Sunday, April 5, 2020

Son of a Loyalist: John Cox Jr.

The Revolutionary War was as much a civil war as it was a war between two opposing powers. This meant that fights often involved family members on both sides as each person was forced to decide where their loyalties lay.

The Livingston family of Clermont was rather unscathed by this as they were a pack of patriots. They all lost friends who remained loyal to the crown. Janet Livingston's husband Richard Montgomery had the most to lose by rebelling against the crown as most of his family was still in Ireland but the fact that family welcomed his widow openly when she visited after the war show that they were
willing to forgive, if not support his decision.

People living in the area around Clermont and Livingston Manor were not so lucky. Over the course of the war several young men would sneak down to New York City to join loyalist forces, for which their father's were fined by the local Committee of Safety

In the case of John Cox Jr. it was the son who was a patriot while the father was a loyalist. At the age of 15 Cox was sent from New York City to the Clermont area to apprentice with Will Cockburn as a surveyor. Cox became a skilled surveyor, eventually laying out the town of Rhinebeck, where he would teach school serve as town clerk and eventually represent the town as a member of the New York State Assembly. He even married a local girl, Maria Schotter, in 1776.

Margaret Beekman Livingston, one of Cox's Livingston bosses
John Cox Sr. on the other hand stayed in New York City as a merchant even when the British captured the city in 1776. By the time the war was over Cox Sr. realized he would not be welcome in the new country and he, along with his wife and several of his other adult children took passage to Nova Scotia.

This story has a happy ending though,. In 1789 John Cox Sr. and his wife returned to New York City. Two years later following an incident with his son Jameson, in which Jameson threatened to cut his throat, the elder John Cox moved to Rhinebeck near his name sake son, John Cox Jr. in the mean time had become estate agent for Margaret Beekman Livingston. He soon exchanged that job for a job as estate agent for Janet Livingston Montgomery.

Seven boxes of Cox's papers survive in the Edward Livingston papers at Princeton University. This article owes a great deal to Stacy F. Roth and her article "Loyalist Father, Patriot Son: The Cox Family at Shelburne, Nova Scotia" from The Princeton University Library Chronicle Vol. 51 No.2 Pages 183-200.

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