Part 4: Chapter 9
Who were the parents of my Grandpa Cox? I started asking this question over and over again when I was quite young. I was told not to bother Grandpa as he did not know or did not want to talk abut the subject. He once told me that he really could not remember much about his childhood except fishing a lot in what is now southeast Oklahoma. He had been told that he, his younger brother Major and older sister Lizzie "had fallen from the wagon and their folks just kept on a-going!" He said he did go to school for a short time and that he lived with an Indian family. I asked my parents, my uncles, my aunts, and even my grandpa, himself. No one knew anything, except maybe his older sister, my great-aunt Lizzie.
My Uncle Allen told me that the Indian family Grandpa Cox had lived with wanted to adopt him, but he did not want his last name changed. Allen also told me the Indian man had a common last name, but had forgotten what it was. My Uncle Will helped by saying that he would not be surprised if Grandpa’s dad was yet another William.
Next, I learned from Uncle Allen that Lizzie died in Sherman, Texas. I visited the cemetery there, located her grave, got a record of her funeral and cemetery charges. These showed her name as Elizabeth. A copy of her obituary also has her name as Elizabeth. The key to unlocking the mystery of who my grandfather’s parents were lay in other records she left. It was my good friend, Darlene Guerra, who found what was needed: an application for a Texas probated birth certificate for Edward Vaught, her eldest son. This gave Lizzie’s maiden name as "Celestial Elizabeth Cox." Now we had it! All this time we had been looking for these three kids’ parents without even knowing their exact names.
Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, 1991, I was at the library before they opened! Soon I had the 1880, 1870, 1860 and. 1850 Census records of this Cox family. Together they tell us that Aunt Lizzie, Celestia(l) Elizabeth Cox, was the child of William Newton Cox and Ellen Loretta Adams. Lizzie was just barely old enough to make it on the 1880 census.
It had been a long search. The 1880 census record for Dalton, Wayne County, Ohio lists her as "Celestia E. Cox" four months old, father listed as William Newton Cox, just as her brother (my grandfather) was named, just as my uncle Will is named, and just as one of Lizzie’s sons is named! She was born on the 6th day of February 1880 near Dalton, Wayne County, Ohio. Grandpa was born in 1882, and his brother in 1884, after the 1880 Census. It is most unfortunate that the 1890 census records were all destroyed by fire.
Despite years of research and combing through archives and cemeteries in southern Oklahoma, what we know today of my great-grandparents, remains frustratingly skimpy.
The facts, as we know them, based on the few records that I have found that fit together concerning our William Newton Cox (#1) are:
Unfortunately, neither of these last two records can be considered as conclusive.
Absolutely no information on the deaths of William Newton or Ellen Cox has been found today. They may have been unlucky survivors of a tragedy, from which they likely did not recover. It is only certain that they wound up as wards of a certain Mrs. McDonnell.
There were many tragedies in Indian Territory those days. I stumbled across many different Cox folks’ tragedies in my research: coal mine deaths, train wrecks, drownings, shootings, kerosene stove and lantern explosions. Lots of Coxes were in the territory; they had come from all parts of the nation. There were mechanics named Cox, teachers named Cox, blacksmiths named Cox, hostlers and even hustlers named Cox.
We can only hypothesize. Perhaps William and Ellen Cox were badly burned in the great fire of 19 April 1895 that destroyed the town of Ardmore, Oklahoma. Perhaps they had tried to save their neighbor, William McDonnell. This could explain why Mrs. McDonnell cared for them. (Before statehood could take place, land in the territory had to be "allotted" to each and every Indian. The Dawes Commission ran its survey of the population. Full-blood Indians got more than part-Indians, heads of households got even more. Children got less. Perhaps becoming a guardian of two disabled adults helped Susan to obtain even more land than she would have otherwise. As a widowed half-blood Indian, head of family with children and guardianship over two adults, she was awarded. 2,200 acres of land near Tishomingo.
