Mathew Hopkins was the son-in-law of Gustavus Brown, a wealthy Scottish physician in Charles County. In 1742 Hopkins acquired land, and built “a habitation in Rock Creek, Potomack River, in Maryland.” Burleith, the name of this habitation, was derived from a locality on the outskirts of Kilmarnock, Scotland, where the Hopkins family were in business as merchants.
The Scottish immigrant Gustavus Richard Brown (1689-1765), who arrived in Maryland in 1708, married Frances Fowke (1691-1744) at her birthplace, Rich Hill, in Charles County, in 1711. She was the daughter of Gerard Fowke, Jr. (1662-1734), of Charles County; and the granddaughter of Col. Gerard Fowke (1606-1669), the owner of several plantations in Virginia, and several others in Charles County, Maryland.
In addition to the wealth which his biographer says that Brown acquired by this advantageous marriage, he also gained a “large and remunerative” practice as a physician to the gentry of Maryland and Virginia. In the end, his success was such that he was able to return to Scotland and become the “Laird of Mainside and the House of Byers”. (J. M. Toner, ”A Sketch of the Life of Gustavus Richard Brown”, Sons of the Revolution in State of Virginia Quarterly Magazine, Vol. 2, January 1923, p.12; Moncure Daniel Conway, Autobiography, Memories and Experiences, 1904; “Colonel Gerard Fowke of Virginia and Maryland, from 1651”, Maryland Historical Magazine, 1921, Vol.16, pp.1-19)
In Scotland Brown also found a husband for one of his daughters: in 1732 Mathew Hopkins (born 1711), the son of a merchant family of Kilmarnock, married Mary Brown (born at Rich Hill in 1717, died 1801). That the bride had more money than the groom may be inferred from the report of Gustavus Brown’s biographer that all his sons-in-law were required to secure upon their wives at marriage the property he gave them as dower. (Howard Atwood Kelly, A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography, 1912, Vol.1, p.152)
Records show that a portion of Brown’s new American wealth was in human form; he owned 45 slaves at the time of his death. It is also clear that Brown took at least one of these slaves back home with him. On March 7, 1727, the Courant, a newspaper in Scotland, offered a reward for the apprehension of a female servant described as “A negro woman, named Ann, about eighteen years of age, with a green gown, and a brass collar about her neck, on which are engraved these words––“Gustavus Brown in Dalkeith, his negro, 1726.” (“Progress of Popular Liberty in Scotland”, p.38, in Peter Ross, Kingcraft in Scotland, and other Essays and Sketches, 1897; “Inventory of the Goods and Chattles of Doctor Gustavus Brown deceas’d”, May 29, 1762” (Recorded July 20, 1768), Charles County [Maryland] Inventories, 1766-1773, pp. 203-209)
When Gerard Fowke, Jr., Gustavus Brown’s father-in-law, died (January 20, 1734), Gustavus and Frances Brown returned to Maryland, and it seems likely that Mathew and Mary Hopkins accompanied them. (“Colonel Gerard Fowke of Virginia and Maryland, from 1651”, Maryland Historical Magazine, 1921, Vol.16, pp.1-19; James Hopkins, recorded deposition and certificate, May 7, 1753: Patricia Abelard Andersen, Frederick County, Maryland Land Records, 1752-1756, pp. 150-155; Alvin T. Embrey, History of Fredericksburg Virginia, 1937, p.126)
Gustavus Brown died in 1765. The terms of his will left his wife Margaret his land in Scotland, and the “use of all my negroes, hogs, horses, sheep and cattle, and every plantation utensil that belong thereto”. The language of Brown’s will makes it abundantly clear that, for a man with seven daughters, the sine qua non of inheritance was a male heir.
From his wife the estate was to pass to his son, Gustavus Richard Brown (1747-1804), “and to the male heirs of his body, lawfully begotten, forever, and for want of such heirs, to the eldest son of my daughter, Frances Moncure, and the male heirs of his body, lawfully begotten, forever, and for want of such heirs, to the eldest son of my daughter, Sarah Scott, and the male heirs of his body, lawfully begotten, forever, and for want of such heirs, to the eldest son of my daughter, Mary Threlkeld, and the male heirs of his body, lawfully begotten, forever, and for want of such heirs, to the eldest son of my daughter, Elizabeth Wallace, and the male heirs of his body, lawfully begotten, forever, and for want of such heirs, to the eldest son of my daughter, Jane Campbell, and the male heirs of his body, lawfully begotten, forever, and for want of such heirs, to the eldest son of my daughter, Cecilia Kay, and the male heirs of his body, lawfully begotten, forever, and for want of such heirs, to the eldest son of my daughter, Ann Claggett, and the male heirs of his body lawfully.” (The Will of Dr. Gustavus Brown, p.24, in J.M. Toner,” A Sketch of the Life of Gustavus Richard Brown”, Sons of the Revolution in State of Virginia Quarterly Magazine, Vol. 2, January 1923, p.12)
In 1687 the immigrant Robert Mason (1653-1700), a planter in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, on the lower Potomac River, had patented 300 acres about seventy miles upriver from where he lived. (Mason was entitled to these acres by headright, i.e. in return for having paid for the transportation of nine laborers or indentured servants from Britain to Maryland. Mason’s English birthplace may be indicated by the name he gave his land: Salop, i.e. Shropshire.)
Six decades later part of Salop had passed into possession of Osborne Sprigg, along with a parcel to the east of it, out of what formerly called Salcom, that was declared vacant and granted to James Smith in 1732 as Knaves Disappointment. Sprigg sold Mathew Hopkins, the son-in-law of Gustavus Brown, a tract of 300 acres of Salop.
(Patent recorded NS#2, f.267, August 26, 1741 [Research by Priscilla W. McNeil]; Joshua Dorsey Warfield, The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland, 1905, p.262, 318; F. S. Reader, Some Pioneers of Washington County, Pa., 1902, p.24)
A few years later Mathew Hopkins ordered a resurvey of the land that he bought.
“By virtue of a Special Warrant of Resurvey bearing date by renewment 3 December 1744 to resurvey a tract of land called Salop, I find the original runs as formerly and contains 300 acres to which I have added 265 acres of contiguous vacancy all which appear per the Platt below… containing and now laid out for 565 acres of land, to be held of Calverton Mannor, resurveyed for Mathew Hopkins by Peter Dent, Deputy Surveyor. Surveyed 10 May 1745.”
(The Resurvey of Salop, Mathew Hopkins, 1745, Prince Georges County, 565 acres. Patent recorded PT#1, f.122. Survey recorded LG#E, f.412. Survey Certificate #1828. Research by Priscilla W. McNeil.)
