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November 12, 2021, BREWSTER, NY – Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell joined fellow elected officials, members of the history community, and Town of Kent residents on Wednesday to unveil a historic marker as a Veterans Day tribute to Prince Cornwall, who lived to age 104, was once enslaved and gained his freedom following military service in the Revolutionary War. Cornwall, a long-time resident of Kent, New York, is said to have been in service to General George Washington during the war. This story, along with his longevity, large family, and final resting place in the historic Second Kent Baptist Church Ground, will now be included in the records of Black history in Putnam County.
According to family reports in area newspapers, Cornwall was brought here from Africa as a slave and went by the name “Prince Cornwall”. However, in 1959, his grandson, Leonard Demmons, reported to a newspaper that Cornwall’s real name was Nelson Garrison Demmons. This information shed great light onto cemetery records, as alongside Cornwall’s nearly indecipherable lichen-covered headstone can be found many other Demmons family members, including Hannah Demmons, “wife of Nelson”.
Cornwall was born about 1750 and died on December 29, 1855. His obituary in the Putnam County Courier states that he died at “one hundred and four years, five months, and seven days.” Although not much is known about his enslavement, Cornwall (sometimes spelled Cornwell or Cornel), spent his last fifteen years working as a servant for David Kent and was known to entertain listeners with his stories of the revolution. However, his story of service and the location of his grave were almost forgotten due to the sands of time. Thanks to residents Betty Light Behr and her cousin Richard Light, both former members of the Second Kent Baptist Church, along with Jackie Rohrig-Strickland, Town of Kent Historian, Cornwall’s story was rediscovered and his grave was located and marked with an American flag.
“It was an honor to be part of marking Prince Cornwall’s story in the county,” says Odell, “He will now be remembered by generations to come for his story of service.” The unveiled blue and yellow historic marker, sponsored by the Putnam County Historian’s Office and installed by the Town of Kent Highway Department, is located outside the cemetery at 1118 North Horsepound Road.
This new historic marker is added to an inventory of over 100 markers throughout Putnam County. New York’s historical marker program started in 1923 when the New York Historical Association recommended markers to help celebrate the (then) upcoming 150th Anniversary of the American Revolution. Today, creation, installation and restoration of historic markers is overseen locally by County, Town and Village officials and/or appointed historians. In Putnam County, many markers have been restored in preparation for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. Additionally, this will be the third historic marker recently dedicated to document Black history. The other two, Tone’s Pond in the Town of Southeast, and Snowdale Farm in Patterson, were sponsored by students of the Brewster Central School District.
The Second Kent Baptist Church, formerly the Lakeview Community Church, is now operated as Casaservir, under Pastor Nestor Gomez and his wife Rosa. As caretakers of this historic property, the Gomez’s are pleased to have such a special story associated with their location and look forward to learning more about the church ground’s history.
68 Marvin Ave.
Carmel, NY 10512