Cornell born, was christened 24 March 1591/92 in Saffron Walden, Essex, England and died in Portsmouth, Rhode Island on 8 February 1654/55. He married Rebecca Briggs, born in 1600, on 9 June 1620 at St Mary The Virgin, Saffron Walden. Their eldest son also named Thomas Cornell (Jr.) was born October, 1627 in Saffron Walden, Essex, England. Thomas Cornell and his family immigrated from England to Boston in 1638 when their eldest son Thomas Cornell (Jr.) would have been age 11.
Thomas Cornell was an innkeeper in Boston who was part of the Peripheral Group in the Antinomian Controversy, a religious and political conflict in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1636 to 1638. Cornell sold his inn in 1643 and left for Rhode Island, where others from the Antinomian Controversy had settled in 1638 after being ordered to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Cornell became friends with Roger Williams and co-founded the village of Westchester north of New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1643. He returned to Rhode Island in 1644 and obtained a land grant for 100 acres in Portsmouth, RI on Aquidneck Island that became the Cornell homestead. His neighbor was Edward Hutchison, a son of Anne Hutchinson from the Antinomian Controversy.
In 1646, Cornell was granted a patent on an area of about four square miles that later became part of The Bronx. It was bounded by Westchester Creek, the Bronx River, village of Westchester and the East River and was called Cornell's Neck. The area is now known as Clason Point.