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Cox Characters
Conclusions to Confusions

Part 3: Chapter 1

 
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Michael Cox Jr.
and Jeruthea Ann Brooks
Keepers of the Black Box

by Shirley Cox Larson

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Who was Michael Cox Junior? We know that he was the son of Michael Cox Senior. We know he served in the army during the Revolutionary War. We know he lived in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. We know that he may or may not have been married twice, we know that he lived out his last years with his wife Lady Jeruthea Brooks, who came from New Jersey. We know that he had fourteen children, their increasing numbers accounted for in both the Fayette County, Pennsylvania census and the Ohio County, Virginia (now West Virginia) census.

We know that he bought the West Virginia farm (on which his direct descendants still reside) for $1800.00. We know that on the 9th day in June, 1829, he set his hand and seal to his will.

Study of this will raises some questions. His youngest sons, sixteen year old John and nine year old George, are listed first. They are bequeathed fifty acres of land which will be theirs when they attain the age of twenty-one. It seems strange that these young boys were his first concern—unless he was ill and had some inkling of his impending death. Then he would naturally be anxious about the future of his youngest offspring.

Michael Junior willed his son Abraham the bulk of his estate and the responsibility of caring for his wife and his son Thomas. It seems likely that Thomas was handicapped in some way for he always lived at home and he never married though he lived to be fifty-seven. In contrast, a picture of Abraham emerges as the dutiful son, the young man who proved himself worthy of receiving the farm, the man who could be depended upon to care for Michael’s wife and his handicapped son, even though he was only twenty years of age. Perhaps he was like George Bailey in A Wonderful Life, one of those males who is "born old."

In item six, Michael Junior states that Joseph, Samuel, Isaac, William and Elizabeth have already received five hundred dollars each and they are to take no part in his estate. This was, and perhaps still is, a rather standard practice. If a young man or woman needed money to strike out and set up housekeeping independently, a parent would provide the money with the condition that the financial gift would be considered the child’s inheritance, and no more would be forthcoming at the time of the parent’s death. A look at their birth dates indicates that these children were all over twenty-one and might be considered Michael Junior’s ‘older family.’ They were probably already married and away from home with families of their own.

In the codicil, a rather odd thing occurs. In the section about land passing into the hands of son John, the codicil states that if John should die "with" children, the land will still revert to Abraham at John’s death. In the portion speaking of the land to be set aside for son George, the document states that if George should die "without" children, the land reverts to Abraham. This seems odd. One is tempted to think that the word "out" was deleted from John’s portion, for the way the codicil reads, he is being given nothing more than the stewardship of the land during his life. I leave it to the reader to decide if the wording was error or intentional. The reader might also find it interesting that as well as the land, Abraham was directed to give to his brothers George and John "a Horse, Bridle and Saddle, and suit of Domestic Clothing." Would that such a simple dowry could suffice today.

He is an intriguing man, this Michael Junior. He was obviously ambitious. He acted as a constable — a local law officer with limited authority, an occupation he may have learned from his father. In Michael Senior’s will, Senior speaks of leaving Junior "four hundred and eighty-six dollars & fourteen cents together "with a Book account of One hundred & thirteen dollars & 86 cents making the whole six hundred dollars." What was this Book account?

As for other mysteries, there is also a cryptic note among Michael Junior’s papers that reads, Received June 11th 1814 of Mikel Cox Sen thirty nine dollars and twenty five cents on account of his son Mikel for notes Sd Mikel lifted from me & for what Mikel Coxs Jr. (sic) horses sold for by Harvey Constable $37.25, (signed) Absalom Ridgely. Since we know that Michael Cox (Cock) Senior died in 1815 and in 1814, Michael Junior would have been fifty-five years old, I believe that "son Mikel" refers to Michael number three, Junior’s son. It seems highly unlikely that Junior, a staid family man, was stealing notes from anyone.

We know from his will that Michael Junior was concerned for the welfare of his wife, his handicapped child, Thomas, and his younger children. Certainly he was successful. His legacy from Michael Senior was six hundred dollars. When Michael Junior wrote his will, he possessed a large farm, five of his children had already received five hundred dollars, he willed almost two thousand dollars to several other children and grandchildren, and he bequeathed his two youngest sons fifty acres apiece. By any standards, he was a successful man of his times, a man determined to own his own land and provide a good living—and a good life—for his wife and his children.

 

 


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