Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The Story of the Pugh and Cox Families
Frances Jackson Freeman, Ph.D.

Quaker Religious Dissenters 
The influence of the Quaker Faith in 19th Century Louisiana has been largely overlooked, primarily for three reasons: 1) the Southern Quaker movement virtually perished in the aftermath of the American Revolution; 2) by the time they arrived in Louisiana, the families were “former” Quakers, having left their Faith and integrated into other churches; and 3) Southern prejudice against Quaker beliefs and practices was pronounced in the 1800’s and many Quakers hid their previous religious affiliation.  For these reasons, many descendants of Southern Quakers are unaware of their Quaker Roots and heritage. 

As a genealogist, I was at first surprised, and then delighted to discover the extent of my Quaker roots.   Surprised because this heritage was not a part of my family lore, and delighted because the Quakers kept and preserved extensive records.  This report focuses on two families (Cox and Pugh) who settled in Louisiana and specifically in DeSoto Parish before the Civil War.  Other allied North Louisiana families with Quaker ancestry include the Boone’s, Hick’s, Vaughn’s, Robinson’s, Stewart’s, Julian’s, Jackson’s, Swinebroad’s and Freeman’s.  We focus on the Cox and Pugh families because their history and migrations paralleled one another, and can be discussed together.

In 17th Centaury England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland the Quaker movement attracted many ardent
William Penn Negotiates with Native Americans
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, 17
th Century colonial boundaries placed many of the new immigrants in areas now located in Delaware or Maryland. 

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). 

      In North Carolina, the Cox, Pugh, and allied families (e.g. Hicks, Jackson, and Husband) played prominent roles in the Regulator Rebellion of the1760’s (see ccbn/dewitt/mckstmerreg1.htm).  In North Carolina, the wealthy, slave-holding, Anglican landowners of the coastal provinces desired to own and control the state’s western regions where poor Quakers, Presbyterians, Moravians, Baptists, and Methodists had settled.  The Crown-appointed Governor and the House of Burgesses enacted land ownership and taxation laws that forced western farmers off their lands and into bankruptcy. When the settlers forcibly objected, Governor Tyrone sent British troops to capture and hang dissenters.  

Plaque Commemorating the Hanging of Regulators
James Pugh and Hermon Cox were among the six hanged for treason on June 19, 1771. The leader of the Regulator Revolution was Herman Husband.  Herman’s first wife was Elsey Phebe Cox and his second was Mary Pugh.  Herman left North Carolina, and later played a critical role in the Whiskey Rebellion, siding against Washington.  You can read about this “First Act” in the America’s Revolution in Marjoleine Kars book, “Breaking Loose Together: the Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina” (2002) or in Jimmy Carter’s historical novel, “The Hornet’s Nest” (2003).  The key Battle of Alamance is featured as a significant event in Diane Gabaldon’s novel “The Fiery Cross,” in the 5th book in her “Outlander” series.


            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 ~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
The direct ancestor of many of the Louisiana Cox family, Thomas J. Cox, was born in Wrightsborough in 1775, just as the Declaration of Independence was signed.  His father Richard Cox (1750-1821) was born in Pennsylvania, and married Ann Hodgins (1756-1797) in Wrightsborough. They had three sons, including Thomas.  Richard was the son of Thomas Cox (1694-1784) and his wife Elizabeth Fincher (1700-1756).  Thomas was the son of William Cox (1658-1742) and his wife Naomi Amy Cantrell (1657-1742).  William Cox was one of the three Cox brothers (sons of Thomas Cox and Christian Matthews) who immigrated to America from London about 1680.

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.
The Revolutionary War years were a nightmare for the Quakers of Wrightsborough.  In the beginning, most held fast to Quaker pacifist (antiwar/ peace) doctrines.  However, both British loyalists (Tories) and American patriots eventually decided that, “If you aren’t with us, you must be against us,” and the Quakers were attacked by both groups.  The Indian allies of both the American and British forces raided Quaker farmers, and on at least one occasion attacked the settlement.  As the balance between Patriots and Tories moved back and forth, Quaker suffering was great.  The agony of the Revolutionary War years in this geographical area is depicted in the film, The Patriot, (2000) starring Mel Gibson.  Many Quaker men  (including our direct Cox and Pugh ancestors) eventually abandoned their pacifism, and fought for the American cause.  Others, members of the same families, held fast to Quaker teachings. Brothers opposed each other, wives opposed husbands, and sons were set against their fathers. The conflict in the community and within families was great.  Those Quakers who took up arms lost their good standing in the Quaker community and were eventually expelled.

