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Eli Cox Family (1825-1885)


Posted By: Kent Transier (email)
Date: 5/9/2011 at 15:31:19

Thanks to descendant Kory Darnall for donating this paper for posting.


The descendants of Eli Cox pioneer contractor and builder met at city park Friday, August 27, 1925 to honor his 100th birthday. One hundred were present representing four generations. It was decided to make it a permanent organization with Mrs. A. R. Duff president and Mrs. Edwin Trester, secretary and treasurer. A brief history of the life of Eli Cox was written by Vanna (Cox) Farlow and read by her.

Winterset News printed it as follows

We the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren are meeting here today in commemoration of the hundredth birthday of Eli Cox (August 28, 1825 to March 22, 1885) who in my little history I will call him Grandfather since that is my relationship to him. He was born in Clinton County, Ohio on a farm owned by his parents, Isaac and Mary. On a neighboring farm lived a very good friend of the Coxes, Tommy Gilpin who, having no relatives near him, journeyed each year to Hamilton County, Indiana on horse back. There he would visit his sister Sarah whose husband was Alexander Mills. Both he and his sister were born in Ireland. Consequently their living in a strange land strengthened an exceptionally strong bond of affection between them.

Sarah had a family of ten children while her brother alas was childless. So, often on making the trip, he would take along an extra horse in hope of taking one of Sarah's girls home with him. One year he took the daughter Martha who, during her visit met and became promised to a young neighbor of the Gilpins. This, of course, called for an immediate trip back home to prepare for the wedding. Again Uncle Tommy had the extra horse to bring back in hopes he might avoid the loneliness of the return trip. He approached the niece next in age with: "Better come along Mary". She was just sixteen, though the great door of opportunity had suddenly been opened to her. It seemed that a new world had been thrown at her feet. She had a long time to enjoy it, however, for the 300 miles were not as speedily traveled as today. Mary's arrival was just as thrilling as her journey, new friends to make, new fields to conquer. There was much joking and wagering as to the possibility of her doing as well as Martha had done in the new land.

Mary hadn't been at her uncle's many days when there was a call by a young neighbor (as grandmother afterwards told) "As fine a youth as I had ever seen". On his first visit Mary hid in the woodshed, but the only way by which she could have seen his good looks would have been to peek, a fact which she never denied. However, according to later developments, Mary did not continue to hide in the woodshed. In about a year she became Mrs. Eli Cox and went to housekeeping on a farm they bought. The house, Grandmother told us, was just like the old brick one here in Iowa except that it was frame. Grandmother herself painted this house. They sold it before she had her painting entirely finished but completed it while Grandfather came to Iowa to look for a new location.

It was the year of 1855 that he bought his first farm in Iowa. It was the old Newlon place north of Winterset, Iowa. He purchased it from a Mr. Zyler. After legal arrangements were made he hastened back to Ohio to move his family to Iowa. At that time, coming to Iowa was quite a venture. Eastern people thought of our Iowa as a rough, wild, practically uncivilized place really almost a "jumping off place". Weird stories were told to convince them that it was no place to go. One story I have heard Grandmother tell many times concerned the terrible wind. The story went that you could put a feather pillow against the wall of a house and it would be held right there until someone took it down by force.

But despite all these fantastic tales, the next year, 1856, Grandfather bundled his family up and brought them in a wagon all of the 600 miles. It took them seven weeks to make the trip. Their journey was made in the early spring, crossing the Mississippi river on the ice. There were six children at that time: Sarah, John, George, Ruth, Henry and Amos. All of them accompanied their parents on this trip. There were also two old grandmothers to bring out here, Grandfather's mother and grandmother. These two old people came by train to Burlington, Iowa, since that was as far as the railroad was built at that time. Then they went to Des Moines, Iowa by stage. They were met by Alfred Martins who had married grandfather's sister, Annie. The Martins had previously settled here on the Ben Clark place where Charles and Lois Brittain now live.