Briefly, Hopkins also held title to land lying north, south and east of Salop. In 1745, James Russell, merchant of Prince Georges County, sold Mathew Hopkins, of the same county and state, the northern 200 acres of Knave’s Disappointment, for 40 pounds sterling. Hopkins then sold George Gordon 136 acres, “being a tract called Knave’s Disappointment, lying near Rock Creek Ferry”, for 77 pounds 4 shillings. (Prince Georges County Land Records, Liber BB1, f.487-8, sale September 12, 1745, recorded November 28, 1745; Liber BB1, f. 501-2, sale October 23 or 30, 1745, recorded December 24, 1745)
As there is no indication that Osborne Sprigg, of Prince Georges County, had a dwelling on Salop when he sold the land to Hopkins, it seems reasonable to conclude that Hopkins built the first house on it. And, as the name Burleith refers an exceedingly obscure locality on the outskirts of Kilmarnock, Scotland, where his family were in business as merchants, it appears safe to conclude that it must have been Hopkins who gave his house that name.
Mathew Hopkins, “late of Maryland, Merchant… died intestate… at his habitation in Rock Creek, Potomack River, in Maryland… in or about the month of January, 1751.”
(Edward C. Papenfuse, et al, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, vol.426, p.580; Patricia Abelard Andersen, Frederick County, Maryland Land Records, 1752-1756, pp. 180-183; James Hopkins, recorded deposition and certificate, May 7, 1753: Patricia Abelard Andersen, Frederick County, Maryland Land Records, 1752-1756, pp. 150-155)
“Henry Threlkeld, of Frederick County, merchant, recorded June 2, 1753, made May 24 1753, between James Hopkins of North Britain, Chirugen brother and heir at law to Mathew Hopkins late of Frederick County, merchant, deceased: for 100 pounds, tract called “Salop,” now part of “Resurvey on Salop,” in the freshes of Potomack River near to George Town which tract Mathew Hopkins did purchase from Osborne Sprigg, on the southwest corner of John Evans land; [metes and bounds given] for 265 acres more or less; also part of another tract called “Knave’s Disappointment,” in Frederick County, adjacent to the original tract of “Salop,” which Mathew Hopkins bought from James Russell, [metes and bounds given], containing 64 acres.
(Patricia Abelard Andersen, Frederick County, Maryland Land Records, 1752-1756, pp. 180-183)
“In the year 1742, Mathew Hopkins, of Kilmarnock, County of Ayr, Scotland, came to Rock Creek, now in Montgomery County, Md., where he died January, 1751. He bought from Osburn Spriggs August 26, 1741, a tract of 300 acres of land called Sallop and later bought other lands. At his death he left a widow, Mary, who afterwards married Henry Thralkeld, but they had no children. James Hopkins, brother of Mathew, County of Ayr, was appointed by his mother to act as her attorney, to receive all property that might be due her from Mathew’s estate. The power of attorney was dated April 29, 1752, and May 24, 1753, James Hopkins deeded to Henry Thralkeld and wife the tract of land called Sallop, and a part of the tract known as Resurvey, a part of which was incorporated in Georgetown, D. C.”
(Joshua Dorsey Warfield, The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland, 1905, p.262, 318; F. S. Reader, Some Pioneers of Washington County, Pa., 1902, p.24)
The 1753 buyer of the tract called Salop, and part of Resurvey, was another immigrant, who may have been a factor for a Scottish merchant firm buying tobacco. At the same time that Henry Threlkeld (born June 12, 1716, at Coburg, Parish of Kirkoswald, County Cumberland, England, died 1781?) bought Mathew Hopkins’ land, he also married his widow and administratrix, Mary Brown Hopkins. Threlkeld paid Mary’s brother-in-law James Hopkins one hundred pounds for three tracts of land north and west of Georgetown, totaling 629 acres, that had been the property of the deceased Mathew. A family historian (loosely) characterized the purchase as “an estate known as “Berleith” in the District of Columbia, said to contain 1000 acres extending northward from the present sit of Georgetown College and Convent”.
(Hansford Lee Threlkeld, Threlkeld Genealogy, 1932, pp.11,305; Frederick County Land Records, Liber E, f.180-3, May 24, 1753, recorded June 2, 1753. Notes made at Maryland Hall of Records by Margaret Reckmeyer, 1971-1973, “Beatty” file, Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library)
The Hopkins-Threlkeld house probably stood south of Reservoir Road and west of 35th Street, on the highest spot now owned by Visitation Convent and School. “When a tennis court was built in 1939 [on the grounds of Visitation School], ruins of Burleith, home of Henry Threlkeld, built in 1716, and burned shortly after the Revolution, were discovered.” (It should be noted here that this assertion, that Burleith was built in 1716––a date which seems to have first appeared in Washington, City and Capital in 1937, and has been repeated ever since––makes no sense, as its most likely builder, Mathew Hopkins, would still have been a child in Scotland at the time. It is far more likely that Burleith was built between 1742 and 1751.)
(James Hopkins, recorded deposition and certificate, May 7, 1753: Patricia Abelard Andersen, Frederick County Maryland Land Records, 1752-1756, pp.150-155; HABS No. DC-211, Walter A. Peter, AIA, March 28, 1969: Georgetown Visitation Convent, Historic American Buildings Survey, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, p.4, quoting Randall Bond Truett, ed., Washington D.C., A Guide to the Nation’s Capital, 1968, quoting Washington, City and Capital, 1937, p.745-6)
If it is true that the “original Berlieth was burned shortly after the Revolution”––the source for this is Washington, City and Capital––it follows that the house was subsequently rebuilt, because a house of that name is mentioned as late as 1826. “Died on Sunday last at Burleith, residence of John Threlkeld, Elizabeth R. Threlkeld, in her 16th year, 8 days after mother.” (Washington, City and Capital, 1937, p.745-6; National Intelligencer, August 31, 1826)
John Threlkeld (1757-1830)––the son of Henry Threlkeld and Mary Brown Hopkins, and the grandson of Dr. Gustavus Brown––was a leading citizen of Georgetown. During the American Revolution his name appears as one of the county’s Committee of Correspondence. Threlkeld was a director of the Bank of Columbia. He served as an alderman when Georgetown incorporated in 1789, and was elected mayor in 1793 to 1797. Later, he sat on the Levy Court, which governed the part of the District of Columbia outside the cities of Georgetown and Washington, called Washington County.
