Pueblo County, Colorado
John D. Cox & Lydia Chastain Cox

Lydia Chastain and John D. Cox
Early Pueblo County Pioneers

Submitted by Howard D. Snooks
May 16, 2008

Lydia Chastain and John Cox were westward-bound travelers until they finally settled in Colorado Territory when both were in their late fifties. She was of Huguenot descent (descended from Pierre Chastain who immigrated to Manakin County, Virginia in 1700) and born in Hardin County, Kentucky. He 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. It is not known where they met, although they married in Morgan County, Illinois in 1830. Elijah Chastain gave permission in his own handwriting for Lydia to marry as if she were underage, even though she was in fact almost twenty-two years old. By December of that year they were in Logan County, Kentucky where their first child Wilmirth Jane (Jenny) was born. By 1833 they were back in Illinois (perhaps Macoupin County, according to Jenny's obituary) where son William T. was born. By 1839 they had moved back to Morgan County, Illinois where the third and last child, James Bonley (nicknamed Fin) was born. They were located in the 1856 state census of Lockridge, Jefferson County, Iowa, where they stated they had lived since 1841. They were not found in the 1850 Federal census, but were found in the 1860 Federal census of Burt County, Nebraska.

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 included bottomlands along the Arkansas River that included many artesian springs. Partly due to John's urging (Pueblo Chieftain, Dec 08, 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. The couple was familiarly known by Pueblo residents as Gran and Daddy Cox (op. cit and obituary of Jenny Chilcott, referenced below). John identified himself as a lawyer in the 1860 Burt County, Nebraska census, but he apparently never practiced law in Colorado—the 1870 and 1880 census reports him as a farmer. However, 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 Fin 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 with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as backdrop. It was described historically as a pristine setting where buffalo grazed and Arapaho Indians camped along the riverbank.

Neither Lydia nor John was issued death certificates, and their gravestones are too weathered to indicate their year of death. Searches of Pueblo newspapers have not yet produced dated obituaries. However, there is a photograph of them, dated 1895, in which they are seated with three of their great-grandchildren. Additionally, an undated obituary for Lydia Cox was located in a scrapbook of Pueblo history at the Denver Public Library, Genealogy Floor. In it was noted that John had died a few months previously, and at his death they were the longest-married couple in southern Colorado. Lydia was the oldest resident of Pueblo County. It stated that she was born in Hardin County, Kentucky. They were not listed as survivors in their son Fin's obituary in December 1899, so it is assumed that they died between 1895 and 1899, both close to the age of ninety. They are buried in the Cox cemetery located on a hill a short distance from the St. Charles River, on the old Cox ranch.

John and Lydia's daughter Wilmirth Jane (Jenny) was born in Logan County, Kentucky on December 07, 1830. She married George Miles Chilcott in Fairfield, Jefferson County, Iowa in 1850. George was the sheriff of Fairfield County. In 1855 they moved to Burt County, Nebraska, and George was the state representative from that county. He moved to Chico in 1859, and in 1860 returned to Nebraska to retrieve Jenny and children and begin prominent lives in Pueblo County. He was a practicing lawyer and was elected to the first Colorado territorial legislature. A Republican, he served as U.S. Representative from Colorado Territory, and was appointed as U.S. Senator to serve out the term of T. M. Teller, which he did until 1883 (The Real Pioneers of Colorado. (1936), Vol. I, pp-249-250. Maria Davies McGrath, Division of the Denver Museum).

The Chilcotts were well-known Pueblo residents. They owned numerous properties, including a hotel, and were principals in the newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain. They donated their large home and surrounding land to form the Colorado State Hospital. Jenny's death from stomach cancer on December 24, 1887 was reported extensively in the Pueblo Chieftain— the headline was: “The Death of One of Colorado's Best and Noblest Women”. Her parents survived her, as did her husband and three of their four children.

