Commodore Cornelius X. Vanderbilt1

M, b. 27 May 1794, d. 4 January 1877
Father*Cornelius Vanderbilt b. 28 Aug 1764, d. 20 May 1832
Mother*Phoebe Hand
     Commodore Cornelius X. Vanderbilt Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) Staten Island Ferry operator and railroad magnate was born in Port Richmond. He was the richest man in the United States at one time.

1794-1877, American railroad magnate, b. Staten Island, N.Y. As a boy he ferried freight and passengers from Staten Island to Manhattan, and he soon gained control of most of the ferry lines and other short lines in the vicinity of New York City. He further expanded his shipping lines and came to be known as Commodore Vanderbilt. In 1851, when the gold rush to California was at its height, Vanderbilt opened a shipping line from the East Coast to California, including land transit across Nicaragua along the route of the proposed Nicaragua Canal. In Central America he came to be a violent opponent of the military adventurer William Walker.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, he entered the railroad field, and by 1867 he had gained control of the New York Central RR. Although his efforts to gain control of the Erie RR proved unsuccessful, Vanderbilt vastly expanded his railroad empire and by 1873 connected Chicago with New York City by rail. He amassed a great fortune and gave $1 million to found Vanderbilt Univ.

"I have been insane on the subject of moneymaking all my life," Cornelius Vanderbilt once admitted. He was born on Staten Island in 1794 into a family rich in the Dutch heritage of colonial New York but modest in means. His entrepreneurial talent emerged at age 16 when he began a ferry service to Manhattan. By the 1840s his steamship lines to ports all along the Atlantic coast placed him on a par with the most successful industrialists and earned him the name Commodore."

"Long after his death, the Commodore was described thus: "The largest employer of labor in the United States, he despised all routine office work; kept his figures in a vest-pocket book; ate sparingly; never speculated in stocks; never refused to see a caller; rose early; read Pilgrim's Progress every year, and, for diversion, played whist and drove his trotters whenever he could." At his death in 1877 he had $100 million. By leaving the bulk of his fortune to one heir, his son William Henry, he established a dynasty that promised to take the name and fortune to still greater heights."

"During the last years of his life, Vanderbilt ordered the construction of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, a project that gave jobs to thousands who had become unemployed during the Panic of 1873. Although never interested in philanthropy while acquiring the bulk of his huge fortune, later in his life he did give $1,000,000 to Central University in Nashville, Tenn. (later Vanderbilt University). In his will he left $90,000,000 to his son William Henry, $7,500,000 to William's four sons, and--consistent with his lifelong contempt for women--the relatively small remainder to his second wife and his eight daughters." From: Biography at Encyclopedia Brittanica

From Genforum: "The Commodore and Sophia Johnson had 12 children. 9 Daughters and 3 Sons. "

For a good "business" biography, see: by Dr. Keith Poole, Univ. of Houston.

Other prominent families resided on Grymes Hill during its history. Cornelius Vanderbilt started out on Staten Island; in fact, Wagner's (Wagner College) current 105-acre campus encompasses 16 acres of the former Vanderbilt estate.

"Staten Island oyster planters and dealers were among the most prosperous citizens. Bringing oysters to the Washington Market was the first shipping effort of Cornelius Vanderbilt (raised on a farm on what is now Bay Street in Stapleton, SI), founder of the Vanderbilt fortune. Early African-American communities organized around oyster fishing in Tompkinsville, Stapleton, West Brighton and Sandy Ground, and grew after the Civil War.
Oyster planters on Staten Island and in other oystering communities were forming corporations to protect oyster planters from "theft" (though apparently no common laws of ownership were practiced in Staten Island waters) and other hazards. Competition between these farmers and New Jersey oyster farmers was so fierce that defending claims sometimes ended in "oyster wars"–fist fights and even casualties." From: NY Food Museum.
He married Sophia Johnson, daughter of Nathaniel Johnson and Elizabeth Simonson. Commodore Cornelius X. Vanderbilt was born on 27 May 1794 at Staten Island, NY. He was the son of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Phoebe Hand. Commodore Cornelius X. Vanderbilt died on 4 January 1877 at New York, NY, at age 82.


Sophia Johnson b. 1795


  1. [S60] Unknown author,