John Threlkeld experimented with raising merino sheep (from which we may deduce a possible use for land described as “thin and stony” in 1785 assessments). George Washington bought English cattle from John Threlkeld in 1797, and Thomas Jefferson received mulberry and peach apricot cuttings from Threlkeld in 1809, the year that Threlkeld helped found the Columbian Agricultural Society for the Promotion of Rural and Domestic Economy.
(Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town, 1933, pp.85–6; Papenfuse, Maryland Public Officials, vol.1, p.229; National Intelligencer, September 9, 1830; George Washington to Thomas Peter, 14 June 1797: The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 1, 4 March 1797 – 30 December 1797, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998, p. 186; Thomas Jefferson to John Threlkeld, 8 March 1809: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, vol. 1, 4 March 1809 to 15 November 1809, ed. J. Jefferson Looney. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 40)
The property assembled by John Threlkeld and his father, consolidated in 1791 as Alliance, consisted of well over a thousand acres, and included what is now Georgetown University, Visitation Convent and School, Duke Ellington High School, the Washington International School, Foxhall Village, Burleith, Hillandale, Wesley Heights, Whitehaven Park, Glover-Archbold Park, and much of Glover Park. But, by 1827, Alliance was no more. “Marshall’s Sale of lands and tenements in Washington County, D.C., seized and taken in execution as the estate and property of John Threlkeld, to be sold to satisfy debts due by him to the Union Bank of Georgetown, Clement Smith and the Bank of the United States.” (National Intelligencer, January 5-19, December 24, 1827)
“Died: On August 30, at his residence, on the heights of Georgetown, D.C., John Threlkeld, in his 73rd year. Born and resided during his life on the spot where he died. Before the separation of this county from Maryland, he represented his fellow citizens in the Legislature of that state. Mr. Threlkeld was an industrious and worthy man, with a numbrous family. A few years since, misfortune overwhelmed him, and he was stripped of his property. A few days before his death he was active and in hale health.”
(National Intelligencer, September 9, 1830)
(Frederick County Land Records, Liber E, f.180-3; Threlkeld and Cox files, 1785 Assessments, Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library; Fredericktown Herald, August 11, 1810; National Intelligencer, August 17, 1810; May 7, November 6, 1811; August 31, 1826; January 5-19, December 24, 1827; September 9, 1830; Rev. Thomas Bloomer Balch, Reminiscences of Georgetown, 1859; Abstract of Title to “BURLEITH” in Frederic W. Huidekoper, 1887: ms. 127, Historical Society of Washington; Washington, City and Capital, 1937, pp.369, 745-6; “Mount Hope Lives Again”, John Claggett Proctor, The Sunday Star, February 8, 1942)
(See also Slaves of John Threlkeld)
At one time the land northwest of the intersection of 35th and Reservoir Road NW may have served as a burial ground. Here, in 1798, Col. William Deakins, Jr., a soldier of the Revolutionary War and a member of the Maryland convention to ratify the Federal Constitution, was laid to rest. With fellow Georgetowner Benjamin Stoddert, Deakins had been President Washington’s confidential agent in the ferocious real estate speculation connected with the founding of the national capital.
In 1822 the land was deeded by John Threlkeld to his son-in-law, Georgetown importer and banker John Cox, who built a house there called The Cedars. Cox served as mayor of Georgetown from 1823 to 1845. The Cedars burned in 1847, and Cox died two years later.
His son, Richard Smith Cox, rebuilt The Cedars and sold it to W.D.C. Murdock. William David Clark Murdock (1806-1886) was Addison Murdock’s only son, and heir to his considerable real estate holdings. Murdock started selling off land in Whitehaven in 1843, and in 1865 he divided part of Friendship into lots. Dogged by creditors, he died amid “pecuniary embarrassments.”
In 1873 The Cedars was bought by George Earle, Assistant Postmaster General in the Grant Administration. His daughters, known as “The Misses Earle”, ran a female seminary in one wing of the house. There was a spring of cool water, called “Bear Wallow Spring”, on the grounds, which, by 1889, was coming out of a pump.
The Cedars was razed some time after 1890, and construction of Western High School on the site started in 1897. When the school opened it was a model in every respect; the school lunch room served its students meals with linen, silver, china, napkins and finger bowls.
The environs of the school were not considered quite so elegant. “Affairs in Georgetown – Carpet Beating Objectionable. The prevalence of diphtheria, scarlet fever and other contagious diseases in the northwest section of the town is attributed by some of the residents to the practice of beating carpets on the vacant lots north and west of the high school, on what is known as the Burleith subdivision. Carpets from all sections of the city seem to be brought to this place every spring and fall and dusted by colored men.”
(Abstract of Title to “BURLEITH” in Frederic W. Huidekoper, 1887, ms. 127, Historical Society of Washington; Threlkeld and Cox files, Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library; Columbia Historical Society, Vol.21, p.142; District of Columbia Probate Records, compiled by Wesley Pippenger, p.15; DC Liber WB6 (1822) f. 340; DC Liber JAS101 (1855) f.449/357; Washington Federalist, Georgetown, D.C., November 8, 1802; National Intelligencer, January 17, 1818; Georgetown Courier, January 22, 1869, November 11, 1871; Georgetown Courier, September 13, 1873; The Rambler, Star, September 21, 1889; Proctor, Star, February 8, 1942, p.B4; Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan, The History of the National Capital, Vol.1, p.223; Washington, City and Capital, 1937, pp.369, 745-6; Western High School History, 1940; Bob Arnebeck, Through a Fiery Trial, 1991; Edgar Farr Russell, A Short History of Burleith, 1955)
John Cox (born 1775- died December 14, 1849) was an orphan, raised in Baltimore by an uncle, who came to Georgetown in 1798 and opened a store.
FALL GOODS – JOHN COX has received his entire assortment of FALL GOODS which is large and handsome. (Washington Federalist, Georgetown, D.C., November 8, 1802)
John Cox married Matilda Smith, sister of banker Clement Smith, in 1800. The death of his first wife put him in the way of an equally advantageous second marriage to Jane Threlkeld, daughter of former mayor John Threlkeld . Mary Threlkeld Grayson, his sister-in-law , and his nephew Henry Grayson also brought him property. Around 1822 Cox built his house, The Cedars, on 11 acres conveyed to him by his father-in-law. The 1830 Census shows a 16 person household, including nine slaves. (National Intelligencer, January 17, 1818; Mary Grayson sells John Cox part of Alliance, DC Liber WB58 (1835) f.96/80)
Cox was an importer and banker. He loaned money to Thomas L. McKenney, Superintendant of Indian Trade, to buy Weston, and McKenney bought exclusively from Cox for the Indian trade.