George Chilcott died on March 06, 1891, and that also was a shock to the Pueblo community. His funeral procession was “…one of the largest that Pueblo has ever witnessed” (Pueblo Chieftain, March 13, 1891). A codicil to his will provided a monthly stipend of $40.00 to his in-laws, Gran and Daddy Cox, whom he dearly loved (despite their being such staunch Democrats!). Both he and Jenny are buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Pueblo.

John and Lydia's second child, William T. Cox, left his family to head for Oregon on the Oregon Trail in about 1854. He was born April 03, 1833 in Illinois, most likely in Macoupin County. He lived in 1855 in Wasco County, Oregon, but by 1858 moved to Wallas Wallas, Washington. By 1860 he was in Nez Perce County, Idaho, where he lived until he died. His homestead became the location of the present town of Lewiston, Idaho. He married twice, both times to members of the Nez Perce Nation. His first wife was named Julia, and his second was named Touis. He and Julia had three children, and with Touis they had six more.

John and Lydia's third child, James Bonley Cox (Fin) was born November 27, 1839 in Morgan County, Illinois. He first married Lodusca Harrington (born February 06, 1846 in White Dove, Wisconsin—Cox Family Bible record) on May 04, 1864 in Tekamah, Burt County, Nebraska (Burt County online marriage records). She died soon after their arrival in Chico, Pueblo County, Colorado Territory on Dec 04, 1866 and is buried in the Chico cemetery (Chico Cemetery Records, Pueblo Historical Society). Their son, Phineas William Sherman Cox (Sherman) was only one year old. In 1869 John returned to Tekamah and married Lodusca's sister, Ellen Harrington (born March 16, 1844) in White Dove, Wisconsin (Pueblo Chieftain, March 29, 1926 obituary). The sisters were daughters of Major Olney Harrington, an attorney and a hotel keeper, and Hannah Cole Eldred. They were among the very first settlers of the Nebraska Territory. Unlike the southern ancestries of the Chastains and Coxes, the Harrington and Eldred families were descended from English immigrants to Rhode Island in the 1630's.

Fin had been a sergeant in the Nebraska Cavalry during the Civil War (Civil War Military Records). A “staunch Democrat (Pueblo Chieftain obituary, Dec 26, 1899), he was the county assessor for Pueblo, having been elected in both 1874 and 1876. In 1870 he was elected state Representative, and he served for four years. Between 1873 and 1876 he co-owned a lumber mill called McPherson, Cox and Company (Pueblo Chieftain advertisements in these years). Dying relatively young at age sixty, his obituary (Pueblo Chieftain, Dec 26, 1899) stated that he was “generous to a fault and his friends were legion in every walk of life. He was known, honored, and loved.” He is buried with his parents and wife in the Cox family cemetery. Ellen died March 25, 1926 in Bayfield, La Plata County, Colorado and is buried in the Cox cemetery.

Fin and Lodusca had one child, Sherman. He was only a year old when his mother died. Fin and Ellen had three children. Birdie Pauline (1870-1944) married Thomas Matthew Steele (1868-1941) on 29 April 1890, the grandson of fellow early Pueblo County pioneers Matthew Wilson and Harriet Rowland Steele. They moved to Bayfield, La Plata County, Colorado in 1920 with their five sons. Wade Hampton Cox (1873-1950) married Ethel C. Patterson on 6 Feb 1907 and moved to San Marcos, California. Claude Cox (1871-1948) married Lou Anna Gill on 22 Aug 1897 and moved to Bayfield, Colorado. Sherman Cox, Finn's eldest son, married Leora Crawford on 11 Nov 1891 and remained in the Pueblo area. He was a well-known rancher. They had three children. Edna (b 1894) was married to Elbert Frick, and Irma (b 1897) was married to R.L. Walker. Frank (b 1913) was not found in the 1930 census.

Although descendants of John and Lydia Cox lived in Pueblo County for almost eighty years, it is not believed that any remain. However, this family contributed greatly to the early foundations of their communities in Pueblo County, and lived in the area for almost eighty years.

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