Biographical sketch of Orville Sutherland Cox, Pioneer of 1847

partly from a sketch written by Adelia B. Cox Sidwell for the "Daughters of the Pioneers", Manti, Utah, 1913.

The Pioneer Spirit

The Pioneer Spirit that mastered things
And broke the virgin sod,
That conquered savages and kings,
And only bowed to God
The strength of mind and strength of soul –
The will to do or die,
That sets it’s heart upon a goal,
And made it far or high.

    Clarence Hawkes

1 Apprentice

Orville S. Cox, was born in Plymouth, N. Y. November 25, 1814. He was one of a family of 12 children, ten of whom reached maturity. His father died when he was about fifteen years old,. and he was then "bound out"; apprenticed to learn the trade of a blacksmith under a deacon Jones, who was considered an excellent man as he was a pillar of the church. The agreement was that he was to work obediently until he reached twenty one and that Jones was to give him board and clothes, three months of school each winter, and teach him the trade of blacksmithing. No schooling was given or allowed, and one pair of jeans pants was all the clothing he received during the first three years of his apprenticeship, and his food was rather limited too. The women folks ran a dairy, but the boy was never allowed a drink of milk, of which he was very fond because the Mrs. said "it made too big a hole in the cheese." He was indeed a poor little bondsman, receiving plenty of abusive treatment. As to teaching him the trade, he was kept blowing the bellows and using the tongs and heavy sledge. But the deacon sometimes went to distant places and then the boy secretly used the tools and practiced doing the things his keen eyes had watched his master do. During some of these hours of freedom, he made himself a pair of skates from pieces of broken nails he gathered carefully and saved.

Also, he straightened a discarded gun barrel and made a hammer, trigger, sights, etc, to it, so that he had an effective weapon. Those things he had to keep hidden from the eyes of his master and associates, but secretly he had great joy in his possessions and once in a while found a little time to use them.

Occasional1y the monotony at the bellows and with the tongs and sledge was broken in other ways. For example-at one time oxen were brought to the shop to be shod that had extremely hard hoofs, called "glassy hoofs". Whenever Deacon undertook to drive a nail in, it bent. Cox straightened nails over and over, as nails were precious articles in those days and must not be discarded because they were bent. After a while, the boy said "let me". And he shod the oxen without bending a single nail. Thereafter Cox shod the oxen, one and all that came to the shop.

One other pleasant duty was his: that of burning charcoal, as coal was then undiscovered. He learned much of the trade of the woodman while attending to the pits in the depth off the mighty New York Forests, as well as having an opportunity to use his skates and gun a little.

He acquired the cognomen of “Deek” among his associates, and when he had worked for something over three years, he came to the conclusion that was all he would ever acquire, along with harsh treatment; so during one of the Deacon’s visits to a distant parish, he gathered together his few belongings and a lunch, between two days, shouldered his home made gun and “hit the trail for the tall timber”, that being the route on which he was least apt to be discovered. He made his way toward the Susquehanna. He began reconnoitering for a means of crossing or floating down the river and soon discovered a log canoe, “dug-out” as it was called, frozen in the mud. He decided to confiscate it as “contraband of war” and pried it up, launched it, and was soon floating and paddling in it down toward the junction of the Tioga and the Susquehanna.

Shortly he felt his tired feet being submerged in cold water. Stooping to investigate, he found that the log was leaky and rapidly filling with water. The also found an old woolen firkin, a small barrel, that he at once began making use of, bailing the water, alternately paddling, steering and bailing. He continued down stream, keeping near the shore as possible in case the old dug-out should get the best of him. The second day he heard “Hello, there, will you take a passenger?” from a man on shore. “Yes, if you will help bail, steer and row.” “Barkis is willin”, came the reply, so there were two in the log canoe.

Then they made better time. Nearing the confluence of the rivers, they saw a boat preparing to leave the dock for a trip up the Susquehanna, a primitive stern wheel packet of those early days (1831). He and his passenger applied themselves to their paddling, bailing and steering, signaling the boat to wait: just as she started he drew near enough to leap from the dug-out to her deck.