It was coal that started it all, Pennsylvania anthracite mined near the upper Delaware River and shipped by canal boats 108 miles along the narrow Delaware and Hudson Canal to tidewater at Eddyville, three miles upstream from the mouth of Rondout Creek. From there it went by the Hudson River to the growing cities north, south and east. Coal made the first fortune of young Thomas Cornell, founder of the Cornell Steamboat Company-coal and the appetites of the canal workers who in 1828 built the D&H. Their every need had to be shipped in by water and bought in general stores at the docks near the canal's first lock and the canal basin.
In 1822, Cornell's uncle and namesake, Thomas W. Cornell, had come to New Salem, a hamlet across and up the Rondout Creek from what a few years later would become the community of Rondout. There Thomas W. opened a general store that soon profited from the building of the D&H Canal. Patrons could buy everything there, from dry goods, glassware, crockery, and hardware to the staples of a working man's diet--pork, fish, and flour.
In 1828, Thomas W. bought land close to the first lock of the canal, which had just been completed. He would later enter into the cement business as well as merchandising and freighting on the river and canal. Thomas W. Cornell's brother, Peter, arrived a few years later and bought a dock on the Creek near Eddyville, soon becoming a partner in a thriving emporium there. Peter's son, Thomas, arrived around 1837, bought a sloop, and entered the freighting business with his base at Rondout Creek.
The younger Thomas Cornell was twenty-three and in the right place at the right time for his ambitions and abilities. He learned much from his father's store, Cornell and Gender, which provided individuals and companies with food, clothing, equipment, ship supplies and gear, and building materials. Patrons could even book passage on freight steamers heading down to New York or up to Albany, for Cornell and Gender were agents for the steamboat Frank, one of several plying between increasingly busy Rondout Creek and the outside world. Farmers, stockmen, lumbermen, tanners, quarrymen, distillers, and brick makers all sent their goods and produce to market on steamboats whose owners used Cornell and Gender as agents.
Purple Mountain Press, hardcover, 224 pages, 8.5 x 11 x .5 in., B&W illustrations, roster and data.