THOMAS D. COX is numbered among the early settlers of Lane County. He arrived in the year 1886, eager for opportunity, comparatively poor in purse, and has had the courage and persistence to work out the fine prosperity which now represents his accumulated efforts. His farm is in Blaine Township. He had first come to the county in 1885 and entered as a homestead the northwest quarter of section 1, township 18, range 30. There he spent the first five years of his life in Kansas.
Mr. Cox is a Kentucky man by birth, and his people were of that plain and industrious class whose history is best described as the simple annals of the poor. He was born in Anderson County, Kentucky, November 29, 1853, and his childhood was spent on a farm and most of his activities in mature life have been directed to farming. He had little schooling and his education ended when he was ten years of age. One reason for this was that his father had died as a Union soldier during the war, and being the oldest child he had to assume responsibilities proportionate to his strength in providing a living for the younger children. His father was William Cox and his grandfather, Nathaniel Cox. William Cox was born in Casey County, Kentucky, and was renting a farm when the war came on. As the result of a draft he went into the army and served with General Sherman. He died near Atlanta, Georgia, and is buried in a soldier's grave there. William Cox married Nancy Mullins. Her father, Albert Mullins, came out of Virginia and was also a farmer. William Cox and wife had the following children: Mary Elizabeth, who married Thomas Peach and died in Anderson County, Kentucky; Thomas D.; Albert, whose home is in Ohio County, Kentucky; Alonzo, who died in Anderson County, leaving three sons and two daughters, and the son Alonzo is now a farmer in Lane County, Kansas; George McC., who died in Anderson County; Susan, who married John Gibson, of Anderson County; Charles, who died in Henderson County, Kentucky; Edward, of Louisiana. Mrs. William Cox, who died in 1888, subsequently married William Robinson, and of that union there is a son Claude, who resides in Anderson County, Kentucky.
Thomas D. Cox remained at home until he was about eighteen years of age. He then secured employment in the logging region of Kentucky as driver of a team. The eighteen months he worked in that way he was paid $18 a month and also given his board, washing and the keep of his horse. Very little of this money could be saved, and when he married, about that time, he started housekeeping with a minimum of cash and visible resources. He supported himself both by farming and by the use of his team.
Viewing the country to the west and reasoning that better opportunities were to be found in Kansas, he shipped his goods and chattels from Kentucky to Hutchinson, and for fourteen months remained in that part of the state working as a farmer. In his search for public land he found the location already mentioned in Lane County, and the following spring brought his family to their new home on the frontier. At this time Mr. Cox was possessed of a team, a covered wagon and a very meager supply of surplus cash. The first two years in Lane County he spent chiefly in freighting goods from Cimarron, Grainfield and Garden City to Dighton. This work was exchanged for the provisions which his household required for sustenance. As a shelter he had constructed a half dugout and soddy, covered with boards and shingled with sods. It was a single room, 18x18 feet. That served him for a year, and he then built what he describes as a real sod house. That contained two rooms, was 24x14, was plastered inside, had two doors and ample windows for light and ventilation, and measured by the standards of the time it was a rather pretentious house and was certainly comfortable in all seasons of the year. It remained his home while he was proving up. The first two or three years little or nothing was harvested from his plantings, and beyond his title to the land he had nothing to show for his efforts beyond having kept his family from actual want.
In 1890 Mr. Cox had become so discouraged by long continued drought and crop failures that he determined to abandon the country. Like many other settlers, he had mortgaged his land, and so far as he could judge of the future by what he had passed through he seriously doubted the prospect of being able to lift the mortgage. Therefore, he left Kansas and went to the far Northwest in the hope of earning sufficient money to re-establish himself on Kansas soil. Mr. Cox spent five years in and around Sherwood, Oregon, and his occupation during that time was getting out cordwood from the forest. Contrary to his experience in Kansas, he made a profit out of this business, and having in the meantime paid his mortgage he returned with sufficient cash to start up again.
He entered upon his second period of Kansas residence with an equipment of teams and implements, and with money provision again an occasional crop failure. He traded for a squatter's right to the northwest quarter of section 36, township 17, range 30, and this he proved up and it is now a part of his estate. He next purchased the southeast quarter of section 26 in the same township and range, and also bought the southwest quarter of section 25, and finally the northeast quarter of the same section, so that his entire landed estate is in practically one body.
As a farmer Mr. Cox has had experience in the raising of corn, feedstuffs and wheat. His first crop of wheat was sown in 1888. Since 1895 he has lost only a few crops due to the drought, and in all his experience in Western Kansas it has never been too wet to grow grain. For five years he experimented with alfalfa and that proved valuable during that period, though his acreage was drowned out by a period of excessive rains during the month of June in a certain year. As a stockman he has raised mules and has always placed much dependence upon cattle. In some of the earlier years his cows proved an important aid in tiding him over the bad times. In fact, even in the absence of crops his stock sales were sufficient to maintain him and family.
With growing prosperity Mr. Cox also placed permanent improvements upon his land. In 1905 he built a seven-room story-and-a-half residence, and put up his large barn in 1906. Other buildings have been added from time to time, and he now has about everything required for the operation of a first-class and high-grade farm.
One of the first school houses in his community was built on Mr. Cox's land. He worked on its construction. The first permanent house was a frame building, and he voted for the bond issue and helped pay them off. The first teacher of that school, Mr. Cox says, was Annie Conner. However, several schools were maintained prior to that. One or more terms were taught in Henry Sharp's residence and Mrs. Isbell taught a school in the John Sharp dugout. For six years Mr. Cox was a director of School District No. 46.
In the matter of politics he has supported the republican party. His first presidential ballot was given to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and thus he has been a voter for more than forty years. He and his wife are members of the Christian Church at Healy. Among other interests Mr. Cox is a stockholder in the Kansas Central Indemnity Company of Hutchinson. As he looks back, it seems that he has traveled a long road since he arrived in Lane County thirty-three years ago. It has been a time of trial and vexation, of endurance and hardship, but now for a number of years he has been traveling on the highway of prosperity and is one of the contented men who make up the high-grade citizenship of Western Kansas.
Mr. Cox was married in September, 1874, to Miss Sarah Elizabeth Brown. She came out with him to Kansas, is worthy of a name among the pioneer women of Lane County, and they have worked side by side in accumulating what they now enjoy. Mrs. Cox is a daughter of William and Elizabeth (Gudgell) Brown. Both the Brown and Gudgell families were Kentuckians and her father was a farmer. When the war came on he joined the Southern side and lost his life during the conflict. Mr. and Mrs. Brown had the following children: Jacob, who died at Lexington, Kentucky; Susan M., who died unmarried; Mrs. Cox, who was born March 24, 1858; Bud, of Anderson County, Kentucky; Amanda, who was accidentally burned and lost her life in childhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Cox have one child, William Edgar Cox. He was born August 28, 1875, and received his schooling in the states of Kentucky, Kansas and Oregon. Early in life he determined upon a business career, left the farm, and is now one of the successful men at Healy, being a grain buyer and also handling the agency for some tractors and automobiles. He was married in September, 1898, to Lois Coombs. They are the parents of the following children, grandchildren of Mr. and Mrs. Cox: Velma, Corvin, Albin, Edward and Orman.
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.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project