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Cornelius Vanderbilt
Cornelius Vanderbilt

  • Born 27 May 1794 - Staten Island, Kings Co., NY
  • Deceased 4 January 1877 - New York, NY,aged 82 years old
  • Buried - Moravian Cem., New Dorp, Staten Island, NY
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Linked to: Timothy Michael Dowling, 10th cousin 6x removed
"Cornelius Vanderbilt was a U.S. entrepreneur who built his wealth in shipping and railroads and was the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family. In later life he was known as Commodore Vanderbilt.
Cornelius Vanderbilt was the fourth of nine children born in Port Richmond on Staten Island in New York to a family of modest means. His great-great-great-grandfather, Jan Aertson, was a Dutch farmer from the village of De Bilt in Utrecht, the Netherlands, who immigrated to New York as an indentured servant in 1650. The Dutch "van der" was eventually added to Aertson's village name to create "van der bilt," which was eventually condensed to Vanderbilt.
As a young boy, Cornelius Vanderbilt worked on ferries in New York City, quitting school at age 11. By age 16 he was operating his own business, ferrying freight and passengers. On December 19, 1813, Cornelius Vanderbilt married his cousin and neighbour, Sophia Johnson (1795-1868), daughter of his mother's sister. He and his wife had 13 children, one of which, a boy, died young. By 1830, Vanderbilt's business had expanded to the Hudson River. Soon he controlled coastal trade along the entire coast of New England. During the California Gold Rush he ran a steamship line from New York to California via Nicaragua.
In 1844 Vanderbilt was elected as a director of the Long Island Rail Road, which at the time provided a route between Boston and New York via a steamboat transfer. In 1857 he became a director of the New York and Harlem Railroad.
In the early 1860s, Vanderbilt started withdrawing capital from steamships and investing in railroads. He acquired the New York and Harlem Railroad in 1862-1863, the Hudson River Railroad in 1864, and the New York Central Railroad in 1867. In 1869 they were merged into New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. By 1873 he had extended the lines to Chicago, Illinois. Around this time Vanderbilt tried to gain control of the Erie Railroad, which brought him into direct conflict with Jay Gould, who was then in control of the Erie. Gould won the battle for control of the railroad by "watering down" its stock, which Vanderbilt bought in large amounts. Vanderbilt lost more than $7 million in his attempt to gain control, although Gould later returned most of the money. Vanderbilt was very acustomed to getting what he wanted, but it seems that he met his match in Jay Gould. Vanderbilt would later say of his loss that "it never pays to kick a skunk." In fact this was not the last time that Gould would make a fool out of a Vanderbilt. Years after his father's death, William Vanderbilt gained control of the Western Union Telegraph company. Jay Gould then started the American Telegraph Company and nearly forced Western Union out of business. William Vanderbilt then had no choice but to buy out Gould, who made a large profit from the sale.
After the death of Sophia Vanderbilt, he ran away to elope in Canada where on August 21, 1869, he married a distant cousin from Mobile, Alabama by the name of Frank Armstrong Crawford. Ms. Crawford was 43 years his junior. It was her nephew by marriage who convinced Cornelius Vanderbilt to commit funding for what would become Vanderbilt University.
Ruthless in business, Cornelius Vanderbilt was said by some to have made few friends in his lifetime but many enemies. His public perception was that of a vulgar, mean-spirited individual who made life miserable for everyone around him, including his family. He often said that women bought his stock because his picture was on the stock certificate. In his will, he disowned his sons except for William, who was as ruthless in business as his father and the one Cornelius believed capable of maintaining the business empire. At the time of his death, Cornelius Vanderbilt's fortune was estimated at more than $100 million. He willed $95 million to son William but only $500,000 to each his eight daughters. His wife received a $500,000 in cash, their modest New York City home, and 2,000 shares of common stock in New York Central Railroad.
Vanderbilt gave little of his vast fortune to charitable works, leaving the $1 million he had promised for Vanderbilt University and $50,000 to the Church of the Strangers in New York City. Otherwise, his charity mainly matched his infamous statement "The public be damned." He lived modestly, leaving his descendants to build the flock of Vanderbilt houses that characterize America's Gilded Age.
Cornelius Vanderbilt was buried in the family vault in the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island. Three of his daughters and son Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt contested the will on the grounds that their father had insane delusions and was of unsound mind. The unsuccessful court battle lasted more than a year, and Cornelius Jeremiah committed suicide in 1882."

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                                                                             _____|16_Jacob Vanderbilt ca 1652-1715
                                                   _____|8_Jacob Vanderbilt ca 1691-1760
                                                  /                         ¯¯¯¯¯|17_Margaritje Vandervliet ca 1655-1722
                         _____|4_Jacob Vanderbilt 1722-1768
                        /                        \                          _____|18_Dionys Teunis Denyse 1654-1706
                       /                          ¯¯¯¯¯|9_Neeltje Denyse 1689-1770
                      /                                                     ¯¯¯¯¯|19_Helena Cortelyou 1666-/1726
|2_Cornelius Vanderbilt 1764-1832
|                    \                                                     _____|20_Edward Spragg 1666-1725
|                     \                           _____|10_Jacob Spragg ca 1694-1745
|                      \                         /                         ¯¯¯¯¯|21_Abigail Southard 1665-1726
|                       ¯¯¯¯¯|5_Mary Spragg 1728-1781
|                                                \
|                                                 ¯¯¯¯¯|11_Dorothy x
|--1_Cornelius Vanderbilt, Commodore 1794-1877
|                                                                           _____|24_Joseph Hand ca 1664-1713
|                                                  _____|12_Nehemiah Hand ca 1700-1776
|                                                 /                         ¯¯¯¯¯|25_Elizabeth x ca 1668-
|                       _____|6_Samuel Hand, Cpt. ca 1734-1816/
|                      /                        \
|                     /                          ¯¯¯¯¯|13_Lydia x ca 1701-1776
|3_Phebe Hand 1767-1854
                         ¯¯¯¯¯|7_Phebe Lum 1737-ca 1788