QUAKER FAMILIES IN DESOTO PARISH & LOUISIANA:
The Story of the Pugh and Cox Families
Frances Jackson Freeman, Ph.D.
|Quaker Religious Dissenters|
In 17th Centaury England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland the Quaker movement attracted many ardent
followers. The stubborn Quakers were a thorn in the side
of the established Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal). Because of resulting persecution, many
Quakers in England and Wales immigrated to Ireland or to the American
Colonies. The British government was
happy to be rid of these hardheaded dissidents, and further encouraged them to
leave through a major land grant to William Penn. While we think mostly of this grant as bringing
Quakers to Pennsylvania, 17th Century colonial boundaries placed
many of the new immigrants in areas now located in Delaware or Maryland.
|William Penn Negotiates with Native Americans|
In 1684, James M. Pugh and his brother David, Quaker converts, from Merionethshire, Wales, immigrated to Radnor Township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. There they married Quaker Welsh sisters Joan and Catherine Elizabeth Price. By the time James died in 1724 and David in 1738, their children were already moving south.
About that same time, three Quaker brothers from London, William (1658-1742), John (1675-1711) and Thomas Cox (1674-1711) arrived in Maryland, were married in New Castle, Delaware, and eventually buried in Pennsylvania. These brothers were sons of Thomas Cox (1641-1711) and his wife Christian Matthews (1649-1679). In the four subsequent generations (approximately 200 years), members of the Pugh and Cox families migrated south and west, always moving together and occasionally intermarrying. They initially migrated into Virginia, settling in the less populated western regions, and then into western North and South Carolina (mostly in Orange, Anson, Rowen, Cumberland, and Granville Counties and near the towns of Guilford and Hillsborough).
|Plaque Commemorating the Hanging of Regulators|
In the aftermath of the Regulator Rebellion, North Carolina was no longer a “healthy” place for the Cox and Pugh families. Led by Joseph Maddock and Jonathan Sell, they joined other Quaker families in moving to Georgia where they established a Quaker settlement named Wrightsborough, (see http://freepages. genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry. com/~wrightsborough/history.htm or http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ ~gentutor/ Wrights.pdf ). The town’s name honored Gov. James Wright of Georgia, whose lack of religious prejudice and forward thinking led him to welcome this Quaker settlement in his Colony. The ruins of the town of Wrightsborough are an historical site and can be visited today.
|Historical Marker in Wrightsboro, Georgia|
Elijah Stewart Pugh (direct ancestor of the DeSoto Parish Pughs) was born in Guilford North Carolina in 1760, and married Ruth Julian in Wrightsborough in 1784. Elijah’s father, Jesse Pugh (1732-1811) and his wife Elizabeth Stewart (1736-1804) had six sons. Jesse was the son of Thomas Pugh (1703-1794) and his wife Elizabeth Richardson (1709-1794). Thomas was the son of James M. Pugh (1665-1724) and his wife Joan Price (1670-1723), the Welsh Quaker immigrant of 1684 discussed above.
|The Rock House in Wrightsborough GA.|
After the end of the Revolution, Quakers abandoned the township of Wrightsborough and the settlement gradually died. Those who remained faithful to Quaker doctrines moved north, mostly into the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Those who choose to fight with the Americans remained in the South, claimed head-right lands for their military service, and moved further west. Our Cox and Pugh families settled in Georgia and then in Alabama before moving to Louisiana.
The split in these families must have been heart wrenching. Richard Cox, and one of his sons moved to Illinois, while the other three sons remained in the South. Jesse Pugh and three of his sons (including Elijah Steward Pugh) remained in the South while the other three sons moved north to Ohio and Indiana. Family records show that members of these separated families wrote letters and made long pilgrimages in order to maintain family ties across the divides of religion and geography.
In additional to their opposition to War and violence, Quakers differed in a number of beliefs from other groups of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Even though they abandoned, the Quaker faith, many ex-Quakers maintained these core values or beliefs as witnessed by their later actions and writings. In addition to pacifism, Quakers held the following views:
1. Slavery – Quakers opposed slavery. When servitude was accepted, they held it must be voluntary and/or for a limited term (as with indentured servants). All actions toward others must be humane, and motivated by the good of the mortal body and immortal soul. Quakers were required to educate and emancipate slaves.
|Quaker Meeting House Visited by Native Americans|
3. Literacy and Education – Quakers placed premium value on literacy and education, and believed that everyone (male, female, White, Black, Indian) should be educated. Every believer was to read and interpret scripture for themselves, and this required universal literacy. They built schools and colleges everywhere they settled. Because most were literate, they kept extensive written records.
4. Women – Quaker women enjoyed a higher level of literacy, economic rights, and political power than most other women of their era. They presided over and conducted their own church conferences, and voted and made democratic decisions. They taught school, kept written records, presided over meetings, and voted. It is not surprising that in later years Quaker women were leaders in the anti-slavery and suffrage movements.
Leaving behind the bad memories of Wrightsborough, the Patriot Cox and Pugh Families first moved further westward into Georgia. However, when the lands of Alabama were opened to white settlement during the War of 1812, they moved to south Alabama, settling in what is now Clarke County near the town of Grove Hill. The courthouse in Grove Hill contains many original documents related to these families, and the Clarke County Historical Society has a great deal of information about both families. We visited cemeteries where our Cox and Pugh ancestors are buried, and met distant cousins in town. The monument to Revolutionary War Soldiers of Clarke County includes the names of Elijah Pugh and John Cox.
|Monument Honoring the Veterans of the American Revolution Who Founded Clarke County Alabama|
|Cox Family Crest|
|Pugh Family Crest|
Jesse Pugh had 12 children including 8 sons, at least 7 of whom left descendants in Louisiana. Recent DNA studies have connected the far-ranging branches of the Pugh family to their early Quaker ancestors. This information is available on Ancestry.com. My own modest research into the Cox and Pugh Families can be found on Ancestry.com in the tree entitled Frances’ Family History.