In the Maysville Cemetery lie a family by the name of Cox. Father and son were born in London, England, and moved to this country in 1817. In the 1850 Mason County census, George Cox is listed as 59, merchant, worth $20,000. His wife, Ann, is 52. Children listed are William, 29, merchant; Lissant, 24, clerk; Lucy M., 18; Joseph H., 15, clerk; Horatio N., 12; and Albert G., 10.
Kentucky – A History of the State, Perriin, Battle & Kniffin, 1888
George Cox, a son of a salesman of respectable standing, was born in the city of London on the 1st day of March 1791, and, according to a good old English custom, was christened at the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, on the 1st of April following. His father was John Cox, third son of Henry Cox, born at Ross Herfordshire, May 13, 1756, and his mother was Mary Cowell, born October 26, 1756. They were married at the Parish Church of St. James, Clerkenwell, London, May 2, 1784. The result of this union, which was a most happy one, was eight children: Edward and Henry dying in childhood; John, born September 24, 1789, and supposed to have been killed in Spain or Portugal while serving his country in the Peninsular War under Wellington; George, the subject of this sketch; Ann Maria, born January 11, 1793, died December 12, 1867; Frances, mother of the late James Wormald, of this city; Margaret died in infancy, and Esther became the wife of George Herbst, May 8, 1834, dying in 1840. There are authentic records which trace Mr. Cox’s ancestry back for more than three hundred years, but the purpose of this article is to treat of the individual whose life-work affords a shining example. The father was employed in the hosiery shop of a man named Marsh, and into this shop the son was taken at the early age of nine years, and from that period to the day of his death he devoted his energies to well-directed industry. His mother died February 20, 1811 and was laid to rest in the burial ground of St. Mary, Newington, Surrey. July 16, 1814, his father married again, his second wife being Elizabeth Caroline Rose. In 1817, at the age of twenty-six, and after a service of seventeen years in the shop of Mr. Marsh, Mr. Cox determined to seek a home in the ‘Western World,’ and he succeeded in getting his father, stepmother, his sisters and a number of cousins to come with him. They landed at Baltimore and came from that point overland as far as Pittsburgh, where they took a flat-boat down the Ohio for Maysville, their destination being Lexington, Kentucky, then the foremost city of the west. Here the party located, and for several months George Cox sought in vain for employment. During these months, however, he made the acquaintance of Ann Hopkins, an English girl, born in Nottingham, July 15, 1796. From Lexington he went to Cincinnati, where he found employment for a short time, and on the 10th of April, 1819, he returned to Lexington and made Miss Hopkins his wife. With her he came to Maysville to engage in business, his only capital being $50 in money, a strong frame, good health, industry, and, above all, honesty. He opened a small store in a frame house on Front Street, above Market, one-half of the house being occupied by his cousin and brother-in-law, Edward Cox, as a bookstore and bindery. Both families lived in the second story of the building.
Mr. Cox was a methodical merchant from the very start. He kept a record of every transaction. The first item of goods sold by the merchant is set down thus: ‘1819, May 5, Quills, 6 ¼ cents.’ His simple system of keeping accounts enabled him to know what he was doing at all times. He paid for articles as he bought them, and when they were gone, if he had money to replace them, it was evident that he was neither losing money nor getting in debt. At the end of each week he footed up his sales, being for the week from May 31 to June 6, 1819, $23.37 ½. From this modest beginning George Cox’s business grew until his name was as familiar to the merchants of the east as that of any man in the Union, and it carried with it a prestige that might well be envied. It was not many years before increasing business obliged Mr. Cox to secure larger quarters, and he moved into the building now occupied by the ‘St. Charles,’ on Front Street. Here he remained until 1840, when he bought the property immediately across the alley from the ‘St. Charles,’ and this he occupied as store and dwelling until 1850, when the site now occupied, on Second Street, was purchased.
Friday, November 25, 1881
William H., Mr. Cox’s eldest son, was about this time admitted to a partnership in the house, and under the firm name of George Cox & Son the business grew until it was perhaps the largest retail dry goods trade in northern Kentucky. Mr. Cox possessed in a large degree that prerequisite for success, patience. He knew that a permanent business could not be established with a lavish expenditure of time, and he chose rather to win the confidence of his customers than to urge upon them goods that would not prove satisfactory. He had one price for an article, and that was the price first named. He sought a fair return for his investments, and rather than deviate from an established rule the article could remain on the shelf. On the other hand, if any line of goods advanced in price, he never advanced the price of those on hand, but often sold them for less money than was necessary to replace them. He despised the shams and shoddy of modern days, and rather than misrepresent an article in the slightest degree he would permit a customer to go elsewhere. This he made an infallible rule at the outset, and it is a rule that is observed by the house to this day, as it has been throughout an honorable career of nearly seventy years. Mr. Cox was among the few Englishmen who became Americanized. In 1851 he paid a visit to London but found little pleasure in the trip. Nearly all his relatives had died or moved to other lands, and upon his return to Maysville he told his family, ‘I’m an American now, and no longer an Englishman.’
He was an unflinching friend of the Government during the Rebellion. He loaned largely of his means to aid in carrying on the war, taking in return Government bonds, despite the protests of many of his friends that the bonds would be worthless. He reasoned that if the Government lost, everything was lost, and he would rather sacrifice his fortune in an effort to save his Government, than to lose it by remaining passive. Mr. Cox was a liberal contributor to every public enterprise and to every worthy object. He was opposed to taxing the public for railroad and other internal improvements, believing that they should be built by private enterprise. He was a good citizen in all that the term implies.
His death, on the 21st of September 1881, removed from Maysville her staunchest merchant. Although possessed of a large fortune, consisting of real and personal property, he made no will, expressing confidence that the law would make an equitable and satisfactory division among his heirs, a confidence that was not misplaced.
Tuesday, February 3, 1885
Mr. Cox had by his first wife fourteen children, three of whom are still living (November 1887): Lissant, the only surviving son; Mrs. Lucy M. Keith, of Maysville, and Mrs. E. C. Reeder, now residing in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mrs. Cox died June 20, 1853, and on the 12th of November 1854, Mr. Cox married Mrs. Mary C. Dimmitt, who survives him.
John Cox, the father, came to Maysville from Lexington, some time after 1820, and died here September 6, 1845, in his ninetieth year.
His second wife died in Maysville, June 20, 1835, aged sixty-five years.
Wednesday, April 10, 1895
Wednesday, January 11, 1905
Saturday, July 22, 1905
Categories: Family Stories