Finding this much information took a great deal of work and over a year of research. At that time (May 1990 to May 1991), I was working a five-day-a-week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in Oklahoma City. I spent every Saturday at the Oklahoma Historical Society library and most every Monday night till 9 o'clock as well. I blazed through census records, Indian rolls, lists of intruding non-Indian citizens, lists of employees of Indians... focusing on southern Oklahoma because my grandpa knew he had grown up "somewhere" in the southeastern part of the territory that became the state of Oklahoma in 1907.
Unfortunately, pre-statehood records were very poorly kept, except for Cherokee records in northeastern Indian Territory. Choctaw and Chickasaw records are just plain, downright, terrible. Furthermore, they are not all together. Some have been moved to the National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas, while some are still at Tishomingo, Oklahoma. The Cherokees still have theirs at Tahlequah. Some of the information that I found at the Oklahoma Historical Society nearly sent me off the edge of reality. There was a William Cox in the school record at the Red Oak Neighborhood School of Boggy Depot in 1895-96. He was listed with Alverty Cox. Who was Alverty? It turns out that she was a mulatto and had a brother named W. R. Was our William her brother? No, his age did not match. But still, I wondered why the other Cox children were not in school.
There were several William Coxes in both Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory on the 1900 census. The one that seems to fit the best was a "cow-herder" age 21 (not 18 as it should have been), born in Texas. He was located just north of Eufaula in the Creek Nation in the very town where Great-aunt Lizzie lived, but still not the right fellow. Another William Cox was at Wister in 1900.
By 1990, the 1920 Census records still had not yet been released, but I had a copy that my mother had somehow acquired. It shows my father with his folks in Bennington, Bryan County, Oklahoma. So, I went back and got the 1910 census for Fannin County, Texas. That 1920 census reported my grandfather’s birth as in Oklahoma; the 1910 census indicated "United States!" I then searched the 1900 census of Indian Territory, Oklahoma Territory, Texas and Arkansas, and came up with a crop of William Coxes, though none of them corresponded to my grandfather. The Indian Territory census is incomplete; it lacks a portion called "Panola" which is probably where my grandfather was located at that time.
So, I began the grueling task of going through the U. S. Court records, and Chickasaw and Choctaw records. Hardly any of these microfilmed records are indexed; it was torture looking at one frame at a time. I found a William (sometimes "Willie" Cox in the Red Oak neighborhood school of Boggy Depot who was about the right age. Then I found a marriage license for Lizzie Cox of Boggy Depot to Otho Vaught of South McAlester. My grandfather’s older sister! This information tied the two of them together and to the same town. And as mentioned above, the 1900 census showed Lizzie and Otho living in Eufaula, Creek Nation of Indian Territory, living with them was Major Cox, Lizzie and grandpa’s little brother. So now we had these Cox kids all in the same place.
Grandpa married in 1903, in Arkansas, to a girl of the unusual name of Frona, the 14½-year-old daughter of a peddler named George Allen Maxwell. He may have been responsible for finding a caring home with a nearby school where at least one of the Cox children could go after their parents were no longer able to care for them. G. A. Maxwell figures on a list of patrons who picked up mail at Oakland, a small town, just south east of Mannsville where William N. Cox Sr. was on a list of non-Indian citizen renting farmers. These two lists were not dated. However, these towns had post offices only in 1892 and. 1893. I then began to wonder if Grandpa and his father could have had the same first name.
Now the census records indicated that great-aunt Lizzie reported her birth place as Ohio. I wrote inquiries to all 88 Ohio counties. None of the information I got back would fit the details I had on my great-aunt. Although the June 1880 Census of Wayne County, Ohio reported a "Celestia E. Cox" (aged four-twelfths of one year; father: Newton Cox). This was not enough to prove anything at that time as I did not know Lizzie’s full name.
Once I found Lizzie’s father, William Newton Cox, I also located Jacob Cox, his father. Jacob died the 14th day of March in 1885. His application to probate papers lists Newton’s residence as Chautauqua County, Kansas. But why? Newton received an extra $100.00 for caring for Jacob in his old age.
Why was he in Kansas? I hired a researcher to go to the Chautauqua County Courthouse and Cowley County Courthouse to look for any index with the name of Cox or Adams. Newton’s wife was Ellen Adams and I thought perhaps her folks were in Kansas. No records on her family were found.
