95 West 2nd South


Author, Lois Brown, published in Saga of the Sanpitch

The Big House was the home toward which Frederick Walter Cox had struggled for many years. He had left the home where he was born, traveled to Ohio where he joined the Mormon Church, married and suffered as he journeyed west to finally settle in Manti and build a home for his family.

Into the home he brought four wives, seven sons, and sixteen daughters, who had gradually become his family since the Prophet Joseph Smith united him and Emeline Whiting at a Mormon meeting in 1833. The young couple felt this was an auspicious occasion. Their families had been converts to the church of which Smith was the leader, and the night before the marriage the Prophet had been dragged from his home by a mob and tarred and feathered. Some of his loyal followers had spent much of the night removing the horrible tar, so he could perform the ceremony. However, under one ear there was a spot of black that had escaped the cleaners, and that little spot was what Emeline told her children was the badge of the Prophet’s suffering, and a warning of what was to come in the lives of the Mormons.

When the church introduced the doctrine of Plural marriage, Cox added two more wives to his family. One was twenty-two-year-old Cordelia Morley, daughter of Isaac Morley. The other was Jemima Losee. These two women, along with Emeline, were sealed to Cox in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846.

On June 20, 1852, Cox gathered his three wives, several children and Jemima’s fifteen-year-old sister Lydia (who was an orphan [her father was dead]) and started with a band of other Saints for a country where they could live and practice their religion in peace.

The Cox family had their possessions in wagons with seven yoke of oxen and cows. They were beset by all the troubles of such travel at that time. By the time they had gone a hundred miles, thirteen of the band had died of cholera, and on August 8th, Emeline gave birth to a daughter, who added to the problems, but survived. They arrived in Manti three years after the first settlers. The Little Fort was their home for nine years, during which time several more children were born, Cox married Lydia, and the family quarried rock and built The Big House.

When it was completed it was the biggest and best house in Manti. It still is lived in and called the Polygamy House. Children and grandchildren of Cox remembered it as a house of harmony and industry, with a loving father, mother, "aunts" and children of all ages,

Each wife had her own kitchen, sort of. Jemima’s and Cordelia’s were in the same room, the northeast one with steps to the east that led outside. North of the steps was a window with nine small panes. Under this window Cordelia had a table and stove; Jemima's table and stove stood on the opposite wall. Daylight for this large room came through the nine-paned window. A candle or a pine knot in the fireplace at the center of the north wall provided night-time light, or sometimes there was a “slut”, a small rag pulled through the shank of a button and placed in a saucer of grease. For a time, when the house was first built, the fireplace had provided the only stove for both families. A loom used by both women stood in the center of the room. The other two wives shared similar accommodations. Each wife and her children had an apartment which was respected by all others in the house. One of the daughters later stated that the home was "a blessing in sunshine, an anchor in storm.”

Upstairs in one large room there were, ranged side by side and facing the windows and the street, several looms and 7 or 8 spinning wheels. Here cloth was made for clothing and household linens. Rugs were also woven. The girls spent long hours here, and to make the time pass more pleasantly, they vied with one another. One day Rosalie wove ten yards of linsey; Lavina spun ten skeins in one day and spent the next day in bed as the result of so much labor. The girls also sang as they worked. Some stories were set to music. The favorite was "Ritter Baum" which had fourteen verses.

One large light room upstairs was the schoolroom. Mothers and older girls were teachers. Cordelia had been a scholar from the time she was a child, and in competition in school she had been awarded a cash prize for her accomplishment. At age sixteen she began to teach younger members of the family. She continued her teaching in the Little Fort and then in the Big House.

Emeline was a great storyteller with a sense of humor and a memory for anecdotes and stories, so she was valuable in the schoolroom. Her problem was that “she was quickly annoyed with ignorance, and her looks of scorn were withering.”

Since this was the only home in Manti with a schoolroom, there were classes in the evening for older children and adults. There were classes for both learning and recreation. William K Barton taught singing and Uncle Orvill [S. Cox] taught dancing. There were also public dances here, as it was the nicest room in town for this purpose.

Meetings were also held here, often for the family, sometimes for the public. Some of the meetings were testimony meetings, so the children learned early the value and proper form for such speeches. Cox played the flute. There was never lack of music for meetings or family fun.

After spinning and weaving, clothing had to be sewed, and the task was shared, but Emeline was the chief seamstress. One year she made fourteen men's suits. She also knitted socks and gloves, which she sometimes sold. She sent one box to California with Andrew Merriam, and with the money she made from the sale, she bought a water pitcher.

With money Cordelia won for excelling in school, she had bought knitting needles and learned to use them efficiently. Soon she had knitted her own stockings, then stockings for brothers and sisters. As a wife in the Big House, she knitted and sewed for the extended family.

While clothes for this large family were spun, woven, sewed and knitted, one pair of shoes for each member was bought each year. The rest of the time they went bare foot or with things contrived by sewing and knitting to protect the feet and keep them warm. One of the daughters asked her mother if father had ever bought her a dress and was told, "A dress, no.” But the fact was impressed on her that he provided the sheep for wool and the equipment used in converting wool into clothing.

Cox made trips to Salt Lake City at Conference time, and at that time he bought some of the necessities that were unavailable in Manti. He usually took some of the women with him so they "could have an outing."

The father and boys of the family farmed, so they raised much of their food. They also built looms, spinning wheels, swifts reels, sleds, wagons and furniture. The girls were often in the fields working with the boys or taking food out to them. The girls delighted in helping. Shortly before shearing, the sheep were herded to the warm springs south of town where a large spout had been built so the sheep could be bathed. Then the wool would be softer and cleaner when the women started working with it.

When the wool was sheared it was weighed and divided among the women according to the number of children they had.

Cox went on three L.D.S. Missions in the United States, one very special one to the Indians. He also went on a twenty-seven-month mission to England. When he left his large family to fend for itself, there was a hectic and often tragic time. The older boys assumed burden of running the farm and caring for the animals, everyone helping at especially busy times. Food was scarce during these times, and the father’s help and guidance was sorely missed. Shortly after he left on his English mission, a baby was born to Emeline. “The baby died and Emeline was seriously ill for a long time. Edwin was accidentally shot in the back, but survived; Cordelia’s daughter Arletta had her fingers chopped off; Jemima parted with seven-year-old Carmelia and two girls were terribly burned."

How they needed their father and husband at this time. When the time approached for his return, the girls crowded around the “busy body" (the round window in the garret in the north gable) to watch for his return. The afternoon of his return they caught sight of his covered wagon and his oldest girls set off to meet him. They met him at the Temple Hill and he clasped Rosalia to him and sighed, "I can only guess which one you are."

The Big House was a natural gathering place for young people, and when the children became of marriageable age there was a time of intense activity and romance there. In the 1870’s seventeen of the children were married.

The big house was home for a polygamist family. They made the plan work, but when Emeline, the love and wife of F. W. Cox's youth, comforted one of the boys and his wife when they were upset at leaving friends and family, her last statement to them was “If I could have my husband to myself I would go to the ends of the earth! "


Records left by daughters of F.W. Cox
Notes from Cox reunions 1898, 1967 and one later undated
Obituary of F.W. Cox
Obituary of Emeline Whiting Cox.
Sketches of lives of Emeline, Jemima, Cordelia and Lydia Cox.
List of children--38.
Tribute to Emeline by Therissa Emerette Cox Clark.
Sketch of Cordelia by Therissa Emerette Cox Clark.
"Incidents in the Big House."
"Early Pioneer Life in Manti, Utah."
Genealogy sheets.

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