Wednesday, March 1, 2017


This is the first of  a three-part post. This is another great article from Janice Brown about her grandfather.


May 10, 1884 – September 21, 1974

When I told my grandfather one Sunday morning in May 1969 that I wanted him to tell me something of his parents and his early history, he invited me to come sit with him out on his screened-in back porch where it was quiet and peaceful.  This was a time before I had a tape recorder, and for the interview, I had brought a pen and shorthand notebook.  We sat down in two white-painted wooden rockers and sipped our coffee before getting started with his story.  We looked out over a lush green blanket of St. Augustine grass covering the back yard.  A cement bird bath filled with rain water beckoned two blue jays that were having a squawking match in the row of tall crape myrtles lined up against the back fence.  Just in front of the porch was a newly planted bed of petunias, and the scent of freshly mowed grass floated on the summer breeze.  Inside the kitchen, we could hear grandmother as she finished up her morning chores.

In response to my first questions about when he was born, his parents, and his brothers and sisters, my grandfather paused for reflection, then answered:

"I was born on May 10, 1884 at Cromwell, but near the old Select neighborhood, about nine or ten miles south from Beaver Dam in Ohio County, Kentucky.  My parents were both born in the county, too.   My great grandparents were some of the first to come into the county.  The Coxes and the Leaches.

What education I have I received in the common schools at Cromwell and Select.

My mother named me Jasper Newton after two soldiers who were heroes in the Revolutionary War.  She read about them in a book, she told me.  It was a popular book of the day.  One soldier was a corporal and the other was a sergeant and they made a daring rescue of some other soldiers who were about to be hanged.  The name of the book was “The Life of Marion.”  It was my father’s book.

My father was James William Cox and my mother was Mary Elizabeth Cox.  She was a Mitchell before she married.  They were married about a year before the Civil War started, and my oldest brother was twenty-two years old when I was born.  I was the youngest son and the twelfth child of the fourteen children of my parents.  I am the last one living of my generation, that is, my parent’s children.

My father was crippled and wore a size six shoe on one foot and a size ten on the other foot.  He had an education, and in his younger days, he taught school.  And then he was a farmer, a blacksmith, and he had the post office.  When he left Rough River he bought a farm close to Cromwell.  My brothers ran the farm and he had the blacksmith shop.  He studied and learned to temper iron and was one of the best horse-shoers in the country.  At first he didn’t always have the money to buy the iron he needed for his blacksmith shop, but his word was his bond, and he would get the iron he needed and pay for it when his customers paid him.  The man he bought his iron from told him he could buy all the iron he wanted and he would ship it to him.  And when my father got it worked up and got his money, he paid for the iron.

My father voted in the elections every year, but he was not a party man.  You know, he voted for the man he thought would make the best candidate; therefore, he was an independent.  He was ninety-three years old when he died.

I heard my father tell about his Grandfather Leach, who came from Maryland.  He traveled down the Ohio River in a boat, bringing whiskey, just drifting along and stopping along the way to sell this to the Indians who wanted to buy liquor from him.  They gave him some money, and he would go draw the whiskey, and when he went to cut the spout off, the Indians would slap his hands and let a little more go in their jug.

Thomas Jefferson Cox, my grandfather, didn’t like dogs in the house.  And when he used to come to our house to visit, he would always make the dogs go outside.  One time when he was visiting, us kids had let Old Hunter in the house because it was winter, and we wanted him in by the fire.  And my grandfather kicked the dog, and Old Hunter turned around and snapped at him.  And when he did, his teeth caught the toe of my grandfather’s shoe and made him fall down.  Us kids all laughed.  It tickled us because the dog made him fall and paid him back for kicking him.

My mother died while I was in the service in 1903.  Her daddy was Martin Mitchell and her mother was an Acton.  We never saw them very much.  They lived over around Sulphur Springs and Dundee.  My mother and daddy separated when I was about five or so, and my mother later remarried.  She died from pneumonia in Obion County, Tennessee.  My brother Ira attended the funeral to represent the family.