Why was he in Texas, then two years later in Indian Territory? In 1890, William Newton Cox was caught on the census of veterans in Bonham, Texas, just a few miles south of the Red River that makes the Texas/Oklahoma border. In 1892, or 1893, his post office address was Mannsville, I. T. some 5 miles north of Oakland, where G. A. Maxwell picked up his mail.
Perhaps he was working for the railroad being built through Indian Territory. Perhaps he was buying horses from the Osage to sell in Ohio. Perhaps he was scouting for lands, in the soon-to-be-opened Cherokee Strip. According to history, there were 100,000 men in Arkansas City, Kansas (just west of Chautauqua County), waiting on the Free Land. I have checked the Runs of Oklahoma Territory and have found seven men named William Cox who made land claims. Each of these men were checked out, but none was the right man.
A certain Willie Cox was a shoeshine boy at Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1889. A William N. Cox was found in 1910 in Kansas, although he married December 26, 1903 on the same date as my grandparents, it was to another lady and in another state; furthermore, he died in California. Actually, I’ve tracked down quite a few William Coxes who might have been my great grandfather, only to find their histories did not match. What happened to Ellen? What happened to Lizzie’s half-sister Laura?
Okay, so now I know who the parents of Grandpa were, but I still want to know what happened to them. So I returned and searched every single roll of Choctaw court records, then Chickasaw records, Creek, Cherokee, and all the rest.
So what happened to bust up this family? Only the fire at Ardmore fits the time slot and is near the area. This fire started about 1 a.m. in a livery stable on 19 April 1895. Imagine the chaos of neighbors rushing out of their homes to fight the flames. A certain Mr. Neil was reported as likely to die from his burns about the chest, face and arms. Could Mr. McDonnell also have been badly burned but not reported in the papers? Were the Cox folks also burned? My speculations, based on the records found are: Newton Cox, his wife Ellen and neighbor, W. R. McDonnell were badly burned while fighting the Ardmore fire, 19 April 1895. 76 businesses went up in flames and "26 horses were roasted" (as one Oklahoma newspaper eloquently reported). Mr. McDonnell died and was buried in the Kellar Cemetery, close to the place where his family lived in the Wheeler community.
By October of 1896, he and Ellen required a guardian to care for them, the widow McDonnell, their neighbor. The Cox children were cared for by Susan McDonnell and the three younger ones were sent to a town with a school that at least one of them could attend — Boggy Depot — perhaps by the peddler G. A. Maxwell. Mr. McDonnell’s brother lived. 17 miles northwest of Ardmore, near what is now Oil City. It is reasonable to believe that Susan buried her husband next to his other family members near there. She was then granted. 2,200 acres of land north of Tishomingo, on both sides of the north-south railroad. Her land was almost to the town of Reagan and south all the way to Tishomingo. I have probably missed some burial grounds in this area, and hope to go back again. It is quite possible our Cox folks are there or at Kellar Cemetery.
I have walked cazillions of cemeteries in southern Oklahoma, looking for the graves of Newton and Ellen Cox. I have never found them. Perhaps there was no money for head stones, or perhaps I missed them. Maybe you will find them someday.
What happened to Lizzie and Grandpa’s parents? All grandpa told anyone was that he and his sister and brother were told that they "fell from the wagon and their folks kept on a-goin’." A likely story? Or truth?
William Newton Cox and Children
William Newton Cox
We do know that he was in Chautauqua, Kansas in 1885, Bonham, Texas in 1893 and Mannsville, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1896. But we have absolutely no trace of either him or his wife Ellen after 1896 when they became wards of Susan McDonnell.
1st marriage Caroline
Broadback, b. ca 1850; d. 30 May 1874
1. Laura M. Cox b. 06 Feb.
1871, d. unknown
2nd marriage Ellen Adams,
b. ca 1854 Cumberland Co., Illinois; d. unknown
1. Lydia Ursula Cox b. 02
Mar 1876 Wayne Co., Ohio; d. 07 Dec 1876
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