After living on the Newlon place in a one room log cabin, Grandfather bought the old home place In Union Township, Madison County, Iowa where Dad (Alfred) now lives. Joshua Purcell owned it at the time and the farm consisted of 120 acres. Uncle Milton was born in Iowa.

After buying the farm, Grandfather made a trip back to Cincinnati, Ohio to buy a saw mill, one that was a real mill on which he could saw shingles, lath, and any kind of building material. Due to difficult transportation of those days, he was compelled to ship it down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi River to Keokuk, Iowa as the water route was the only way to get it that near home. Grandfather came back to his farm to get a number of oxen and wagons to haul his purchase overland. He and his party headed east and south toward Keokuk. The lack of bridges made it necessary for the men to carry rails to pry the wagons out of the mud, since they struck a very rainy and consequently muddy season. The trip was one to be long remembered as some days it seemed that they made no progress at all and every night brought only toil and hardship. Grandmother often said that she had never seen such a muddy bunch of men, oxen, and wagons.

When the mill was finally set up and in working order, the first thing they did was to hew and saw native lumber for a plank house which when finished consisted of two rooms for a family of eleven Grandfather, Grandmother, seven children and two old folks. Aunt Annie says she can well remember the arrangement of those two rooms. In the one where they did their cooking and eating there was a large fireplace and in each corner was a bed while the other room was entirely for sleeping. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, Grandmother had nineteen or twenty to care for including family, mill and farm hands. Four children were born here Dad (Alfred Cox), Aunt Annie, Amanda and Martha.

The brick house was built in 1867 having twelve rooms, two large halls and a big airy attic which must have seemed a real mansion after such cramped quarters. Aunt Ella was born after moving into this house. The big barn was built in 1871 and is still in use, appearing as it has ever since I can remember.

Grandfather sold his mill in 1876 and then devoted most of his time to contracting and building. Winterset court-house square still shows much of his handiwork. The building now occupied by Security Loan and Title Company, Aikins and Allen Shoe Store, Northside Restaurant and Potters Grocery were built by him. The upstairs rooms of one of those north side buildings was used as an opera house at that time. He also built the Presbyterian church which is still in use. He also laid the plans for our present court house.

It seems that in looking back, a life ending so young accomplished much, since Grandfather passed away in March 1885 at the age of 59 years. The one big regret of my life is never to have know him. I have had deep admiration for a man who could overcome such difficulties and make a mark in life. He was a man respected by all who knew him.

After Grandfather's death, Dad bought the home place and Grandmother lived with us until her death. A fact that we have always been thankful for as I think my associations with her stand out among the brightest of the bright spots of my life. Albie and I used to sit by the hour open-mouthed with wonder, drinking in every word of the true stories of her life in Indiana and Ohio. Her stories of romance and adventure were full of Irish wit and humor of a keen age broadened intellect. I think if I had been with any literary ability I would weave those stories together and make a book that would make most of today's best sellers take a back seat.

One story which I thought was quite thrilling was in 1864 during the Civil War. A rumor was started that General Price was making a raid through Iowa. Grandmother ran bullets by the hour, she also took the precaution to bury all Grandfather's money in an old boot. The men from all over the neighborhood got together and built a mammoth wagon to come to Winterset, Iowa to have a rally. They were armed with every kind of a firearms that were in existence but after all this excitement the report was found to be false.

She also told about the men having to drive sheep and hogs to Des Moines, Iowa for market on foot. One time Uncle George, when he was a small lad, wanted to go along and go he did. Misfortune overtook him, however, he came down with measles on the way and had to be put to bed in the emergency wagon which they always took along for both men and stock that gave out. So the trip proved quite tame for Uncle George.

Grandmother was lonely after Grandfather's death. She couldn't pass the time away reading as she had been among the younger ones of a family of ten children and it was impossible for her to acquire an education as there were no schools, just an occasional teacher. And of course it fell to the older ones to get to go. So at this age she took hold of this as she had obstacles along her life, mastered it and learned to read and write after she was sixty years of age. Her reading was confined to her bible. She hardly ever looked at a paper. She always remarked when asked if she wished to see a paper or magazine "No I am keeping my old eyes for better reading".

