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Cox Characters
Conclusions to Confusions

Part 1: Chapter 4

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Watermelon Kings
by Kenny Ray Cox

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Here is what we know and do not know about our two ancestors both named William Newton Cox.

My grandfather Will N. Cox, told me, when I was about thirteen, that he did not remember his parents. He was told that he, with his older sister Lizzie and younger brother Major, fell out of a wagon and his folks just kept on going. I tried to get more out of him, but only learned that his younger brother, Major, had drowned as a young man.

Through the years I often asked my dad about this but I never got much more out of him. It seems that our "Papa Cox" just did not know, or would not tell about his past. He did tell us that he grew up with an old Indian chief and remembered that they fished a lot in the Sandy, Blue, Clear Boggy and Muddy Boggy rivers of south-east Oklahoma, which was then Choctaw Nation of Indian Territory.

When Mom passed on 24 May 1990, my wife and I got to looking at all the old pictures and family history she had gathered and we decided to try and finish what she had started. We never knew what all we were in for.

We started by taking a genealogy course at a Mormon Church. Then we started digging.

We were amazed at how fast we uncovered facts about our families, with the exception of the Cox family. How did Papa, Lizzie and Major get to south-east Oklahoma? Where did they come from originally? What happened to Lizzie ... Major? Boy, they didn’t cover all this in class!

After searching the pre-statehood U.S. Court records of south-east Oklahoma, I found a marriage record for Lizzie and Otho Vaught of South McAlester, 15 February 1897. Lizzie was from Boggy Depot, Atoka County.

School records were searched page by page until, finally, I found William Cox in school with an Alverty Cox at the Red Oak Neighborhood School of Boggy Depot 1895-1896. But, who was Alverty? It seems that Alverty was a Mulatto, one half black, and so was her Dad, David. Was William her brother? No. His age was not the same as her older brother, W. H. Cox.

Finding William N. Cox in school provided a gigantic high, but it just had to be tempered with a new problem to solve ... which I did, finally.

Well then, where were Lizzie and Major? Why were they not in school? After reading all the Choctaw Indian History books and articles I could find, I learned that because at that time, schools were few and far between, sometimes only one child of a family could go to school. Also, the 1900 Census of Lizzie and her new family gave a clue as to why she was not able to go to school, or did it? Ready for this?

The 1900 Census showed Otho Vaught of Eufaula, Creek Nation of Indian Territory, with his new wife Lizzie, 19, his daughter Bertha, 7, born 1899. Now, was his daughter really 7, or was she born in 1899? If she was 7, then she would have been born in 1892 or 1893, not 1899... Possibly another reason for Lizzie not being in school. Now the census report was not very legible in some places. Although the 7 was very plainly a 7, the 1899 was not very plain. The second 9 was at a slant and a heavy solid line ran under this date so that the last 9 could have been a 2 with the tail of the 2 on top of the heavy line. So, Bertha was either 7/12 (seven months old) or 7 years old. Try as I might, I have not yet determined with absolute certainty which date is correct. Bertha did not appear on the 1910 Census and I have not found any other trace of her.

There were several William Coxes in both Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory in 1900. The one that seemed to fit the best is a "cow-herder", age 21, not 18, born in Arkansas. He was located just north of Eufaula in the Creek Nation.

Another William Cox was at Wister in 1900.

The 1900 Census for Lizzie showed that she and Major, her younger brother, were born in Ohio. Major was not with Lizzie in 1910. We have not found any record anywhere of Major. We only know that he drowned sometime between 1906-1910; no record has been found of exactly when or where. We did find Lizzie’s father-in-law, Otho D. Vaught, and Lizzie’s brother-in-law, Walter, and his wife Maggie buried in the Eufaula Cemetery Lizzie’s husband, Otho Vaught died in a Dallas, Texas hospital in 1953. He was buried at Pauls Valley, Oklahoma Mount Olive Cemetery.

I kept wondering what happened to Lizzie. I knew that she was alive in January 1949 at Sherman, Texas and had died before Otho died. I had a hard time finding out the rest. My letters to Sherman, Texas trying to locate her and her surviving children went unanswered. I also had a very hard time finding her Texas death record. Like her brothers, William N. and Major, Lizzie seemed to be playing hide and seek with us.

At last, I stumbled across the pertinent information. Great-aunt Lizzie (née Cox) Vaught died 18 February 1956, and was buried at West Hill Cemetery, Sherman Texas. Her brother, my grandpa Will N. Cox, died 26 March 1966 and was buried at White Bead Oklahoma with Grandma Cox, Grandma’s sister Gertie Roach and their parents, G. A. and Cora Ann Maxwell.

The parents of Lizzie, Grandpa and Major were W. "Newton" and Ellen Loretta (née Adams) Cox. Their graves have yet to be located. We only know that they were alive in 1896, but under the care and legal guardianship of Susan McDonnell, widow of William R. McDonnell of Mannsville, Oklahoma. Although I have little proof, I believe that Mr. McDonnell, Newton and Ellen Cox were all badly burned in the great Ardmore Oklahoma fire of 19 April 1895. One Oklahoma newspaper reported that 86 businesses were destroyed and 26 horses were "roasted" in the Ardmore fire.

