Monday, January 3, 2011

J. F. Cox, abt 1840 - 1874

[Photograph by Kari Petersen, 2010]

It seems ironic that the first biography I will present will be that of J. F. Cox. When I came upon the plot in Mt View Cemetery, I read the names on the stones and wanted to know the stories of these men who had been buried there. It's my favorite part of history: the stories of everyday men and women.

But J. F. Cox is a story untold. Other than his name his stone reads that he was a U.S. Soldier. Through research on, I was able to learn that he had died on November 27, 1874.1 Further research into the cemetery records revealed that he was 34 years old when died of cerebro-spinal meningitis.2 And he had been born in Illinois.

There is not much more that I can prove about him.

This is a sticky business, this proof. I've had arguments about it with my partner: what I can prove and what I can't. I must proceed cautiously, especially when speaking of the dead. But I hate to leave the story of J. F. Cox with so little flesh.

So here is what I can speculate. There is a J F Cox who shows up in IRS records as early as 1864 in San Francisco. He had earned $600 in income in the year 1863.3 And sometime in the 1860s, a J. F. Cox filed for a pension for his service in Company E, 116th Illinois Infantry.4 While he did not file while he was living in California, his wife Sarah did.

We could spin a story that J. F. Cox had come out to California to seek gold in the early 1860s and returned to the east after 1863 to join a regiment from his home state, perhaps marrying at the same time. The timing of his application for a pension suggests that he sustained disabling injuries during his service and was discharged. He may have returned to California, finding Oakland a more family-friendly city than San Francisco and settling down, only to die an early untimely death. If the J.F. Cox of the Civil War pension is the correct one, he had a daughter named Lillie who later applied for pension benefits for his service, as well.

I will likely be updating this story later in the year, as I plan to request a copy of the pension records that I have found for J. F. Cox to see if there is any evidence that this is the same man. I hope to come closer to the real story for this gentleman.

1 Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.

2 Mountain View Cemetery Burial Records Book 1, pg. 252

3 U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.

4 National Archives and Records Administration. Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000.

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