I have been an importing merchant during the time Colonel McKenney has been superintendent. My importations generally have been (since 1817) with a view to the Indian trade. I have supplied Colonel McKenney with goods to the amount of about $50,000 annually. I sold the goods in currency, without reference to sterling cost. Considered I sold them as low as they could be purchased at fair sale. I have not made Mr. McKenney any compensation, in any way, with a view to obtain the trade. I have endorsed some notes for Mr. McKenney, and Mr. McKenney has likewise endorsed for me. I am now on Mr. McKenney’s paper as endorser, but am secured by his property.
Question 1. How long have you been a merchant in Georgetown?
Answer. Since June, 1798.
Ques. 2. When did you first turn your attention to the nature of the demand for Indian supplies, occasioned by the removal of the office from Philadelphia to Georgetown?
Ans. I think it was in the year 1809.
(Second examination of Colonel Cox by Colonel McKenney, Memoirs, Official and Personal: Thomas L. McKenney, 1846)
Cox was mayor of the city of Georgetown from 1823 to 1845. (John Cox unanimously re-elected Mayor for the ensuing year, by the Council of Georgetown, National Intelligencer, January 7, 1824; Col. John Cox re-elected for one year, National Intelligencer, January 5, 1825: Col. John Cox re-elected without opposition, mayor of Georgetown, National Intelligencer, January 6, 1830; John Cox re-elected mayor, 344 votes to 54, vs. John Marbury, National Intelligencer, March 2, 1831)
John Cox died December 14, 1849.
Burials recorded in William King Mortality Journal:
John Cox‘s child 9/8 1807
John Cox‘s child 3/18 1807
Mrs. John Cox 9/12 1807
John Cox‘s child 10/27 1821
John Cox’s wife 2/6 1847
Col. John Cox 12/16 1849
John Cox‘s Frank 7/27 1805
John Cox‘s colored child 12/22 1808
John Cox‘s colored child 8/5 1830
John Cox‘s colored child 7/26 1831
John Cox‘s Harry 12/8 1831
Richard Smith Cox
Richard Smith Cox (1825-1889) was the son of mayor John Cox; the grandson of mayor John Threlkeld; the great-grandson of Henry Threlkeld; and great-great-grandson of Dr. Gustavus Brown.
Circa 1847, Richard S. Cox became a clerk in the Paymaster-General’s Office of the Treasury Department. In 1849, he married Elizabeth Williams––who died after about a year––and in 1851 he married Mary Lewis Berkeley, daughter of a wealthy Loudon County farmer. (Aurelia M. Jewell, Loudoun County, Virginia, Marriage Records to 1881, 1975)
When John Cox died in 1849 his son Richard inherited 55 acres north of New Cut Road (Reservoir Road), of which approximately 45 acres lay in Washington County, and about ten in Georgetown. There Cox built a two-story brick house––possibly the third to bear the name Burleith––which stood about where the Washington International School is today. The 1860 census of Washington lists Richard Cox as a clerk, with $40,000 in real property, and $25,000 in personal property. Cox kept a cow and hogs, and may also have had a vineyard.
In early 1861 Richard Cox was commissioned a colonel of the District of Columbia militia, and sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States. “Mr. Cox held also the commission of Colonel of the eighth regiment of the District Militia, having been placed there by Secretary Floyd, just before the inauguration of President Lincoln, in the place of Colonel Cruikshank, a man of undoubted loyalty and respectability.” As Ulysses Grant later characterized Secretary Floyd as “earnest… in the cause of secession”, it seems safe to assume that Cox’s appointment was not intended to strengthen the Union. (DC Liber JAS207, f.217/214, January 15, 1861; Annual Report of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children, 1865; Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, 1886, p.181)
The Militia Officers Appointed.––The list of militia officers having been made out, commissions were yesterday issued to the following gentlemen to act in the several capacities herein mentioned: Colonels of Infantry.––Rich’d S. Coxe, Colonel of the eighth regiment. (Star, January 15, 1861)
On March 4, 1861, the Georgetown Volunteer Batallion, under the command of Col. Richard S. Cox of the 8th Regiment of D.C. Militia, escorted the carriage carrying President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln (which was flanked by the Georgetown Mounted Guard and the President’s Mounted Guard, effectively blocking the view of the spectators). (“Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln––The Order of Procession”, Star, March 4, 1861)
The Georgetown Division.––These troops, comprising a portion of the 1st Georgetown Volunteer Battalion, presented a splendid appearance, and were under the command of Col. Richard S. Cox, of the 8th regiment of District of Columbia militia, with Lieut. Col. Hollingsworth and the following staff officers: Adjutant John B. Davidson and Surgeon Mackall. These officers were all mounted on fine horses, and were fully equipped. Sergeant Major Boyd had a position at the left of the line. (Star, March 4, 1861)
After the parade the Georgetown Mounted Guard celebrated in the Pompeian Hall of the Union Hotel in Georgetown; Colonel Cox opened the ball, and his cousin, Walter Smith Cox, addressed the assembly on the theme of loyalty to the Union. “The ball of the Georgetown Mounted Guard at the Union Hotel last evening was a delightful affair. Pompeian Hall, in that building, never in its palmy days held farer women or braver men within its walls, or witnessed more real enjoyment. Our Georgetown military were all represented, with a sprinkling from your city [i.e. Washington], including Major Watt, the gallant Capt. Owen, and those clever fellows, Lieuts. Allen and Rodier. Col. Cox, Capt. Steuart, and others opened the ball.” (“Georgetown”, Star, March 5, 1861)
President Lincoln called on the militia of the District of Columbia for the defense of Washington, thirty-four companies were sworn into service for three months (April 9-27, 1861). The Potomac Light Infantry, although mostly pro-Union, broke up to avoid dissension. (Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1960-62, p.125)
Affairs in Georgetown.––We learn that the Potomac Light Infantry, Captain McKenney, have disbanded, to reorganize when peace is restored. One of the members proposed as a toast on the occasion “The Potomac Light Infantry, invincible in peace, invisible in war.” Captain S. Gough of the Georgetown Mounted Guard sent in the resignation of his command to the corps last night. This elicited a warm debate, the vacancy was not filled, and the company is virtually disbanded. The Union men of the company talk of a reorganization to fill the ranks. (Star, April 24, 1861)
Richard S. Cox was among those who did not report for duty; newspapers also carried the announcement of his resignation from the Treasury Department: “Appointments––Lorenzo Thomas, jun., Va. second class clerk, Paymaster General’s Office, in place of Richard S. Cox, resigned.” (Star, April 24, 1861; National Republican, April 25, 1861, p.3)
In Richmond Cox’s superior was another ex-U.S. paymaster, Col. Henry Hill (1816-1866). “Major Henry Hill, of Virginia, army paymaster at New York, has resigned.” (National Republican, June 19, 1861, p. 2, col.3)
“For fourteen years Major Cox was engaged in the Paymaster’s Department of the United States + is perfectly familiar with all the duties of the office. Upon the Secession of Virginia he promptly resigned his office there + leaving a large property in the District of Columbia, he came + tendered his services to our government + since that period has been actively engaged as paymaster of the Virginia forces.” (Letter to Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of War, recommending Maj. Richard S. Cox for appointment in the Pay Department of the Confederate States, Richmond, Virginia, February 12, 1862; letter courtesy of a descendant.)
