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Cornish, Samuel Elilocked

(1795–06 November 1858)
  • Graham Russell Hodges


Cornish, Samuel Eli (1795–06 November 1858), clergyman and newspaper editor, was born in Sussex County, Delaware, the son of free black parents. Cornish was educated after 1815 in Philadelphia, where he studied for the ministry with John Gloucester, pastor of the First African Presbyterian Church. During Gloucester’s illness, Cornish served as minister to the church for a year. In this brief tenure Cornish learned much about the tenuous finances of black churches, knowledge that would serve him later. Cornish gained a probationary license to preach from the Presbyterian synod in 1819. He then spent six months as missionary to slaves on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where his license gave him greater credibility than most black preachers enjoyed. In 1821 he moved to New York City, where he worked in the blighted ghetto around Bancker Street and organized the first black Presbyterian congregation in New York, the New Demeter Street Presbyterian Church. Ordained in 1822, Cornish preached at New Demeter until 1828, while itinerating among blacks in New York and New Jersey. In 1824 he married Jane Livingston; they had four children....

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