My father married Aunt Becky Patterson, and after she died, he married Aunt Pru.  Prudence Taylor.  We called her Aunt Pru.  She prepared a wedding supper for us, and we spent the night at my father’s house after we were married, before going to the mines the next day."

When I asked Granddaddy to tell me about the earliest thing he could remember, he looked down at the floor and studied a minute, then said: 

"Well, now that would be going quite a ways back.  You know, the first thing anybody can always remember is his mother.  I used to like to play little dirty tricks, and my mother would say, “Now, don’t you do that again or you’ll catch it.”  And you knew you had better not do that again that day, or you would.  So I would just wait a day or two until she kindly forgot about it and then I would do it again to see if I could get by with it."

For a few minutes we sat there silently.  The scent of spring was everywhere.  A spider was busily weaving her web in the corner above the little clothesline erected across one end of the porch where grandmother hung her cup towels out to dry.  Granddaddy was rolling the years back in his mind.

The next thing he told me about was his military career.  He served two different tours in the U. S. Army – one in the artillery division and the last in the infantry.

When I was fifteen years old I left home and enlisted in the Army, giving my age as eighteen.  It was in August and I was living in Cromwell, Kentucky, but I enlisted at Leitchfield, Grayson County, Kentucky.  From there I was sent by train with a big bunch, about eighty or so other boys, to Louisville, and from there I was sent to Fort Howard, Maryland.  Fort Howard was just twelve miles down the bay from Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key wrote the national anthem.  We went by boat from Fort Howard to Fort McHenry during the Spanish American War.  Actually, the main war was over, and at the time I enlisted, the war was called the “insurrection period.”

I was a gunner in the heavy artillery section where they shot twelve-inch, three-foot long guns.  I had to stand directly behind the gun where it went out over a concrete parapet.  It had a long lanyard with a leather stock.  I had to stand on my tiptoes, and stuff cotton in my ears because the gun was so loud and the recoil was so hard.  The gunner had to stay there and he would do the shooting after the gun was loaded and everybody else took cover.

You know, Jerri, this affected my hearing and finally I had to wear a hearing aid.  I got my first hearing aid through the VA when I was eighty-four years old on September 30, 1968.  Gilbert drove me to Dallas to get it.  We got up at 4:30 in the morning, so we could get to Dallas in time to beat the heavy traffic.

I got out of the artillery on August 4, 1904, but in October 1905, I went back in again for three years in the infantry.  The 18th Infantry had orders to go to the Philippine Islands and I requested to go because I wanted to go very bad.  They sent a bunch there, but my orders were changed and I was sent instead to a Military Prison, which had once been a Federal Prison.  So I applied for a guard in the “D” Company of the 18th Infantry and became a prison guard and stayed on that for six months.  The 18th got orders to go to the Islands again, and I tried to transfer back so I could go, but they wouldn’t let me go.  I stayed there eighteen months, and bought out my discharge.  At that time, you could buy your way out of the service.  I think I paid $85 to buy my way out.  I made $13 a month while serving in the Infantry Division, but two bits of that was taken out to support the Old Soldier’s home.

Now, I remember that my discharge papers came back and a man told me they had been laying on the First Sergeant’s desk for three days, and he had not even told me.  So I went to him and asked how come he had not given my papers to me, and I threatened to write Washington about it.  So I didn’t have to go out to the field the next morning, but was discharged that day.

Upon leaving the army, I went to Atchinson, Kansas and went to work on the Missouri Pacific Railroad in the roundhouse.  Harvest time came and I liked to wander, so me and Dr. Carroll’s son went to Beloit, Kansas for harvest time.  When that was over, I went back to Atchinson and worked in the roundhouse again for the Missouri Pacific Railroad.  I finally quit that and went home to Kentucky and went to work in the Broadway Coal Mining Company.  I married while I was working in the coal mines.

To be continued.

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