Cornelius Taylor, born around 1785 in what would become the West Virginia panhandle, was a self-styled Indian fighter and frontiersman. He fought in the War of 1812, and pursued a living in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois where he raised a family of seven. He may have built and operated lumber mills in various sites.
He first appears in Florida around 1826 where he served on the Grand Jury in the Jacksonville area and is listed among petitioners to have the bar at the mouth of the St. Johns River dug out to accommodate river traffic. Some surmise that he came into Florida to fight the Seminoles during the Indian wars. While at San Pablo near present day Mayport, he married (twice) into the Dewees family, thus gaining interest in much of the family’s 2,300-acre land grant.
Taylor boasted that he “was the first to raise a band of something like twenty men” to travel up the St. Johns River and start a settlement, however, farms and plantations had been established along the river since the late 1700s. Starting out from the area of Old San Pablo near present day Mayport at the mouth of the St. Johns River, the men loaded their families, slaves, worldly goods, and livestock onto government boats that brought them to the north shore of Lake Monroe. Taylor and the others first “squatted” on the land, claiming their individual homesteads by right of possession.