The Cox Family in America Chapter V


Chapter V
The Quaker Element in the Family

The Religious Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers, originated in England, through the preaching of George Fox, about 1648.

He began his ministry a year earlier, and soon gathered about him a large number of adherents. His preaching and his manner of life proved highly attractive. Men and women of every rank and station became his admirers first, and then his devoted friends and followers.

Fox himself was a man of humble birth and of limited education, but his calm dignity, his fervent spirit, and his great natural ability, overcame obstacles that might otherwise have proved insurmountable, and in an incredibly short time he had won the respect of his enemies and had founded a society of far reaching influence.

Some of his disciples were of those who had before been closely identified with the cause of Oliver Cromwell and who, after the stress and storm of his eventful career, were glad to enlist in the army of peace and to share in its bloodless victories.

Col. David Barclay, of Scotland, was one of these. His son, Robert Barclay espoused the new faith with even greater fervor, and became one of its chief exponents as he was, without doubt, its most eminent theologian.

William Penn imbibed its principles while a student at Oxford University, and afterwards lent the weight of his great influence to organize the movement and to establish the society on a firm footing in England, Holland and America.

Together with other Quakers of wealth, including the Barclays, father and son, he acquired large landed interests in the provinces of East and West Jersey, and before he received from the Crown his extensive grant of land in Pennsylvania, many of his Quaker friends and followers had preceded him and were already established in the colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York and along the banks of the Delaware both in New Jersey and farther south.

Of the twenty-four original Proprietors of East Jersey in 1682, more than half where Quakers.

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The Cox name does not immediately appear among them, although the wife of Robert West, as we have seen, belonged to one branch of the family, but during the same year in which the land grant was confirmed, West transferred his entire interest to “Thomas Cox of London, Gentleman.” ” It is not known that this Proprietor ever visited New Jersey, but the sale of his interest in the Eastern •division of the province, to Daniel Coxe, of London, eight years later, is a matter of record.

We are not told that he made other investments in American realty, but it is altogether probable that he did. Land speculation was rife in those days, and aside from the interest of London capitalists in the development of the resources of the country, they were not indifferent to the early attempts at colonization.

They supported such movements both from personal and religious motives, and for this reason it is not unlikely that Thomas Cox increased his holdings from time to time, or parted with them, when favorable opportunity offered.

In 1685, if he were, as we suspect, the same Thomas Cox, who in a record of that date is described as a “citizen and vintner, of London,” he gave a power of attorney to one Francis Collins, of West Jersey, brick layer, to act as his general agent.

This does not prove, in itself, that Thomas Cox was the London Quaker of that name, but it is a link in the chain of evidence that points in that direction.

We come now to his will, executed in 1709, and probated two years later, in which he is described in the same terms as in the power of attorney.

To his son Thomas, he leaves “two tenements lately built in the Burying Ground of the people called Quakers.” It is hardly to be supposed that he would have had any interest in a Quaker burying ground if he were not himself of that faith. To the same son, he leaves also, 800, of his 920 acres of land, in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, in trust for his six children, and to his son, John, 400 acres, in the County of Gloucester, Province of West Jersey. Before the will was executed, one John Cox had arrived in Philadelphia, and shortly after, with his Quaker bride, was living upon his estate in New Jersey.

In the counties of Pennsylvania, adjacent to Philadelphia, and in the counties of New Jersey, along the banks of the Delaware, from Burlington to Cape May, Cox families have been numerous, ever since the country was settled.

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Most of these were originally of the Quaker faith, and it is not unlikely that some were the direct descendants of Thomas Cox, the London wine merchant, and one of the twenty-four Proprietors of East Jersey. The name appears often in the records of other Quaker communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and while the ancestry of these families cannot in every instance be clearly traced, there can be little doubt that they were of one blood, as they were of one faith and name.

Before Penn arrived in the colony, George Fox made his first visit to the Quaker settlements in America. His interesting journal deals with his experiences both at home and abroad. Referring to a meeting held in the town hall at Kendal, England, in 1652, he says that “several were convinced there and many appeared loving,” and then adds : “One Cock, met in the street and would have given me a roll of tobacco. I accepted his love, but did not receive the tobacco.” The Cock family of Quakers which settled originally in Western Pennsylvania, came from Kendal and are very likely descended from Fox’s loving friend.

In 1671 he visited Barbadoes, where he drew up a paper setting forth the religious belief of the Friends. In the following year, he was at work among the Societies that had been established in the English colonies to the north. His visits included them all. from Maryland to Rhode Island.

He was at Middletown, N. J., for a short time. There he found a few Friends, (not many, we suspect, for Middletown was a Baptist community, in those days) ; but he did not tarry long because “pressed in the spirit” to attend the half yearly meeting at Oyster Bay.

We cannot follow him in all his peregrinations, from there to the other settlements on Long Island and thence to his starting point, in New Jersey, and later, to Rhode Island, and Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. But it is safe to say that wherever he went, he encountered the Cox family, for they were in all of these places.

