Capt. John Cox &
Margaret Davis

Capt. John Cox, son of Joshua COX & Mary RANKIN, was born July 25, 1739, in Lancaster Co., PA, and died Dec. 24, 1818, in Ashe Co., NC. He married Margaret Davis, daughter of Richard DAVIS, abt. 1760. She was born May 21, 1736, probably in Virginia, and died Dec. 19, 1806, in Ashe Co., NC.

Children of Capt. John Cox & Margaret Davis:

  1. +James Cox, b. Feb. 24, 1763, Botetourt Co., VA; d. Apr. 17, 1842, Grayson Co., VA; m. (1) Elizabeth, widow of Timothy TERRILL, May 15, 1782, Grayson Co., VA (b. Feb. 24, 1753; d. Nov. 1, 1814); m. (2) Sarah FIELDER, Feb. 14, 1815, Grayson Co., VA (b. Aug. 9, 1778; d. aft. 1855).
  2. Catherine Cox, b. May 18, 1768, Botetourt Co., VA; d. Feb. 3, 1847, Ashe Co., NC; m. Henry HARDIN, son of Capt. William HARDIN (b. Sept. 18, 1765; d. Oct. 13, 1856).
  3. Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Cox, b. Aug. 10, 1771, Botetourt Co., VA; d. Jan. 22, 1820, Ashe Co., NC; m. Thomas MCGIMSEY, Aug. 25, 1800, Ashe Co., NC (b. May 5, 1772; d. abt. 1845).  Thomas McGimsey represented Ashe County in the State Legislature, 1807-1809.
  4. +Joshua Cox, b. Mar. 30, 1773, Botetourt Co., VA; d. Jan. 1, 1860, Alleghany Co., NC; m. Nancy RICHARDSON, daughter of Jonathan RICHARDSON & Elizabeth TAYLOR, June 10, 1793, Ashe Co., NC (b. Mar. 17, 1776; d. Feb. 18, 1853).
  5. Annie Cox, b. 1775, Botetourt Co., VA; d. Dec. 1, 1848, Ashe Co., NC; m. James BAKER (b. abt. 1773; d. Feb. 24, 1843).
  6. Jane Cox, b. July 10, 1777, Botetourt (Montgomery) Co., VA; d. Mar. 26, 1860, Alleghany Co., NC; m. Canada RICHARDSON, son of Jonathan RICHARDSON & Elizabeth TAYLOR (b. July 10, 1777; d. Mar. 26, 1860).
  7. Sarah Cox, b. abt. 1780, Wythe Co., VA, or Wilkes Co., NC; m. Zachariah BAKER, son of Andrew BAKER & Mary BOLLING.
  8. Cynthia Cox, b. Apr. 17, 1782, Wythe Co., VA, or Wilkes Co., NC; d. July 24, 1864, Alleghany Co., NC; m. William GAMBILL, son of Martin GAMBILL & Nancy NALL, abt. 1800 (b. 1779; d. 1832); bur. Elk Creek Primitive Baptist Church, Alleghany Co., NC. Children: Martin Gambill (1801) m. Sarah CROUSE; John Gambill (1802) m. Margaret COX; Robert Gambill (1810), James Gambill (c.1813), Alice Gambill (1815).
Memorial Marker of Capt. John Cox

John Cox Memorial
near Scottville, NC
Photo by James C. Smith
Click here for closeup


Captain John Cox was a Revolutionary War soldier and an early settler in Grayson County, Virginia, and Ashe County, North Carolina.  He is believed to be the son of Joshua COX & Mary RANKIN of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The Cox and Rankin families were Scotch-Irish immigrants from Ulster, Northern Ireland.  Capt. John Cox became one of the largest landowners in Ashe County, NC, eventually acquiring more than 8,000 acres of land.  His children intermarried with the families of other prominent early settlers, including the Hardin, Richardson, Baker and Gambill families.