Why would the widow McDonnell take Mr. and Mrs. Cox into her home along the railroad tracks in Indian Territory? It may have simply been the desire to acquire more land. As an Indian (half Chickasaw) Mrs. McDonnell could count on a larger land assignment, recalculated based on the size of her household. So, according to the Dawes General Allotment Act of 1887, the more people living in her home, the more land the government would allot her. In 1896, her allotment came to 2,200 acres, and stretched from Tishomingo northwards to Regan, Oklahoma.

It is quite likely that our great grandparents were buried somewhere along those railroad tracks or at the Kellar Cemetery, west-northwest of Ardmore, Oklahoma where other McDonnell people were buried.

In December, 1903, Papa Will took a bride of just 14½ years, Frona Ann Maxwell of Scotland, Van Buren County, Arkansas. How did they meet? Where did they meet? I’ve never learned the answers and I’ve asked Uncle Allen, Uncle Will, Aunt Hazil, Aunt Maurine, Aunt Jewel and her sister Rudel.

Frona Ann’s father, George Allen Maxwell, was a peddler of mercantile items, as well as a farmer. So maybe they met on the trail somewhere, and G.A. asked Will to come help with his farm.

In 1906, only 6 weeks after Uncle Allen was born, the whole bunch decided to head for Texas where large land owners needed small farmers to help work their land. They offered a "house place" of 40 to 160 acres to any family that would come and work it. They would meet the train, furnish tools, seeds, food, anything the family needed to get started at farming. When harvest came, the land owner was given his share of the goods.

This arrangement worked out quite well and is still being used today. Papa Will became a good and very prosperous farmer in Fannin County, Texas. He had many black helpers and they produced a lot of cotton, peanuts, hay, beans, peas and watermelons ... lots and lots of watermelons!

My dad, Marvin Wesley, and his brothers, Claudie and Alvie, were born during this period of 1906-1919, south of the Red River in Texas.

Soon after, for some reason the family decided to take the ferry north across the Red River to the new state of Oklahoma. In 1920, they were farming near Bennington, in Bryan County, just between Blue River and Clear Boggy Creek. With them came Vivian Maurine Ellis, daughter of Grandma’s sister, Sammie Loualma and her husband, Robert. Sammie and her husband died in 1915 of "swamp fever." Maurine had first gone to her Maxwell grandparents, but getting close to school age, the traveling peddler grandparents would not enable her to go to school. So, Grandma Cox took her in and she became a sister to the Cox brothers: E.V., Allen, Marvin, Claudie, and Will.

About 1920, they moved on to Garvin County, Oklahoma, where they farmed in at least 5 locations. In every place they lived they always had the biggest, sweetest watermelons of the county. Will N. Cox became the Watermelon King of the county.

The Great Depression years hit the Cox family just as hard as it did everyone else. But they were tough and managed to make it through by picking pecans, share cropping other folks’ land and just toughing it out.

Emanuel (E.V.) became a carpenter, and later a building contractor. His boys followed him in this area of livelihood.

Allen was a milk-plant supervisor for most of his life.

Marvin, my dad, worked at Townley’s Dairy in Oklahoma City with Allen only long enough to find out he did not want to do that anymore. In Tulsa, he learned that digging manholes was not the job for him either. A job in a grocery store in Tulsa seemed to be much better suited for him. Dad came back to Oklahoma City about 1937 to take a job at Honest John’s Grocery, "the poor man’s friend." He became the produce manager, met and married Mom and managed to save up enough money to buy his own store while working for Honest John’s.

Dad had stores in several south-east Oklahoma City locations. His produce background and contacts enabled him to buy at low prices. He would often buy a full trailer load of watermelons. This would be more melons than would fit in our small store (even completely empty). The melons would cost more money than we had available, but somehow he managed to "pre-sell" to other small stores. He would get the trucker to deliver them. We would end up with our allotment of the watermelons almost cost free. It was up to my brother, Billy, and me to sell the rest of them.

So, for over 100 years, the Cox family has been the family of "Watermelon Kings."

Alvie Cox died as an infant at Direct, Texas, Lamar County (just east of the Fannin County line).

Claudie Cox became a Meade’s Bread route-salesman, as did I.

Will N. Cox Jr., the "miracle baby," was born on Flag Day, June 14, 1927. It had been 16 years since Grandma had last had a baby. He was able to attend Oklahoma Baptist University, and later finished his college education in Nebraska while in the U.S. Air Force as a master sergeant.

Claude Cox and his bread van
Photograph 9: Claudie Cox and his bread van

There ain’t no lazy Cox folks. My six boys are all good, hard-working men.

My older brother Charles, now retired, was long a salesman for Macklanburg Duncan Co. He is a very professional musician, as are his two daughters. Charlie’s Palace night club is swinging place to be. Besides music, he and his wife Jo Ann also have a love for Appaloosa horses.

Bill has been a used-car dealer for years. Now, however, he and his wife Joan spend a great amount of time traveling in their motor home to sing gospel music. Their two girls, Brenda and Anita, are always busy teaching, tutoring, cake decorating, and raising their children.



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