Richard S. Cox, District of Columbia, appointed Assistant Quartermaster, Pay Department of the Confederate States, with the rank of captain (March 10, 1862). (Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, 1861, United States Congressional serial set, 1904, Issue 4611, Vol.II, p. 49)
Richard S. Cox appointed Brigade Quartermaster, with the rank of major (confirmed, October 7, 1862). (Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, Vol.2, , p.438)
Richard S. Cox’s wife was Mary Lewis Berkeley, a Virginian whose four brothers (Norborne Berkeley, Edmund Berkeley, William Noland Berkeley, and Charles Fenton Berkeley) had all become Confederate officers.
Cox’s brother did not make the same choice. Thomas Campbell Cox (1829-1882), younger brother of Richard S. Cox, married Margaret Robinson, September 3, 1861, and lived at Mount Hope (3308 R Street). In 1861 the younger Cox secured a position in Lincoln’s State Department; during the war Secretary Seward sent him to France (where Seward’s aim was to prevent French assistance to the Confederacy). (Thomas C. Cox, Clerk of the Third Class, Department of State, Register of the Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1861… Washington, Government Printing Office, 1862; Boyd’s Directory, 1862; Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Maryland and the District of Columbia, 1879, p.99; “Death of Water Registrar Cox”, Washington Post, May 27, 1882, p.4; Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town, 1933, 1951, p. 298; Oak Hill Cemetery)
Thomas Cox did what he could to protect his absent brother’s interests; when some of Richard Cox’s property was sold for taxes Thomas bought it in to prevent its loss. But as his brother had left a loyal district to bear arms against the Union––i.e., his departure was not mitigated by legal residence in a state that had rebelled––Thomas Cox could not prevent the Secretary of War Edwin from seizing his brother’s property, and putting it at the disposal of an organization of Northern women that cared for some of the fugitive slaves who were crossing into the District from Virginia every day.
(For the history of the National Colored Home for Destitute Women and Children, see The Colored Home.)
When the Civil War came to an end, and the ex-Confederate Richard Cox sought to recover his property, his brother Thomas (who held a position in State Department) offered his advice and assistance. (Transcriptions courtesy of a descendant.)
My object in writing is to advise you to lose no time in taking the oath prescribed in the President’s amnesty proclamation and thereby save your property from confiscation. You will have to take the oath sooner or later, and you had better take it at once or you may not be allowed your property by some new proclamation. Your property has not been confiscated, but has only been taken possession of as a “military necessity”. (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, May 11, 1865)
You are unwise in not making immediate application for a special pardon. You will have to have one before you will be able to recover your property. The longer you delay in making application, the worse it will be for you, for they will have to be taken up and acted upon in order and applications are coming in so rapidly that it will be a long time before those who apply late will be able to have their cases disposed of. (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, June 20, 1865)
What I have to say is not very encouraging, but I trust that I will be able after a while to secure your pardon. I succeeded in obtaining from Genl. Howard, Commissioner of Freedmen, the letter that (the Atty. Genl.) stated positively that he had made up his mind not to turn the persons out of your house unless some satisfactory arrangement was made with the Institution, and refused to grant the pardon although he had said he would do so upon receiving the recommendation from Howard. Whereupon I offered the sum of one thousand dollars if they would give immediate possession. They are to discuss the subject before a meeting of the trustees of the Institution at the earliest practicable day, but from what I can gather, they are not going to surrender your place for the above amount but will insist upon a large sum. They have you in their power, as the Atty. Genl. has promised them that he will not act unless everything is arranged to their entire satisfaction. I am compelled to swallow my indignant feelings and treat the parties with assumed politeness for fear that they might go to work and have the property confiscated.
P.S. I have had an interview with the Secy. of State [William Henry Seward, Thomas C. Cox’s superior] and he has promised to speak to the Atty. Genl. [James Speed] upon the subject today. (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, July 15, 1865)
You may thank Underwood [John Curtiss Underwood, U.S. District Judge for the District of Virginia] for all this. Had he not have happened in Washington on the day that he interfered with your pardon, you would be now enjoying full possession of your property. Damn him, I say! (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, July 15, 1865)
[John] C. Underwood has been busily engaged in posting all parties opposed to you in the recovery of your home, hence the difficulty in obtaining your pardon, which will carry with it your property. I knew the importance of keeping everything quiet, consequently advised you not to come here, but, unfortunately, Underwood, by the merest chance, became acquainted with the matter, and has caused all the trouble. It is said that “every dog has his day” and I trust that Underwood’s “reign” will not extend beyond the dog days. (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, July 16, 1865)
Thomas Cox did not think it likely that his brother would care to live in the post-war District of Columbia. Instead, his best course, once he had recovered his property, was to sell it profitably. (One possible buyer: General Ulysses S. Grant!)
I fear you will have to pay a bonus before you will be able to get possession and I would advise you to make the most reasonable terms possible. Let me hear from you immediately as I prefer to be governed by your wishes concerning your affairs. If you recover your place at an early day you may be able to sell it for a handsome sum, which under the circumstances, I think would be the best thing you can do. Kidwell, who seems to have some knowledge on the subject, is of the opinion that the place would sell for $40,000. Although it would be a source of great pleasure to Mag and myself, to have Mary, yourself & the children back in Georgetown, yet I must be frank and tell you that I think you would not enjoy a residence here on account of the great changes that have taken place in the population since you left. (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, July 16, 1865)
Underwood has made public your application for pardon, consequently there are any number of persons operating against you. The only chance that seems to be left is to compromise with the people who occupy your property, and as most of these are women, I fear it will be an up hill business. I have not lost a moment in trying to work the matter through, and may possibly be able to accomplish something, but from all I can see and learn, you will have to pay a bonus to these people before you will succeed in obtaining a pardon, and possession of your premises, for the Atty. Genl. refuses, positively, to grant a pardon unless some satisfactory arrangement is made with the “ladies” in charge of “The Home”.
