Family Stories

William Hopkinson Cox Biography

Scan_Pic1695from Kentucky – A History of the State, by Perrin, 1888

Mason County, Kentucky

William Hopkinson Cox, first son of George Cox and Ann Hopkins, was born in Maysville on the 24th of September, 1820.  His early advantages were few, but, limited as they were, the best possible use was made of them.  His mother had been a school teacher previous to her marriage, and Mr. Cox’s early mental training was received from her.  At about the age of ten years he was sent to a country school taught by “Jack” Holton, a famous teacher in his day.  His school was located in what is now known as the Tuckahoe neighborhood, and numbered among its patrons Dr. Thomas Nelson, the father of Hon. Thomas H. Nelson, Ex-Minister to Mexico, and the late Major-General William Nelson, of the United States Army.  Subsequently Mr. Cox was sent for a short time to Prof. William W. Richeson, who has lived to see so many of his pupils rise to high places in the councils of the nation, or to win fame on fields of battle.  At the age of twelve years Mr. Cox entered his father’s store, and here began a business training that won for him an honorable name throughout a long and useful life.  He remained in the employ of his father some thirteen years, and at the age of twenty-five concluded to engage in business for himself.  Forming a partnership with Madison S. Dimmitt, who had married his second sister, the firm of Cox & Dimmitt began business on the 15th of April, 1846, in the storeroom now occupied by George W. Childs, on the west side of Market Street, above Front.  Both partners gave strict attention to their trade, and it is not singular that they soon carved their way to success.  Mr. Dimmitt died on the 12th of February, 1848, and Mr. Cox conducted the business alone until about 1850, when he formed a partnership with his father, under the style of George Cox & Son.  On the 2nd of November 1854, Mr. Cox was married to Elizabeth Russell Newman, at Flat Bush, L. I., near Brooklyn.  She was a woman of rare excellence, and their home was a happy one.  Her death, on the 9th of November, 1862, was a severe shock to her devoted husband, who was left to care for three small children.  He was true to the memory of his wife, and it was rarely that he did not visit her grave on the Sabbath.  Like his father, Mr. Cox abhorred all manner of shams.  Moral, upright and just in all his dealings, he detested trickery of every sort.  The religion that he believed in chiefly was the religion of honesty and of doing good to deserving people.  He was generous to a fault when any act had been performed to enlist his sympathies.  He shunned rather than sought prominence or public position.  A liberal subscriber to the stock of the Maysville and Lexington Railroad, at the earnest solicitation of his friends he accepted the position of a director, but this was because he thought he could be useful to his fellow stockholders.  For some years previous to his death he was a director in the State National Bank, and held the position of vice-president of that institution when he died.  In this he is succeeded by his eldest son and namesake.  William H. Cox had begun life at the bottom of the ladder.  As he had climbed up, so he taught his two sons.  Giving them an education better than he himself had received, he placed them in the store, paying each a modest sum for services, teaching them the value of every dollar they received.  They were trained, as he had been, to rely upon their own exertions.  Those who know them will concede that those lessons were not wasted.  Mr. Cox was an outspoken Union man during the war, and while he did not obtrude his views upon others, he was never known to conceal his sentiments when called upon for an expression.  During this period there was a species of moral cowardice in Kentucky which prompted men to seal their lips for the sake of “policy”.  When told that his opinions would injure his trade, Mr. Cox informed his adviser that his goods were for sale, his principles were not.  His father dying in 1881, he continued the business without interruption until the winter of 1884-85.  After more than fifty years of unceasing toil, his health failed and he was forced to succumb.  Although his sons frequently urged him to rest, he could not divorce himself from a labor which had become a second nature to him.  The brevity of his illness was proof enough that he had worked too long.  After a few weeks suffering he breathed his last on the 3rd day of February, 1885, sincerely mourned by his children, and his death deplored by the entire community.  His survivors are two sons, William H. and George L., and to these he devised his entire property by a will which is a model of simplicity.  Better than riches, he left them an untarnished name.  The business of George Cox & Son is now conducted by the third generation, and upon the same plan that has been pursued for seventy years.

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