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The Cox Family Part 1 - John and Lydia Chastain Cox
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The Cox Family

James Bonley ‘Finn’ Cox and Frank Henry Benham operated sawmills in the mountains around Rye. According to several sources they provided the lumber “for most of the buildings in Rye.” The Cox family homesteaded off of what is now Burnt Mill Road and contributed to the growth and prosperity of Pueblo County in many ways.

John D. Cox and Lydia Chastain, daughter of Elijah Chastain, were married in February 1830 in Morgan County, Illinois. They were both born in Kentucky in 1808. John Cox “was descended from mid-eighteenth century Scots-Irish immigrants from Ulster (Joshua and Mary Rankin Cox) whose descendants traveled from Pennsylvania to Grayson County, Virginia and Ashe County, North Carolina to where John was born in Kentucky. His grandfather (James Robertson Cox) and great-grandfather (Captain John Cox) both fought in the Revolutionary War.”

By December, 1830, John and Lydia were in Logan County, Kentucky where their first child Wilmirth Jane (Jenny) was born. By 1833 they were back in Illinois where son William T. was born. In 1839 their third and last child, James Bonley ‘Fin’ was born in Morgan County, Illinois.

In 1841, they moved west to Lockridge, Iowa, and by the 1860 Federal census the family was in Burt County, Nebraska. John identified himself as a lawyer and he registered with the Union Army in 1862 from Nebraska. His son, James Bonley Cox, served as a sergeant in the Nebraska Calvary.

“By 1866 John and Lydia Cox, along with their younger son Fin, his first wife Lodusca Harrington and their son Sherman, moved to the Cisco area of Pueblo County, about twelve miles east of the seven-year-old town of Pueblo in Colorado Territory. Their ranch bottomlands along the Arkansas River included many artesian springs. Partly due to John's urging (Pueblo Chieftain, December 8, 1870) the community was renamed Excelsior because of the height of the artesian spring that watered his land. The Cox family moved to Pueblo County to join their daughter Jenny and her husband George Miles Chilcott, who also had a ranch in the area.”

John and Lydia were over fifty years old by this time and became known as Gran and Daddy Cox. There is no record of John practicing law in Colorado, but “he was active in politics, as a Democrat in a primarily Republican county. He was an election judge for Precinct 2 (Excelsior) on August 04, 1870, and was elected County School Commissioner (superintendent) on September 09, 1869. He ran unsuccessfully for State Representative when Colorado became a state in 1876.”

“By 1886 both the younger and the elder Cox families moved southwest of Pueblo, on the Burnt Mill Road that leads to the old community of Beulah. John submitted his homestead application for 160 acres in 1886, and James B. submitted his, next door, in 1887. The combined 360 acres included high desert scrub brush, cultivated fields, rangeland for cattle, and a beautiful riverfront along the St. Charles River.”

John and Lydia died within months of each other in 1898. At that time they were the longest-married couple in southern Colorado. They are buried in the Cox-Steele cemetery located on a hill a short distance from the St. Charles River, on what was the Cox ranch. (to be continued)

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The Greenhorn Valley View is a weekly newspaper serving the communities of the Greenhorn Valley in Southern Colorado,
including Colorado City, Rye, San Isabel, Beulah and Hatchet Ranch.

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