I have caused a letter to be written to Underwood, however, and I am in hopes of getting him to undo what he has done by your paying the sum of $1000 to the trustees of “The Home”. It is very necessary to handle the subject delicately, for any act or word of offence to them might result in your property being confiscated.
Mr. Dent, who married Kate Linthicum, spoke to me about Genl. Grant’s intention of purchasing a house, with some ground attached, in such a way as does not justify me in mentioning the matter to Grant, and Dent is absent from town. As soon as he returns I will see how that wire will work, and if I can interest Genl. Grant I shall certainly do so.
I hardly know how to advise you about visiting the District. Your presence might do good, and then again it might do a great deal of harm. You must be governed by your own judgment on the subject, but rest assured that you will receive a hearty welcome from my household. Perhaps it may be as well for you to wait until you hear from me again before you come to Georgetown, if you think it best to do so, as I may be able through the Secy. of State and Underwood to arrange matters. (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, July 19, 1865)
The Trustees of the Colored Home gave a clear indication that they could be in a position to move by October of the following year, but made surrender of the premises conditional upon payment of $10,000.
I intended to have your case laid before the President at the earliest possible moment. The Atty. Genl. is now absent from the city and I trust I will be able to obtain your pardon before he returns, for he is disposed to throw obstacles in your way. In fact, he has given a promise to the Trustees of “The Home for Colored Children etc.” (most of whom are women) that he will not grant the pardon unless a satisfactory arrangement is made with them about the surrender of your property. Owing to this fact, I was induced to offer them the sum of $1000 for immediate possession. They (the Trustees) held a meeting, at which it was unanimously resolved that they would deliver up to you, on the 15th of Oct. next, your property, on the condition that you pay the sum of $10,000 in cash, and give a guarantee that you will institute no proceeding against them hereafter for damages etc. I have a copy of the minutes of the meeting, which I shall cause to be laid before the president to show that they are trying to extort money and are encouraged in it by the Atty. Genl.
The truth is, you are entitled to a pardon or you are not. If you are, you certainly should not be compelled to pay anything. However, you will have to pay $1000 even if the President should see fit to order it, not to the trustees, but to parties who are expected to bring influence to bear on the President. (Thomas Campbell Cox to Richard Smith Cox, Georgetown, July 27, 1865)
Supporters of the Colored Home continued to petition for rejection of Cox’s application for pardon, and requested that the Home be allowed to retain ten acres of Burleith, and the buildings thereon. Alternatively, Cox could pay the Association $10,000 in return for leaving. (Albany Evening Journal, January 13, 1866)
From the Annual Report of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children, 1865
“At the quarterly meeting in July , Mr. Baker, one of your Trustees, presented a communication from R.S. Cox, asking the Association to vacate the premises occupied as the Home, in consideration of receiving $1,000. Your Vice-President was advised…to wait upon the Attorney General, and other officers of the Government, to obtain their advice as to the proper course to be pursued. The Attorney General assured her that no pardon would be granted until an arrangement satisfactory to the Association should be effected. On the 19th of the same month the Board received a communication from the Trustees, enclosing a renewal of the offer of Mr. Cox. This was at once refused.”
Subsequent to the July quarterly meeting the officers of the Association placed a letter to President Johnson in the Attorney General’s hand, drawing attention to what they considered to be the aggravating circumstances of Cox’s case.
“Believing that the petition of Richard S. Cox, late of Georgetown, D.C., for pardon, has been presented for your consideration, we beg respectfully to lay before you the following facts: Richard S. Cox, immediately previous to the rebellion, held a clerkship in the office of the Paymaster General of the United States Army. In 1861, when the employees of the Government were required to take the oath of allegiance, he refused, and left for the South without resigning his position. Mr. Cox held also the commission of Colonel of the eighth regiment of the District Militia, having been placed there by Secretary Floyd, just before the inauguration of President Lincoln, in the place of Colonel Cruikshank, a man of undoubted loyalty and respectability. In the rebel service R.S. Cox held the rank of Major until the surrender of General Lee. After the abandonment of his property on Georgetown heights, it was, on representation of the facts, turned over by the Secretary of War to the lady managers of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children. Since their occupation there has been expended on the premises nearly $3,000, while every care has been taken to keep the property in at least as good condition as when it was placed under the care of the Association. In view of these facts, and also remembering the situation of the capital when Mr. Cox deserted it––his position rendering this peculiarly disgraceful––without the excuse of state allegiance, which has been pleaded by so many––we beg leave earnestly and respectfully to protest against the restoration of this property; and in conclusion, will add, that these statements can be vouched for by parties of undoubted respectability, if required.”
“On the return of your Vice-President [of the Association] in September , an order was obtained from the Attorney General, for the District Attorney to Proceed with the confiscation of this property; but finding much difficulty in obtaining the information required for this purpose, with the advice of the Trustees, the business was placed in the hands of Mr. Riddle, an attorney. On December 4, a notice was sent to the Board from the Freedmen’s Bureau, stating the application of Mr. Cox for pardon was about to be acted upon, and asking if the Association had any further statements to make in the case. Through the influence of persons occupying high positions under Government, the matter was postponed. Thus it stands at present, and we are not without hope that such action will be taken as shall preserve this property for the use to which it has been appropriated.”
In June, 1866 the President of the United States granted a pardon to Richard S. Cox. (Report of the Joint Select Committee to Investigate Charities and Reformatory Institutions in the District of Columbia, 1898; Winfield S. Montgomery, Fifty Years, National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children, 1914)
“Richard S. Cox, of the District of Columbia, has been pardoned by the President, under the tenth section of the amnesty proclamation. Cox owns some real estate in Georgetown, now used by the colored orphan asylum.” (“Pardoned”, National Republican, June 2, 1866, p.2)
“The President has pardoned Richard S. Cox, of the District of Columbia. Mr. Cox was pardoned under the tenth exception of the proclamation of amnesty, excepting all those from the general amnesty who voluntarily left their houses in the border States to aid in the rebellion.” (“Pardoned of R. S. Cox”, Cleveland Daily Leader, June 4, 1866, p.3)
Extract from the Memorial of the Officers and Managers of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children, praying for such action as may secure them from loss in a law suit instituted against them by Richard S. Cox, February, 1867
[The Officers and Managers of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children] further say, that after the close of the war, and when it was made apparent that it was meritorious rather than otherwise to have served in the cause of the rebellion, the said Richard S. Cox returned to the District of Columbia, and was readily pardoned by the Executive, and made efforts to secure an order for the restoration of his said property, in which, as the undersigned believe, he failed.
