Early Evansville Portraits And Biographies
From History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana
by Brant & Fuller

Joseph B. Cox

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MAJOR JOSEPH B. COX, a distinguished soldier, and long a prominent citizen of this county, is at present surveyor of United States customs for the Evansville, Ind., district, which includes the south half of Indiana the southeastern part of Illinois, and the northwestern part of Kentucky, with headquarters at Evansville. The history of his family is an epitome of the history of the county.

For scarcely had the Indian title to the lands in this locality been extinguished before his pioneer ancestors made their way into the territory. It was in 1809 that they came, crossing the river at the present site of Evansville, and temporarily lodging in a cabin which they found in the very heart of a dense forest, not far from the bank of the river near the present corner of Vine and Water streets. These were his maternal ancestors who came from Kentucky, where his mother was born in 1805. Her name was Francis M. Miller; she was the daughter of George and Elizabeth Miller, pioneers whose careers have been outlined in connection with the early history of Perry township. Mrs. Cox, afterward Mrs. David Stephens, died in October, 1886, after a residence in Perry Township of seventy-seven years.

James Cox, the father of Joseph B., was a native of Pennsylvania, born in 1800, and died in this county in 1834. He came to Vanderburgh County in 1818, with a brother, Joseph, and engaged for a time as a pioneer farmer. He and his brother were potters by trade, and later were occupied in that branch of industry. When steamboats began to ply the river, using wood for fuel, they established a wood-yard near the present site of the Ingle Coal Mines, and accumulated some money in that business.

Maj. Joseph B. Cox was born in what is now Perry Township, this county, a few miles west of Evansville, on the 8th day of September, 1830. He was the fourth of five children - two sons and three daughters. His boyhood was spent on the farm and his early mental training was obtained in the public schools of the county. At the age of fourteen years he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to pursue his studies, and spent three years in the schools of that city. At the end of that period he spent one term at St. Xavier's College, and then entered Bacon's Commercial College, both institutions being at Cincinnati. After his graduation from the Commercial College he was occupied for eight years as clerk on various steamboats, plying between Cincinnati and New Orleans.

In 1859, he entered the Sheriff's Office of Vanderburgh County, as deputy for John S. Gavitt, and upon the enlistment of the sheriff in the First Regiment Indiana Cavalry, nine months before the expiration of his term, he was appointed to fill the vacancy thus occasioned. The war for the suppression of the rebellion and the preservation of the union, was now in progress. In the fall of 1861, Maj. Cox raised a company which afterward became Company F, of the Sixtieth Indiana Infantry, and upon its organization he was selected as its captain. He served in that rank until the 27th day of May, 1862, when he was elected Major of the regiment, serving as such until November 30 following, when his resignation was tendered because of ill health, and accepted.

Returning to Evansville, he entered the County Treasurer's office and served as deputy for two years. Thereafter he was occupied with his private affairs for many years and was not in public life. In 1880, he became deputy sheriff under, Thomas Kerth, and remained with him for four years. On August 7, 1886, he was appointed by President Cleveland, surveyor of customs for the term of four years, which position he now holds, discharging its duties in an able and satisfactory manner.

From early manhood to the present time he has been interested chiefly in agricultural pursuits. He owns lands extensively in Vanderburgh, Gibson and Posey Counties, and in their cultivation follows the best methods known to the practical farmer. Maj. Cox possesses in a marked degree the attributes of genuine manhood. Honest purposes' and laudable conduct have marked his career. His sympathetic nature, the gentleness, of his disposition, and the worth of his character have won for him the admiration and respect of all his neighbors.

In April, 1863, he was married to Amanda W. Syrkees, who was born in Vanderburgh County in 1833, and died in 1868, leaving one son, David A., who is an alumnus of the State University, Bloomington, Ind.

Maj. Cox was married a second time in 1870, when Martha J. Angel, a native of Vanderburgh County, became his wife. To this union two sons have been born; Robert M., and Joseph B. Mrs. Cox is a member of the General Baptist Church.