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
2.     Native Americans (Indians) – The Quakers viewed Native Americans as fully human and worthy of education, Christian teachings, and respect.  They opened and maintained more schools for Indians than any other group.  They opposed cruel treatment, expulsion, and murder, and formed strong bonds with many groups.

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
The specific descent of my Cox family is as follows: Thomas J. Cox, Sr. (1775-1821) married Mary Polly Vaughn (1776-1838).  They had 12 children, including Lewis (1800-1852), Richmond (1803-1872) and Thomas Jr. (1810-1868).  Between 1811 and 1814, the Thomas Cox family moved to Clarke County Alabama. Eventually, ten of their 12 children moved west to Louisiana, settling in DeSoto, Union, Winn, and Beauregard Parishes (with one dying in Texas).  The Louisiana settlers included all three sons, Lewis, Richmond, and Thomas, Jr.  My direct Cox line is descended from Thomas, Jr. through his son, Thomas J. Cox III.  Thomas III (1810-1868) married Elizabeth Hicks (1807-1870) and settled first in Jackson and then in Winn Parish.  They had eight children (6 boys and 2 girls).  Their daughter Susan Jane Cox (1834-1900) is my 3rd great grandmother.  Their sons Thomas W., Lamuel Mansel, Golden D., John J., Lewis J., and Steven Lonzo are the ancestors of many citizens of DeSoto and Red River Parishes.  I consider Greggory E. Davies of Winnfield to be the premier living genealogist for the Louisiana (and Texas) branches of our Cox Family.

Pugh Family Crest
Susan Jane Cox married Stephen Pugh Jackson (1821-1880) in Winn Parish.  Stephen was the son of Isaac Jackson (1785-1839) and Mariam Pugh (1790-1836).  Stephen Pugh Jackson was orphaned by the deaths of his parents in 1836 an 1839.  He was the grandson of Elijah Steward Pugh (1760-1824) who was born in Wrightsborough and fought for American Independence.  After Stephen was orphaned, he traveled with his Uncle, Jesse Pugh (1795-1865) when Jesse moved from Clarke County Alabama to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.  After marrying Susan Jane Cox, Stephen settled near his in-laws in Winn Parish.  He served in Company E of the 8th Louisiana Calvary in the Army of the Confederate States of America.  His eldest son, Isaac Thomas Jackson (1755-1946) married Martha Ardella Dean (1855-1912) and moved his family to the Red Cross Community on the border of Red River and Natchitoches Parishes.  They are the grandparents of my father, Wilmer H. Jackson.

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  My own modest research into the Cox and Pugh Families can be found on in the tree entitled Frances’ Family History. 



  1. This is an absolute treasure! My Great Grandmother was a Pugh whose family came from Tennessee, originally from the Carolinas and Virginia. There are a couple Jesse Pugh's in our line, the farthest one back we haven't been able to find any information on other than his name was Jesse.

  2. My Mother is from Tennessee and she was a Pugh. We are black. I here good things, but how did my family get this name if the Pugh last name was for equality?

    1. Elijah Pugh held slaves. The Cox family did too. Either through adopting the Pugh or Cox names or through taking slave women with or without their consent, you have the Pugh name. You should have your DNA tested and that should give you an answer.

  3. My Mother is from Tennessee and she was a Pugh. We are black. I here good things, but how did my family get this name if the Pugh last name was for equality?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Dear Unknown, Apparently Frances has not seen your post yet. As Anonymous above I have several Jesse Pughs in my line I research. There are several potential reasons Your black ancestors have the Pugh link. although MANY of the Pughs followed Quaker tradition, not all did and some held a few slaves. At Emancipation, SOME former slaves took family names of former owners others of neighbors that were kind to them.Also consider, many native tribes held slaves of various national origin as well as members of other tribes. In short, there are several potential reasons for your Pugh ancestors to have the name

  6. Dear Anymous and Buffalo Bob -- Bob, thanks for your helpful answer with which I agree. However, the best answer may lie in DNA testing. I've recently done the Ancestry tests, and have a number of connections to Pugh family descendants. Building up the Pugh DNA bank should help us connect the various lines.