In the mean time, during the year 1866, the association, finding that it had been abandoned by the government, secured a lot in the city of Washington, upon which the freedmen’s bureau erected for its use another house, and it was hoped and expected that it would be ready for occupancy on the first day of October last past, but it was not completed so it could be used.
In the mean time, on the 3d day of December, 1866, and while the association were in full and exclusive possession of the Cox property, and had then at the time four helpless women and sixty-four small children, with all their assistants property and effects on the said premises, and, in the absence of any order of notice of the government to vacate the same, the said Cox managed to steal into said house, and, with his associates and servants, made the same so uncomfortable, by removing the doors and windows, and so unpleasant by with their noise and company, and the courts of the district refusing to protect their possessing, the undersigned were obliged to vacate the same sooner than they otherwise would, and at great inconvenience and discomfort to the helpless ones under their charge.
They further say that not only did the said Cox take possession of the house and furniture, but also of about one hundred bushels of corn raised the present year by the association on said farm; and that afterwards, on the –––– day of December, 1866, he commenced a suit in the supreme court of the District of Columbia against the association to recover $10,000 damages for the possession of said property, &c.
And, inasmuch as the undersigned are without the means of defending an expensive lawsuit; and in the event of an adverse judgment their present home might be liable to seizure on execution; and as they depend wholly upon the donations of the charitable; and as they believe the objects of their association and the manner of pursuing them must commend them and their cause to the consideration of the American Congress, they respectfully ask of your body such action as may secure them from loss and protect their pursuits.
(Index to the Miscellaneous Documents of the Senate of the United States, for the Second Session Thirty-ninth Congress, 1867: Memorial of the Officers and Managers of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children, praying for such action as may secure them from loss in a law suit instituted against them by Richard S. Cox, and protect them in their pursuits while carrying on the objects of the association. February 2, 1867.––Referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia, February 6, 1867)
“Richard S. Cox is regaining possession of his property on the Heights.” In 1868 Cox began advertising 65 acres of pasturage for cows. (Georgetown Courier, August 17, 1867; May 23, 1868; May 21, 1871)
However, the Cox family did not return to Burleith, but continued to live at Stoke Farm, in Aldie, Virginia, which Cox had bought in 1868 from his brother-in-law Charles Berkeley, with $30,000 borrowed (with Burleith as collateral) from Walter Smith Cox, Thomas C. Cox, and Sallie Cox Smith––relatives who had not gone to Richmond in the war.
The 1870 census of Loudoun County lists: Richard S. Cox, age 45, as a farmer, with $100,000 in real property, and $5765 in personal property; Mary L. Cox, age 40, keeping house. Children listed: Eliza, 16; Berkeley, 14; John L., 12;, Frances C., 10; Richard T., 8; and Custis L., 6. (1870 Loudon county census, roll 1659, p.247)
In 1875 Robert Ould, the former Confederate Agent for the Exchange of Prisoners (and a native of Georgetown) wrote letters on behalf of Richard S. Cox to the Virginia delegation of the House of Representatives, alluding to Cox’s pecuniary misfortunes, and recommending him for ”some position within the gift of the Democratic party, whose fortunes he has ever followed.” (Robert Ould to the Virginia delegation of the House of Representatives, November 30, 1875; Robert Ould to Richard S. Cox, December 24, 1875; courtesy of a descendant.)
Between 1876 and 1882 Cox, unable to satisfy his creditors, lost both Stoke Farm and Burleith (with the latter ultimately passing to Sallie Smith Cox, his half-sister. (DC Liber NCT58 (1865) f.453; DC Liber ECE29 (1868) f.119/93; DC Liber 841 (1877) ff.437-439)
“By virtue of a deed of trust, executed to me by Richard S. Cox, bearing the date on the 24th day of January, A.D. 1872. I shall offer at public auction… to satisfy the debt secured in said deed… the following described property, viz: All that tract of land owned by the said Richard S. Cox contiguous to Georgetown, in the county of Washington, District of Columbia, lying west of Fayette street and north of and adjoining to Seventh street continued, being part of a tract called “Berleith,” and containing sixty three acres more or less… improved by a double Brick Dwelling House, Stable, Orchard… subject to prior encumbrances and taxes unpaid at time of sale… Wm. D. Cassin, Trustee. Thomas Dowling, Auctioneer.” (“Trustee’s Sale of Valuable Real Estate in the District of Columbia, Adjoining Georgetown on the Northwest, At Auction”, Star, March 14, 1876, p.3)
The final decree in loss of Stoke Farm was 1881; henceforth Burleith is marked on real estate maps as “Sallie Smith, 63 acres”.
When Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives in the 48th Congress (1883–1885), Cox’s friends thought he had a good chance of obtaining an appointment from Speaker of the House John Carlisle. “[Cox’s] wife has a large and influential connection in Loudon Co.” (Letter from Rep. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee of Virginia. to Rep. John S. Barbour of Virginia, and chairman of the House Committee on the District of Columbia, recommending Richard S. Cox for appointment, December 6, 1883, courtesy of a descendant.)
In 1884 Richard S. Cox returned to the District of Columbia, living at a succession of addresses: 1916 N Street (1884-7), 2139 K Street (1888), and 1640 21st Street (1889).
“The House of the Good Shepherd has purchased from Allan Rutherford and J.S. Poole, trustees, and others, for $25,000, all of block 133 in Burleith addition to West Washington. The property is on the “New Cut Road,” or continuation of Eighth street, one square west of Fayette, and was formerly the residence of Richard S. Cox.” (“The House of the Good Shepherd”, Washington Post, November 28, 1888, p.6. For additional information, see House of the Good Shepherd.)
Died.––On October 12, 1889, Richard S. Cox, in the 65th year of his age. Funeral from his late residence, 1640 21st street, Tuesday, October 15. (Star, October 14, 1889)
“Col. Richard S. Cox, late of the Confederate Army, died in Washington on Saturday last. Col. Cox married a sister of Col. Norborne Berkeley of Aldie, and was in Leesburg often during the war. He leaves many friends in this county who will mourn his death.” (The [Loudon County] Washingtonian, October 15, 1889)
Richard Smith Cox was buried with his ancestors in Rock Creek Cemetery.
In the last year of her life, Richard Cox’s widow, Mary Lewis Berkeley Cox (1830-1897), wrote a letter to her grandsons in Oregon about the fateful decision made in 1861, and about the war years.
(This letter includes information about the five slaves the Cox family took south with them: Violet (cook); Mason (driver); Mary (housework and nursing); Mary’s daughter Ellen (nursery maid and playmate), who died during the war: and Harriet (nurse), who got married in the winter of 1865.)