John Cox's parents probably arrived in Pennsylvania around 1720, part of a huge wave of Scotch-Irish immigration.  John Cox was born in Pennsylvania in 1739.  In February 1756, when John was 17 years old, Delaware Indians attacked and burned the Cox home near McDowell's Mill, in what is now Franklin County, Pennsylvania, then part of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  John Cox and older brother Richard were taken prisoners.  John Craig, their brother-in-law, was also captured while trying to rescue John and Richard.  All three escaped in Aug. 1756.  John Cox described his experiences to the Provincial Council on Sept. 6, 1756, and it can be found in Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, Book VII, pp.243-244:

"Then the Young Man, one John COX, a Son of the Widow COX, who had made his Escape from Kittannin, gave the following Information:
"That himself, his Brother Richard, and John CRAIG, in the begining of February last, were taken by nine Deleware Indians from a Plantation two Miles from McDowell's Mill, and carried to the Kittanning Town on the Ohio; that on his way thither he met Shingas with a Party of thirty Men, and afterwards with Captain JACOBS and fifteen, who were going on a Design to destroy the Settlements in Conegochege; that when He arrived at Kittannin he saw there about one hundred fighting Men of the Deleware Tribe with their Families, and about Fifty English Prisoners, consisting of Men, Women, and Children; that during his stay there Shingas' and Jacobs' Parties returned-- the one with nine Scalps and ten Prisoners, the other with several Scalps and five prisoners, and that another Company of eighteen came from Diahogo with seventeen Scalps fixed on a Pole, and carried them to Fort Du Quesne to obtain their reward; That the Warriors held a Council, which with their Warr Dances continued a Week, after which Captain JACOBS went of with a party of Forty-eight Men, intending (as he was told) to fall upon the Inhabitants of Paxton; that the Indians frequently said they resolved to kill all the white Folks except a few, with whom they would afterwards make a Peace; that they made and Example of one Paul BROADLY, whom they, agreeable to their usual Cruelty, beat for half an hour with Clubbs and Tomhawks, and afterwards fastning him to a Post cropt his Ears close to his head and cropt his Fingers; that they called together all the Prisoners to Witness to this Scene of their inhuman Barbarity.
"He further said that about the Beginning of March he was taken by three Indians to Diahogo, where he found about Fifty Warriors belonging to the Delaware, Mohiccon, & Munsa Tribes, and about Twenty German Prisoners; that while he was there the Indians frequently went in parties of twelve to destroy the Inhabitants and as often returned with their Scalps, but no Prisoners; that their whole conversation was continually filled with Expressions of Vengeance against the English, and resolutions to kill them and lay waste their country; That in May all the Indians removed from Diahogo about Twenty-five Miles higher up the River to plant Corn, where most of them have since lived.
"That they, with the Prisoners, during the whole Summer have been in a starving Condition, having very little Venison & Corn, and reduced to the necessity of living upon Dog Flesh and the few Roots and Berrys they could collect in the Woods; that several of the Prisoners have dyed for want of Food; That six Weeks ago about a hundred Indians went off from the Susquehannah to the Ohio for a Supply of Provisions and Amunition, and were expected back in thirty days; That while they were in this distress situation they talked several times of making Peace with the English, and many of them observed that it was better to do so than Starve, for that the Rewards the French gave were not sufficient to support them, not having received from them more than one loaf of Bread for each Scalp. But that old Makomesy, his (COX's) Master, and one of their Chiefs endeavored to dissuade them from entering into say peaceable Measures with the English, and had constantly encouraged them to continue the War. That while these things were in Agitation an Indian Chief came among them, and informed them that the Mingo's cou'd live with the English and be furnished with Provisions and every thing they wanted, while the Delawares were starving for carrying on the War against them.
"That about thirty days ago he saw several of the Indians going away, with an Intention (as he was informed) to know of the Governor of Pennsylvania whether the English wou'd agree to make peace, but that he was told by Makomesy, they were only gone to see whether the English were strong and get Provisions from them.
"That on the ninth of August he left Diahogo, and came down the River in a Canoe with Makomesy to Gnahay, to get some Corn that was left under Ground, and that in the Morning after he arrived there, The Indians having gone out to hunt, he made his Escape on the 14 August last, and came to Fort Augusta at Six O'Clock in the Evening.
"The Poor Boy was exteamly reduced, had dangerous Swellings on his Body, and was in a Sickly Condition. The Governor, therefore, ordered him lodging and the attendance of a Docter."

