Cornelius Voorhis – First Mayor of Council Bluffs












Cornelius Voorhis was born in 1813 in Lebanon, Ohio. When he was young he moved to Springfield, Ohio and started a mercantile business. Here he met and married Minerva McCoy.

The family moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Cornelius again became involved in the dry-goods business.

In 1848 the Voorhis family traveled up the Missouri to Kanesville. Cornelius set up a mercantile business catering to the emigrants passing through.

Cornelis Voorhis was elected Council Bluffs first mayor in 1853, but he resigned after one year. The city council did not meet again for another two years.

It was discovered that you can’t govern a city without money. “The only yearly revenue for maintenance of city government at that time was some $280, which had been assessed as licenses on saloons and gambling houses. No taxes could be levied on property because each occupant was classed either as a mere squatter, or holder of a claim through previous squatter rights” Daily Nonpareil February, 10, 1946.

Eventually the city was surveyed and residents were given titles to their properties.

Cornelius also served as City Recorder and Sheriff, while remaining active in his business pursuits.

In 1873 the Voorhis family moved to Harlan, Iowa.

Cornelius Voorhis passed away at the age of 59 on July 12, 1873. Minerva passed away on September 25, 1881 at the age of 61. They are both buried in Fairview Cemetery

Cornelius and Minverva had 5 children. Alla Bell and Fanny May died in childhood. Cornelius D., James and Mary survived till adulthood.

“Cornelius Voorhis, the subject of this sketch, was a man of sterling integrity, fine business capacity, quiet in his demeanor, possessed of wonderful energy, sagacity and determination, and as a pioneer, merchant, counselor, friend and citizen, was always abreast of the needs of the hour” – Biographical History of Pottawattamie County.