Cox, William George
b. 1821
d. 1878-10-06
William George Cox was born in 1821 in Dublin, Ireland. On 6 November 1857, Cox married Sophia Elizabeth Webb, and the following month, Cox left a twelve-year position as a banker to immigrate to New York with his wife. However, after a few months in New York, Sophia moved back to Dublin. Cox continued to travel eastward, reaching British Columbia in early February of 1859.1
Cox acclimated within the community quickly, becoming a constable at Fort Yale the year of his arrival in British Columbia.2 In 1860, Cox became a Gold Commissioner, as well as a Justice of Peace for the Rock Creek District. Cox would hold these positions, working throughout the Cariboo region, from 1863 to 1867. Although, Cox's magisterial tactics were considered unorthodox; for example, he purportedly rendered the verdict of a gold claims case on the outcome of a foot race.3
Cox played a minor role in the events of the Chilcotin War. The war was fought between the Tsilhqot'in tribe under Klatsassin and British settlers over the death of fourteen men under the direction of Alfred Waddington.4 Waddington had begun construction of a road from Bute Inlet, and employed both British and Chilcotin men. The conflict was sparked by the Tsilhqot'in fear that British men had caused the spread of smallpox in their tribe in 1862, and as a result they attacked foreign invaders of their land.5 Cox and fifty other men recruited from various goldfields rode west from Alexandria in early June of 1864 and camped at Puntzi Lake, awaiting the arrival of Governor Seymour's men from New Westminster. Instead of pursuing the Tsilhqot'in, Cox stayed at Puntzi Lake for a month using all his supplies, and then sending for more. But, Governor Seymour did eventually send Cox and his men to chase rogue Tsilhqot'in near Tatla Lake.6 Cox's party joined Donald McLean's men at Fort Kamloops; however, McLean grew tired of Cox's incompetence and set out for Chilko Lake independently. McLean was killed during his pursuit.7 The Tsilhqot'in men surrendered to Cox, having believed that the Governor sent word suing for peace. However, this was not the case, and the warriors were arrested and hanged soon thereafter at Quesnel.8
Cox was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1867, and would hold the position for nearly two years.9 During a session on the question of which city should be the new capital of the colonies, Cox embarrassed a very inebriated William Hayles Franklyn of Nanaimo. Cox shuffled Franklyn's papers, causing him to read his prepared opening statement three times, and removed the lenses from his spectacles.10 Cox was subsequently dismissed in 1869, and moved to San Francisco to become an artist. He died 6 October 1878 amidst financial struggles.11
  • 1. G. R. Newell, Cox, William George, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Edward Sleigh Hewlett, Klatsassin, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Newell, Cox, William George.
  • 7. Winston A. Shilvock, The Chilcotin War, British Columbia Historical News, vol. 25, no. 3 (1992): 5-6.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Newell, Cox, William George.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid.
Mentions of this person in the documents