JAMES WESLEY COX, of Great Bend, is an old-time resident of central Kansas, his experiments in this state covering a period of over forty-five years. While he has won a comfortable prosperity for the years of decline, there were many seasons and periods when destiny presented only its sterner and harder face to him.
Even as a boy he knew more of work and privation than of luxury and comfort. He was born in Noble County, Ohio, August 22, 1852. His father, Joseph Cox, who came from Virginia to Ohio and was one of the early settlers on Muskingum Creek, cleared up a farm in the woods. In that vicinity he married Margaret Wise. Her parents were people of means and plenty, but as farmers they were hard working and believed in hard work as the most effective discipline. They compelled all their children to do manual labor on the farm. Mrs. Joseph Cox as a girl fed the sheep and did other outdoor chores, going barefoot except in the extremest weather. She frequently tied corncobs to her feet to keep them from the frosty ground. In 1869 Joseph Cox took his family from Ohio to Richland County, Wisconsin, and resumed farming in that state. He died in April, 1915, while his wife passed away in 1875. Their children were: James Wesley; Mary E., who married David Craig, of Richland County, Wisconsin; John I., who lives near Vancouver, Washington; Mrs. Mahala J. Tony, living at Goodland, Kansas; Robert, of Portland, Oregon; William Thomas, who came to Kansas as a boy, remained with his brother James for a time, then went to another brother in Nebraska and in 1889 made preparations to participate in the original opening of Oklahoma Territory and was last heard from while en route at Junction City, Kansas.
James Wesley Cox received all his schooling in Noble County, Ohio. He studied most of his lessons while the nation was engaged in the Civil war. He was seventeen when the family went to Wisconsin and he learned farming there. His father had a small farm and a large family, and the oldest son soon learned to depend upon himself and expect no aid from his parents.
Accordingly it was with only a few dollars in his pocket that Mr. Cox landed from the train at Great Bend September 28, 1873. He had only recently passed his majority and had not yet taken upon himself the responsibilities of a family and home. During the winter of 1873-4 he worked for his board in Rush County, chopping cordwood and hauling it to market at Fort Larned. This was a hard experience, and with his wood he frequently slept out on the prairie wherever night overtook him, and more than once made his bed in the snow. It was in Rush County that he first entered land, pre-empting in the southeast corner of the county. He occupied this within the time specified by law, and his first work was in digging a well. Next came a small frame shanty, 12 by 16 feet, and a couple of years later was added a sod kitchen. Conditions of settlement arose which forced him to homestead the tract, and he lived on it until 1896, for about twenty years. In his efforts to secure a team he purchased a pair of colts, paying for them with monthly wages. He felt that he had reached one stage of good fortune when he came to own this team. Later he traded the colts for his first real team, and with these he began cultivating his land. Frequently there came times when he had some little concern about securing title to his claim, since farming conditions were most discouraging and it was next to impossible to make a living from the soil. Having no cash capital, he had to go exceedingly slow in the way of improvement and for much of his living he depended upon the day's work. He accumulated a small bunch of cattle, and before leaving Rush County his condition materially was greatly improved.
While in Rush County Mr. Cox served as a director of the public school district and as trustee of his township. He attended political conventions and was a participant in the county seat fight, supporting Rush Center for that honor. Mr. Cox has always been a republican, except when the party split over the progressive movement, and has always supported the temperance cause and the principle of prohibition.
On leaving Rush County Mr. Cox bought a farm six miles west of Great Bend and personally operated it until 1900. He then sold his land, and moving to the county seat in order to give his son better educational advantages resorted to several different occupations to make a living until his son was prepared for a business career. For a time he tried dairying, but milk was worth little and this project proved unprofitable. He then bought the city sprinkling tank and operated it for several months, until joining his son in the first business efforts of the latter's career. For the past eight years Mr. Cox has been a partner of the Great Bend Furniture Company, and is still giving his active service to that well-known concern.
In Rush County, Kansas, February 27, 1877, Mr. Cox married Miss Alice Deighton. Her father, Thomas Deighton, came to Kansas from Quincy, Illinois, where he had followed the trade of machinist. He became a farmer in Kansas, proving up a claim in Rush County. He died in Great Bend. Thomas Deighton married Catherine Lovett, of Irish and English ancestry. Their children were: Mrs. Cox; Ellen E., of San Diego, California, wife of John Sterrett, and Miss Bina, librarian of the Carnegie Library in Great Bend. Mr. and Mrs. Cox are both active members of the Methodist Church, he being a trustee, and Mrs. Cox has for many years been secretary of the congregation.
James Lester Cox, only son and child of Mr. and Mrs. Cox, is now a prominent business man of Great Bend and active head of the Great Bend Furniture Company. He was born on the farm in Rush County and attended public school at Great Bend, also the college at Winfield, and is a graduate and licensed embalmer and undertaker. When just past his majority he entered the furniture and undertaking business and has done exceedingly well in that enterprise, as the standing of the Great Bend Furniture Company indicates. He married Gertrude Meek, a native of Barton County. They have two children, named Marian and Elizabeth.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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