Rev Gabriel Cornwall

1655-prior to 1690

First Minister of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church

The Cornwall family had come to Ireland early in the Plantation period and had considerable property in the parishes of Tullynisken and Drumglass near Dungannon.  Gabriel Cornwall was a Scotsman, educated at St Andrews, and in 1653 John and Grace Cornwall, his parents, had received permission for their eldest son Gabriel to come to Ireland to preach.  The exact date of his ordination at Ballywillan is not known; he was present at a meeting of the Antrim Presbytery on 28th August 1655 and in November 1655 he was included in the government list as minister of Ballywillan with a grant of £50 (presumably payment for part of the year).  The following year his name is included in a list of 15 ministers who each received a salary of £100 from the government.

Mr Cornwall preached in the old parish church at Crossreagh crossroads until 1661 when he was ejected for refusing to be re-ordained by a bishop when the monarchy was restored.  He continued to live at Maddybenny, which was his own property, and continued to work quietly among his own people.  He may have lived for a time in Derry , for the Register of Derry Cathedral contains the following entry: ‘Nehemiah son of Mr Gabreil Cornwall buried 12 August 1664’ and his name does not appear in the Hearth Money Roll of 1663 in the townland of Maddybenny.

For many years Mr Cornwall had charge of the congregation of Billy (later Bushmills) as well as Ballywillan.  He was able to preach in Irish and many years afterwards his ‘remarkable success’ in this field was noted in the records of the General synod, in 1710.  Mr Cornwall died in c1688-1690.

Mr Cornwall’s wife was called Katherine, and their children were Samuel, Margaret, William, Mary and Josias.  His three sons were educated at Glasgow University .  Margaret married Mr King and Mary married Mr Harper.  The eldest son, Samuel, became a doctor, and is probably the Samuel Cornwall described as Scotch-English on the books of Glasgow University in 1681.  In 1698 he is described as Samuel Cornwall of Curreen in County Tyrone .

The two younger sons, William and Josias, became Presbyterian ministers.  William was ordained at Clogher in 1695 where he preached against the system of high rents demanded by the landlord and tithes demanded by the Established Church.  He felt so strongly about these injustices in Ireland that he resigned in 1718 and emigrated to Casco Bay in New Hampshire with members of his congregation.  As they had embarked late in the season they suffered severely during the winter, which they had to spend on board their ships.  William Cornwall returned to Ireland in 1722 and became minister of St Johnston, Co Donegal, until his death in 1735.  Josias Cornwall was ordained at Cavanaleck in 1704, but he was deposed in 1738 and never had another charge.

This information compiled from:
The Kirk of Ballywillan since the Scottish Settlement.  (Julia E Mullin)
The Presbytery of Coleraine.  (Julia E Mullin)
Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church 1613-1840  (Presbyterian Historical Society, Belfast.)