Sarah Maria Cornell - Biography


Sarah Maria Cornell was born on May 3, 1803, likely in Rupert, Vermont to James and Lucretia (Leffingwell) Cornell. Lucretia had been born well-off in an old Puritan family, the daughter of a Connecticut merchant and paper maker. However she had been disowned by her father after she married James Cornell, who had worked in his paper mill, and who he did not approve of. James abandoned the family when Sarah was a baby, forcing her mother to give up her older sister and brother to relatives as she was financially unable to care for three children. Sarah remained with her mother to age eleven when she moved in with her aunt Joanna, in Norwich, Connecticut. Later in her teens, she apprenticed as a tailor. In 1820 she moved to nearby Bozrahville and worked as a tailor for about two years.

Around 1822 or 1823 Sarah went to work at a cotton mill in Killingly, Connecticut. In the years that followed, she would move often and work at various mills in Rhode Island and Connecticut, including stints in North Providence, Jewett City, Slatersville. During this period, Sarah often got into trouble, including charges of theft and other "inappropriate" acts for a young single woman of that time.

However, during her time at Slatersville between 1823 and 1826, Sarah had a transformation to Methodism, and sought to change her ways. But in February 1826, the mill at Slatersville burned to the ground and she was forced to seek employment elsewhere. She first moved to the nearby village of Branch Factory and later to Mendon Mills (later called Millville, Massachusetts), several miles away.

In early 1827, Sarah moved again to find mill work in Dedham, Massachusetts. However, after only a few weeks there she moved again to Dorchester, Massachusetts, where she was able to reconnect with the Methodists. In May 1828, she moved to the booming mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts where she worked as a weaver until about the end of 1829. It was during this period in Lowell that she met a newly-arrived Methodist minster, Ephraim Kingsbury Avery.

In September 1830, Sarah moved to Dover, New Hampshire. Only two months later she moved again to Somersworth, New Hampshire. During the summer of 1831 she left New Hampshire for Waltham, Massachusetts but only stayed there a few weeks. She then moved to Taunton, Massachusetts where she found employment. In May 1832 she left Taunton for Woodstock, Connecticut where she was able to find work again as a tailor in Grindall Rawson's shop. It was at a Methodist Camp Meeting in Thompson, Connecticut at the end of August 1832 that Sarah once again crossed paths with Reverend Avery. By this time, Avery had become the minster in Bristol, Rhode Island. It is alleged that during the Thompson Camp meeting that Avery seduced Sarah Cornell.

In October 1832, Sarah moved to Fall River where she found lodging at the home of Elija Cole. By this time she was showing clear signs of pregnancy, and sought advice from a local docter in Fall River. By early December 1832, she moved to the Hathaway residence on Spring Street.

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