Skip to main content

The Ezra Files: A new home and new vocation

Early in 1857, Ezra Cornell purchased the 300-acre DeWitt farm on the hill crown and slope between Fall Creek Gorge and Cascadilla Gorge (the future site of the university). In pondering what to name it, he wrote to his son Alonzo, May 13, 1857:

"As to names, I am not decided yet what it shall be, 'Forest Home' I like but don't want to rob F.O.J.S. [F.O.J. Smith, a business associate]. 'Cascadilla' is good but is so Old that it has lost all the sweetness of originiality, 'Mount Evergreen' Seems discordant 'Forest City Farm' is too long 'Forest Retreat' don't respond in harmony to the proper chords, 'Cascadia' is short and appropriate, 'Cornelia' is the name that Gov Seward gave my old place at fall Creek, and I like it pretty well, 'Caterac Farm' would not be inappropriate considering that the farm is bordered by cataracks on its north & south sides -- 'Fairview' would be a name expressive of the facts. 'Mount Prospect' would also be expressive -- I should like an Indian name if I could hit upon the right one, but I have not yet practiced in the red skin dialect. As Ithaca & Ulisses are names borrowed from Homer, Illiad or Odessa perhaps it would not be inappropriate to resort to Homer for still another name. So we will pass on and wate for a name [sic]."

Cornell finally named it Forest Park and developed a model farm, raising purebred cattle, especially shorthorns. He experimented with various crops, organized a farmers' club and worked to improve the general level of agriculture in the county. In letters to the Ithaca Journal, he surveyed the county's farm records from the 1855 state census and discussed agricultural improvement. In 1858, he became president of the Tompkins County Agricultural Society.

Adapted by Susan S. Lang from the Web site, "Invention and Enterprise: Ezra Cornell, a Nineteenth-Century Life."

Media Contact

Media Relations Office