The Coxes left Pennsylvania soon after this ordeal and traveled to Virginia.  They arrived in the upper New River Valley region of southwest Virginia during the 1760's, which was then part of Botetourt County, VA.  It became part of Fincastle County in 1772, Montgomery County in 1777, Wythe County in 1790, and Grayson County in 1793.  According to the historian Paula Anderson-Green, the Coxes arrived around 1765 with the Osborn and Hash families, who were also Scotch-Irish from Pennsylvania.  Their party was led by Andrew Baker, one of the earliest settlers in the upper New River Valley, who had been driven out by Indians 10 years earlier.  The Coxes, Osborns, and Hashes took up lands near one other along the banks of the New River near the border of North Carolina.  The Hash land was located where Bridle Creek empties into the river; the Osborne tract was between Bridle and Saddle Creeks, opposite the Baker site across the river; and the Cox land a little further south toward the state line.  In some cases the tracts of land crossed the state boundary. (See "The New River Frontier Settlement on the Virginia-North Carolina Border," Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Vol. 86, pp.413-431 (1978).)

In Ms. Anderson-Green's article, she makes special note of the Cox brothers:

"Both John and David Cox were prominent leaders in the early New River settlement.  They were both rather large landholders with properties extending across the state line.  Also they were slaveowners, on the minor scale found in western Virginia.  John Cox had eleven slaves, the largest number belonging to one owner in that frontier area in 1790.  As a result of his status, John Cox was one of the three men named county commissioners at the creation of Ashe County, North Carolina, in 1799.  During the Revolutionary War both brothers assumed leadership positions: John became captain of a militia group, and David, a lieutenant.  These men are representative of those western Virginia and North Carolina pioneer leaders who labored to turn the wilderness into an orderly region of farmlands.  The culture such leaders established had a distinctly aristocratic tone complementing that of Piedmont and Tidewater Virginia.  Abernethy [Three Virginia Frontiers (1940) p.59] claims that 'their leadership was as powerful in their respective bailiwicks as was that of the old Virginia families east of the mountains.'  That type of man whose forceful character led in the establishment of an agrarian community in the New River border settlement is certainly exemplified by the Cox brothers.  The prosperous level that the New River lifestyle had attained by 1818 is indicated by David Cox's will, which bequeaths to his eight sons land, money, slaves, and books."

John Cox's sister Mary and her husband John Craig made their home in what became Wythe County, VA.  John's brothers Joshua and Richard Cox settled across the state line in what was then Rowan County, NC, in the area that later became Surry County, and eventually Stokes County, NC.

John Cox and his family continued their tradition of military service. John Cox, Sr., John Cox, Jr., David Cox, and John Craig appear on a list of men from Fincastle County, VA, who fought in Lord Dunmore's War in 1774.  This was not really a war, but a period of hostility between the settlers and the native Shawnee Indians.  John Cox is mentioned several times in dispatches from Major Arthur Cambpell to Col. William Preston regarding the progress of Lord Dunmore's War.  See the Documentary History of Lord Dunmore's War by R.G. Thwaites (1905).

Oct. 1, 1774: Indians attack Moore's Fort on Clinch; Captain Looney unable to go in pursuit; "I have had no Word yet from Doack, Thompson, Montgomery, or COX." (Doc. #3QQ109)
Oct. 5, 1774: "John COX is just arrived here with 24 men. I shall send him down the River, to range about Reedy Creek and Mockison [Moccasin] Gap until the Flour you mentioned arrives and then he may serve as an escort to the provisions over to Blackmore's; Mr. Cummins [Rev. Charles Cummings] will wait upon you, and he can inform you his Sentiments of the situation." (Doc. #3QQ114)
Oct. 6, 1774: Arrival of Samuel Shannon with cattle; he and the flour wagons to proceed together to Moccasin Gap; enough cattle engaged for Captain Smith's fort; an Indian seen by one Snodgrass, below Captain Thompson's; probably one of Donelson and Mason's party in disguise; "I divided the last of the 8lb. Powder that came by Vance to Lieut. COX men yesterday. They had 4 Shoots apiece and with perswasions I got them to go down the River, they said they would turn home if they did not get more next week." (Doc. #3QQ116)
Oct. 12, 1774: Letter of 13th delivered by Anthony Head; distribution of powder; forty pounds engaged by Montgomery and Henderson on Holston; selfish application for men; every few famlies want a fort and a guard; people greatly distressed about saving their corn; return of Captain Thompson; Lieutenant COX at Blackmore's; Eaton and King's stations should be strong; Blackmore's the most convenient place to oppose the enemy; Captain Cocke desires to serve; asks if he can not substitute for Captain Thompson. (Doc. #3QQ125)

