Cornelius was 13 years old when the Jesuits sold him in 1838 to plantation owners in Louisiana. He was separated from his extended family, including his Aunt Nelly and her daughters and his uncle James and his wife and children. After the sale Cornelius disappeared from public records until 1851 when his name appeared on a list of chattel on a cotton plantation in Maringouin, Louisiana. In 1870 Cornelius appeared in the Census for the first time, and by then he was 48 years old, married with children, and finally a free man working as a farm laborer.
Cornelius originally married in a civil ceremony because the plantation where he was enslaved was not close to any Catholic church or priest. However, in 1876 Cornelius renewed his wedding vows in a Catholic church. His children and grandchildren also embraced the Catholic church. Cornelius died on April 16, 1902 and was buried at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church – which has the only Catholic cemetery in Maringouin. Ironically, it was Cornelius’ deep Catholic faith, developed on the Jesuit plantations of Maryland, that would provide researchers with a roadmap to his descendants.
The descendants salute Cornelius Hawkins for his abiding faith and pledge to keep his memory alive in perpetuity!