COX, William (1764-1837)


COX, William (1764-1837)
pioneer
son of Robert Cox, was born at Wimborne Minster, Dorset, England, on 19 December 1764. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School at Wimborne Minster, and afterwards went to live at Devizes. He was a landowner, served in the Wilts militia, and in July 1795 joined the regular army as an ensign. He became a lieutenant in February 1797, and in September 1798 was appointed paymaster at Cork. He was given the same position when he joined the New South Wales Corps and sailed for Sydney on 24 August 1799 on the transport Minerva, on which were about 160 convicts including General Holt (q.v.) and the Rev. H. Fulton (q.v.), both of whom, and indeed many of the other convicts, were really political prisoners. Cox used his influence so that the prisoners were frequently allowed up on deck to get fresh air, and Holt in his memoirs states that in consequence "the ship was the healthiest and best regulated which had ever reached the colony". It arrived in Sydney harbour on 11 January 1800. Almost immediately Cox bought a farm of 100 acres and installed Holt as its manager. Gradually considerable amounts of land were added, but Cox had incurred large liabilities and in 1803 his estate was placed in the hands of trustees. He had much money owing to him and though Cox believed that his assets were worth considerably more than the amount of his liabilities, his accounts as paymaster were involved, and he was suspended from office. In 1807 he was ordered to go to England. He evidently succeeded in clearing himself as he was promoted captain in 1808 (Aust. Ency.), in 1811 was again in New South Wales and principal magistrate at the Hawkesbury.
On 14 July 1814 Cox received a letter from Governor Macquarie accepting his voluntary offer to superintend the making of a road across the blue mountains from a ford on the river Nepean, Emu Plains, to a "centrical part of Bathurst Plains". He was given 30 labourers and a guard of eight soldiers. Work was begun on 18 July 1814 and it was finished on 14 January 1815. In April Macquarie drove his carriage across it from Sydney to Bathurst. It was not metalled, being merely a dirt track 12 feet wide, but it was nevertheless an amazing feat to have grubbed the trees, filled in holes, levelled the track, and built bridges in so short a time. There is no difficulty in believing the governor's statement that if it had been done under a contract it would have taken three years. The length of the road was 101½ miles and settlement of the land beyond the mountains began almost at once. Cox himself established a station near the junction of the Cudgegong and Macquarie rivers. He was now in prosperous circumstances and remained so until his death at Windsor on 15 March 1837. He married (1) Rebecca Upjohn and (2) Anna Blackford. There were five sons by the first marriage and three sons and a daughter by the second.
Cox was a man of great kindliness and fine character. Holt, who had worked for him, could never speak too well of him. Only a man of real ability with a genius for managing men could have built the track across the mountains in so short a time, and it would be difficult to find an equally remarkable feat in the early history of Australia.
Memoirs of William Cox, J.P.; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. IV, VI to IX; Memoirs of Joseph Holt.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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