The brick house burned to the ground in 1895 destroying all old family records, day books, letters and many things that would be highly prized today. Aunt Ruth was the first of the twelve children to pass away. She died January 10, 1903, Grandmother was next following Ruth on April 10, 1909. Aunt Sarah was the second child, dying on April 25, 1915 at the home of her daughter, Ida, in Dayton, Ohio, so she was born and also passed away in Ohio, Uncle Henry's death occurred on May 23, 1916. On May 7, 1917 Uncle George followed the others. The last to go was Uncle John on March 3, 1924.

Folks, our reunions are wonderful events. We should make it a part of our life's work to promote friendly interests among the members of a family such as was reared by these two loyal, hard working, and self sacrificing pioneers. For the old adage that blood is thicker than water is still true.

Written by Vanna (Cox) Farlow, 1925


Coordinator's notes:

1. Transcribed and edited for spelling, grammar and readability.

2. The following is a family group sheet for the family described in this paper.

Husband: Eli Cox
Born: 28 August 1825 in: Clinton County, Ohio
Married: 26 December 1846
Died: 22 March 1885 in: Madison County, Iowa
Father: Isaac Cox
Mother: Mary Spray
Wife: Mary Mills
Born: 28 October 1826 in: Indiana
Died: 16 April 1909 in: Madison County, Iowa

1 Name: Sarah Cox
Born: 06 December 1847 in: Clayton County, Ohio
Died: 25 April 1915 in: Madison County, Iowa
Married: 18 October 1866 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Pleasant Calvin Brittain

2 Name: John Cox
Born: 13 February 1849 in: Ohio
Died: 30 March 1924 in: Madison County, Iowa
Married: 11 November 1869 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Nancy McDonald
Married: 16 January 1904 in: Winterset, Madison, Iowa
Spouse: Barbara Elizabethann Mills

3 Name: George Cox
Born: 06 August 1850 in: Ohio
Died: 07 May 1917 in: Winterset, Madison, Iowa
Married: 06 January 1878 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Rebecca Hannah Mills

4 Name: Ruth Cox
Born: 22 September 1851 in: Ohio
Died: 10 January 1903 in: Madison County, Iowa
Married: 30 November 1871 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Josiah Robert Sole

5 Name: Henry Cox
Born: November 1853 in: Ohio
Died: 23 May 1916 in: Idaho
Married: 25 February 1875 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Dora S. Beedle

6 Name: Amos Cox
Born: October 1855 in: Ohio
Last known residence: Redwood County, Minnesota in 1930
Married: 29 January 1879 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Lovica Purcell

7 Name: Milton Cox
Born: September 1856 in: Iowa
Died: 15 January 1940 in: Omak, Okanogan, Washington
Married: 25 February 1879 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Emma Hildebrand
Married: 06 September 1882 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Ella C. Purcell

8 Name: Alfred Cox
Born: 23 October 1859 in: Winterset, Madison, Iowa
Died: 03 January 1938 in: Winterset, Madison, Iowa
Married: 14 January 1883 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Amanda A. Farris

9 Name: Anna Cox
Born: 17 August 1861 in: Madison County, Iowa
Died: 28 February 1936 in: Winterset, Madison, Iowa
Married: 11 June 1888 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Arthur R. Duff

10 Name: Amanda Cox
Born: 10 August 1863 in: Madison County, Iowa
Died: 10 August 1955 in: Madison County, Iowa
Married: 23 January 1880 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Ira Jackson Greenwood

11 Name: Martha Cox
Born: 27 September 1865 in: Madison County, Iowa
Died: 06 February 1951 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Unknown
Married: 03 December 1890 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Joseph Oliver Criss

12 Name: Mary Ellen Cox
Born: September 1869 in: Madison County, Iowa
Last known residence: Prairie County, Montana in 1920
Married: 22 February 1888 in: Madison County, Iowa
Spouse: Raymond R. Guiberson


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