When the Revolutionary War broke out, John Cox became a captain and commanded a fort on the New River.  He led a militia company and was captured during the Tory insurrection in 1779.  (See "The Draper Papers," July 18, 1779, Doc. #3ZZ19.)  His activities are described in a Revolutionary War pension application filed by his son James Cox in 1832.

The first part of the Revolutionary War in the upper New River Valley (1776-1779) was actually a war against the Cherokee, who were allies of the British.  According to James A. Quinn, "The Flower Swift Militia Company of Montgomery Co., Virginia", the war was initially unpopular in the New River community.  The local militia companies mutinied in the summer of 1779 and took Capt. John Cox prisoner.  Col. William Preston reported in a letter on July 18, 1779, that "I have just rec'd intelligence that a number of Tories have embodied them[selves] up New River in this county [Montgomery County, Virginia], that they took Prisoners Captains COX, OSBORN & HENDERSON, the former of whom made his escape."  (The Draper Papers, Doc. 3ZZ19.)  By 1780, the mutiny was put down and a pardon was offered to those who were willing to change sides.  Afterwards, many of the same men are found again on military rolls.

Many pension applications submitted by veterans of the war in the upper New River Valley contain descriptions of a brutal guerilla conflict with the Tories.  This declaration by John TOLIVER is typical:

". . . on one occasion they came for the Tories by discovering their smoke of their campfires -- that they had were cooking their Breakfast -- that they surrendered then fired on them killed some -- and some escaped -- that this was in the state of Virginia now Grayson County -- that on one other occasion they came upon the Tories -- killed some -- that Capt. Martin GAMBILL shot one Tory by the name of GREEN -- that he was left at the house of one John COX who lived at the Peach Bottom and died of the wounds -- that at that time they hung a Tory by the name of MCKINNY that they hung him with a grape vine tied around his neck and fastened to the limb of a tree -- and had him placed on a large rock -- and that while they were considering which of the men should shove him off the rock -- that the said MCKINNY jumped off and hung himself -- and that they hung one GOSS a Tory on the gate post of the said John COX near the river in the north side in the state of Virginia".  (Filed in support of an application by the widow of Capt. Samuel JOHNSON, NARA Pension File No. W5012.)

The last incident is also described in a widow's pension application filed by Elizabeth AMBURGEY of Letcher County, KY, widow of John AMBURGEY (or BURGEY) who was originally from Wilkes County, NC.  She states that her husband "saw Jackson GOSS hung on old Captain John COX's gate on this side of the Blue Ridge" (Pension File No. R174).  Col. William Campbell gave a fuller account in a letter to Col. Arthur Campbell dated July 25, 1780.  He explained that Zechariah Goss belonged to a band of murderers and horse-thieves.  In the same letter, Col. Campbell also describes how a few days earlier they had pursued a band of Tories who had taken Capt. John Cox's son prisoner.  The son escaped and led them to the Tory camp.  (See Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio (1779-1781) by L.P. Kellogg, ed. (Wisconsin Hist. Soc., 1917), pp.239-240 [Draper Series Vol. 5.)

By oral tradition, Capt. John Cox and his brother David Cox fought at the battle of King's Mountain (Oct. 7, 1780), but this claim cannot be verified, because there is no complete record of the men who were at the battle.  However, more than 1,000 "mountain men" did march from the upper New River Valley region to King's Mountain under the command of Col. William Campbell, and the Coxes could very well have been among them.  It's also said that John Cox was wounded at the skirmish of Whitsell's Mill (a.k.a. Weitzel's Mill) which took place in Guilford County, NC, on March 6, 1781.

