Town History

The Town of Cornelius, the second youngest of Mecklenburg County's six incorporated towns, was founded in 1893, but not incorporated until March 4, 1905. Many historians have traced the Town's origin to a dispute over cotton weighing.

With consideration of its rich history, the Town of Cornelius works constantly to build a bright future for all who call the Town their home.

“Cornelius is a vibrant and inclusive small community on Lake Norman dedicated to promoting the highest quality of life for all residents.”
- Cornelius Vision Statement, adopted 2010

In the late 1800s, two thriving cotton firms located in Davidson disagreed on whether an official town cotton weigher should be appointed. After a heated election was held and legislation enacted, a town cotton weigher was hired and the firm which opposed the appointment decided to relocate much of its operations just south of the Davidson town limits.

Frequently after heavy rains, the road connecting Davidson and (soon-to-be) Cornelius would become impassible. The hill leading into Davidson would become so muddy that many cotton farmers found it safer and more convenient to conduct their business just south of Davidson in a small frame building. The success of the cotton purchasing business later inspired the owners to construct a cotton mill where raw cotton could be converted into cloth. The owners of the cotton firm lacked the needed money to make the idea of a cotton mill a reality, but they knew who could provide the financial backing. Joseph Benjamin Cornelius (1833-1914) supplied the needed investment and the mill was opened. Although not a resident of Cornelius, the town recognized the significant role of J.B. Cornelius (principal stockholder in the cotton mill) by naming the town Cornelius.

cotton mill

Building of the Dam
The damming of the Catawba River to create Lake Norman was as influential as the cotton industry to the town's development and growth. In 1963, Duke Power created Lake Norman and provided the area with recreational opportunities and a source of hydroelectric power. The formation of Lake Norman also provided Cornelius with approximately 70 miles of choice lakeside property.


The Town of Cornelius is a highly diverse community with ten public parks, a wide variety of housing opportunities, vibrant retail and office centers, and a championship golf course.

Preserving the Town's History
Find out what the Cornelius Historic Preservation Committee does to preserve the Town's history.