of the Live Oak County Courthouse, George West, Texas.] 

 

     

Live Oak County Courthouse

The Honorable Jim Huff, County Judge for Live Oak County, welcomes you to the Live Oak County Historical Commission (LOCHC) Website. The Live Oak County Historical Commission is an arm of the Live Oak County Commissioners' Court; appointees are selected at the beginning of odd numbered years and serve two year terms. Judge Huff and the Live Oak County Commissioners support and approve actions of the LOCHC in coordination with the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

 

Live Oak County Commissioners:

Precinct 1: Richard Lee

Precinct 2: Donna Kopplin Mills

Precinct 3: Willie James

Precinct 4: Emilio Garza

The Commissioner's Court is committed to the preservation of our county's history. Judge Huff and your local commissioner welcome suggestions.

The Honorable Jim Huff, Live Oak County Judge.

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