Between 1777 and 1783, John Cox obtained three land grants in the Cranberry District of what was then Wilkes County, NC, later Ashe County.  He lived on the south fork of the New River at the mouth of Cranberry Creek, near the present town of Scottville.  He also had land in Virginia where he continued to appear on tax lists in Montgomery/Wythe/Grayson County.  According to the historian Martin Crawford, "By far the largest of the resident landholders [in Ashe County] was Captain John Cox, a Revolutionary War veteran, who in 1799 was named as one of the county's first commissioners.  Cox acquired thirty-nine separate plots in Ashe County by 1815, embracing over 8,000 acres of land."  Ashe County's Civil War: Community and Society in the Appalachian South (Univ. of VA, 2001).

In the early 1800's, John Cox became involved in a legal dispute with James NEWELL over title to some land in the Peach Bottom of Grayson County, VA.  Several depositions were given, summarized by Lyman Chalkley in Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement of Virginia, Vol. 2, p.142.  "Enoch OSBORN deposes, 1809, that Cap. Jno. COX settled on the Peach Bottom 44 or 45 years ago.  George COLLINS deposes, 1809, he settled there 41 or 42 years ago.  George REVES deposes, 1809, he moved to the country in 1767."

In a letter dated 1811 from Ashe County, NC, John Cox's son-in-law Thomas McGimsey wrote, "That tract of country called Ashe County was first settled in the year 1755.  Capt. Jno. Cox informs me he recollects when there was but Two or Three Hunters Cabbens from the Lead mines to the Head of Wataga." (Quoted in Paula Anderson-Green's article, supra.)

According to Footprints in the Sands of Time by Dr. Aras B. Cox (1900), "Captain John COX and his brother, David, moved to Grayson county and settled on New River about ten miles west of Grayson Old Court House.  John COX was captian of the Regulators of this part of the state during the Revolutionary War … In after years he moved to the mouth of Cranberry Creek, Ashe County, NC, south fork of New River, made and cultivated a large farm and raised live stock, and where, when life's arduous toils were over, was buried in the family graveyard … They had two sons, James and Joshua.  James COX married Widow TERRELL, Joshua COX married a Miss RICHARDSON.  Their daughters married as follows: Catherine married Henry HARDIN, Cynthia married William GAMBILL, Jane married Canada RICHARDSON, another daughter (name unknown) married Thomas MCGIMPSEY, and another daughter (name unknown) married a Mr. BAKER."

The book The Cox Family in America (1912), pp.52-53, states that "David COX and his brother, John COX, are said to have come to this country from Scotland in 1740, another tradition says, from Wales; and still another, that they were of Scotch-Irish descent … They settled on New River, in Grayson County, four miles west of Little River.  John COX was Captain of the Home Guard, during the Revolutionary war.  After the close of the war he removed to Ashe County, North Carolina where he lived, on the South fork of New River, until his death. His brother, David, remained with his family, in Virginia, where many of his descendants now live."

Finally, B.F. Nuckulls writes in Pioneer Settlers of Grayson County, Virginia (1914), Ch. IV: "About the year, 1740, David COX and John COX, two brothers, came from Scotland to Virginia.  They both located in what is now Grayson county, on New River, about ten miles west of Grayson Old Court House.  [¶] John COX was captain of the Home Guard, or Regulators, during the Revolutionary war.  He built a fort on a ridge at the mouth of Peach Bottom Creek, overlooking New River; supplies for the Fort were packed on horses from the Lead Mines in Wythe county … After the Revolutionary war, Capt. John COX moved up the river to the mouth of Cranberry Creek, on the South Fork of New River, opened up a large farm there, and is buried there in the family graveyard.  Most of his family settled in Ashe county, N. C.; he had two sons, James and Joshua, and five daughters."

Jeff Weaver's New River Notes provided much of the above research on the Cox family.

Capt. John Cox died in 1818 and was buried on his land in Ashe County near Scottville, NC.