William Cox, of Maryland, was one of the first to offer him hospitality, when he passed over from Delaware, to the eastern shore.

On Long Island, they were particularly numerous, and from a very early date, the name in that section being usually spelled Cock or Cocks. These have descended for the most part, from James Cock of Setauket, afterwards of Matinecock. a name formerly applied to the region included in the township of Oyster Bay.

The Cock family which appeared later, in Westchester and Dutchess counties was an offshoot from the Long Island branch, and most of these also were originally Quakers. In all the early English settlements on Long Island there were many of this once despised sect. Some of them had been driven out of New England, only to encounter bitter persecutions at the hands of the Dutch Governor, Stuyvesant. Others came from the island of Barbadoes, or elsewhere.

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Connecticut, following the example of Massachusetts, enacted laws against them in 1656, and in the following year, they began to arrive in New Amsterdam. A number of families settled at Gravesend, where Lady Moody, who had removed from Massachusetts, some years before, was then living. Meetings were held at her home and in other ways, her interest and sympathy found expression, although she did not herself become a Quaker.

For a hundred years, or more, they suffered all manner of indignities. Some were banished from the colony ; others were fined, or imprisoned, or subjected to corporal punishment.

From an old record we learn that Josiah Cock, in 1751, was mulcted by the constable in the sum of sixteen shillings, or its equivalent in property, for a demand of 12/10, priest rates, which he apparently felt under no obligations to pay.

Such were some of the experiences of the family under Dutch rule in New York. Elsewhere, they were treated with more consideration.

In New Jersey and in Pennsylvania they continued to multiply. They prospered in business ; they became successful cultivators of the soil ; many of them amassed wealth, and acquired influence. On principle, they were opposed to war, and thus it happened that those who kept the faith, refused to be drawn into the Revolutionary struggle, but this did not always prevent their children from taking an active part in the cause of the colonies, and the rosters of the Continental army contain the names of many of the Cox family who were of Quaker birth. There is some reason also to believe that many more were silent sympathizers with the struggle for independence, and that they did not entirely withhold their support from the American government, although they continued in the list of non-combatants.

John Cox, of Moorestown, New Jersey, whose name figures prominently in the public affairs of Burlington County, for half a century or more, including the Revolutionary period, was of a Quaker family. He did not fight, but continued to provide entertainment or man and beast, throughout the war, at his hostlery in that town. It was his colored servant who gave timely warning to the Friends, who were assembled for worship, on a certain day in 1778, of the approach of the British, when a part of their army passed through Moorestown, on its way to New York.

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It was William Cox, his son most likely, who by correspondence, kept Mr. John Little informed of the movements of Washington’s army in the same neighborhood, the year before.

Whether these men were friends or foes, Tories, or patriots, does not appear. They were Quakers, at least, beyond a doubt, as were many more of the Cox name in that part of New Jersey, at the time and to this day. In later years, John Cox, of Burlington, a son perhaps of the innkeeper, became one of their most eminent preachers, succeeding John Hoskins, as the head of the important Quaker meeting at Burlington. His home was at Oxford, near Greenhill, an estate which had formerly belonged to Samuel Jennings and which was for years, the seat of men long active and influential in the Society of Friends.

Among the earliest settlers of Talbot County, on the eastern shore of Maryland, was Isaac Cox, also a Quaker, and the founder of a distinguished family which has since figured largely in the religious and social life of America. One of his descendants, James Cox, was a prominent merchant in Philadelphia and New York. Of his three sons. Dr. Abraham Liddon Cox, became one of the best known surgeons of his day and attained high rank in the medical profession. Another, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Hanson Cox, was one of the most learned and eloquent divines of the Presbyterian Church, famous alike for his wit and his wisdom, to say nothing of his numerous eccentricities. He was a brilliant and effective speaker and an early and distinguished advocate of the temperance and antislavery movements. Though born and reared in a Quaker family, he had no great love for that particular form of religious belief, as appears from a book which he published, entitled, “Quakerism not Christianity.” He was the father of Arthur Cleveland Coxe, an eminent Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The Quaker element in the family is large and widely distributed.  From the older settlements in Pennsylvania and to some extent from those of Long Island and New Jersey the trend has been southward and westward.

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Prior to the Revolution the family began to swarm into Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, and still later, from these states into the newly acquired territory of the Middle West and the remoter South, and thence to the Pacific slope where the name is almost as common as in the localities where it was first known.

Not all of the descendants of those who wore the Quaker garb are thus distinguished now, nor have all adhered to the faith of their forebears. But of the many throughout the country, who bear the Cox name, whether identified with the Society of Friends or not, a large proportion are unquestionably of Quaker origin. Some, like their fathers, are tilling the soil and doing it well. Others are active and influential in business, in the professions, in public life and in educational and philanthropic work.

These all, regardless of their present-day beliefs or religious affiliations, owe much to the homely virtues they have inherited from a sober, industrious, peace loving and liberty loving ancestry