As there are so many miles between us and time goes on without our meeting I think I must try to make your acquaintance this way, and tell you things that perhaps your Papa will forget about our happy home where he was born. I know he will tell you about the war and make you understand why we had to leave our dear old Berleith and “take our stand on Dixie land” with all true Southerners. Our home on Georgetown heights was pretty and comfortable with long grounds for Aunt Bessie, your Papa, Uncle John to play in and Aunt Fanny to enjoy herself in her baby carriage.
I must mention our five good servants who did so much to make us all enjoy life. First came Aunt Violet, one of the best of old Va. Cooks, then Harriet the most faithful of nurses. “Mam Mary”, called so because in addition to her house work she dearly loved to help in nursing and her little girl Ellen the nursery maid and playmate. Mason who often came after his day’s work to the nursery to give your Papa a ride on his back, tho he may have driven us all out behind our good horse Charlie Mason.
When we left to come South our carriage, a coupe for one horse would not hold us all, so your Grandfather hired a double carriage and after we crossed the Potomac and caught sight of the first Confederate flag Aunt Fanny said Hurrah and we all thought that “terrible smart” of her – Your Grandpa left us at Stoke, which then belonged to Uncle C. and went back home to bring away our carriage which he drove while Mason drove our farm wagon loaded up with baggage and the house was shut up and left in charge of a white man we had hired some years. That closed the happiest chapter of our lives.
My brother Wm. Was living at our old home at Aldie two miles from Stoke, and he begged me to move so as to be with his wife and yr. Uncle N.’s wife said she would come too so we were all together that summer, while your G father went to R. to offer his services to the Con. Government, and was made a paymaster to Va. Troops, and my brothers were at once enrolled in the Army, and after the battle of Balls Bluff near Leesburg, were at Manassas and of course engaged in both battles, but neither of them wounded.
The first of March it was decided our Army must fall back from Manassas, and as we did not wish to be left outside of our lines, we had to go further south too.
Yr. G. F. having been in the Paymaster Genls. Office in Wash., was told his experience would enable him to render more valuable service to the South in organizing that Dept. and thus it was he was stationed in Richmond and unable to leave his post at that time, and yr. Uncle Charlie obtained a short leave and escorted us to [Danville].
I forgot to tell you in its proper place that when Lincoln was inaugurated yr G.P.’s [regiment of D.C. militia] was detailed as his escort, and when Charlie Mason was led up for him to mount, he did not like his appearance in uniform, and cut up so Mason had to blindfold him before yr. G.P. could mount – Charlie was a Va. Horse and I said he showed he was a rebel.
One great event of the winter [1865?] was the marriage of the children’s faithful nurse. Yr. G.F. told Mason he could go to the wedding and gave him $100 Confed. to help with the wedding supper. He tried to get a turkey, but none [ ] had paid $25 for a goose, and with eggs at 25.00 a doz, butter 25 a lb tho I had the sugar the wedding cake was rather costly. However we had the ceremony performed in the house, with all of us in full dress and the bride wore the children’s present, a pair of hoop earrings set with aquamarines.
Then came the end. Yr. G.F. seeing it was approaching had made arrangements for Mr. H. to take me to Evergreen at your uncle E’s suggestion and had come to say good bye and bring me some money we were startled by a loud explosion – it was the magazine they had blown up in R. yr. G.F. knew it was something amiss and hastened to the r.r. to try to go to R. but no trains ran that day, and he and yr. Uncle N. who was home on furlough started off on foot, and did not return to us for many days to confirm what we had already heard – that R. was evacuated and our army forced to surrender.
(Excerpts from a letter from Mary Lewis Berkeley Cox (1830-1897), to the sons of Lewis Berkeley Cox, of Portland, Oregon, 1897)
Threlkeld and Cox files, 1785 Assessments: Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library
Abstract of Title to “BURLEITH” in Frederic W. Huidekoper, 1887: MS. 127, Historical Society of Washington
R.S.Cox Papers, in the possession of the Cox Family
1855 Washington County Assessments
Thomas Campbell Cox: Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Maryland and the District of Columbia, p.99
Washington, City and Capital, 1937, pp.369, 745-6
Green, Washington: A History of the Capital, 1800-1950, Vol.1, pp.259, 294
Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, 1941
Mary Mitchell, Divided Town, 1968, p. 107
Edgar Farr Russell, A Short History of Burleith, 1955
Ann Lange, “A Brief History of Burleith”, Burleith Newsletter, 1985, September-October 1998
A wide variety of interesting Burleith documents can be found at:
Richard and Mary Cox had five sons and four daughters.
Thomas Campbell Cox (1867-1869) died in an accidental fire. (Georgetown Courier, July 24, 1869)
John Lawrence Cox (1857-1904) had a ranch near Pendleton, Oregon. Paralyzed after being thrown from his wagon, he was brought to Washington, and died twenty months later. (Morning Oregonian, February 10, 1904, p.9)
Custis Lee Cox (1864-1934) was a gold miner in Oregon. (Mining and Engineering World, Volume XLI, 1914, p.1110)
Lewis Berkeley Cox (1856-1901) practiced law in Portland, Oregon.
Richard Threlkeld Cox (1862-1939) was in business in Portland, Oregon. (“R.T. Cox Rites To Be Held Today”, Washington Post, March 15, 1939, p.34) In 1912 Richard Threlkeld Cox transferred 2628 Woodley Place to his four sisters. (Real Estate Transfers, Washington Post, August 7, 1912, p.11)
Bessie Cox (1854-1924) (“Died”, Washington Post, August 19, 1924, p.5);
Frances Callendar Cox (1859-1926) (“One Dead, Ten Hurt In Accidents Upon Slippery Streets––Inquest to Be Held Today in Death of Woman Struck by Car”, Washington Post, December 27, 1926, p.1);
Mary Berkeley Cox (1869-1958) (“Mary B. Cox”, Washington Post, April 6, 1958, p.A18);
Eva Percy Cox (1871-1964) (“Deaths”, Washington Post, May 6, 1964, p.C14)
Frederic Wolters Huidekoper (1840-1908), a railroad baron from Pennsylvania, took up residence in Washington in 1883. Although his specialty was reorganizing bankrupt Southern railroads, Huidekoper also speculated in land; at one time his United Land Company of Florida owned a million and a half acres of that state.
On a more modest scale, Huidekoper bought and subdivided various parcels in Washington as well, thereby laying the groundwork for the eventual development of Burleith, Hillandale and Glover Park. As his obituary in the Washington Star (April 29, 1908) noted: “For many years Mr. Huidekoper had also been identified with the opening up and improvement of West Washington, and his efforts have been largely instrumental in securing assistance from Congress for the development of that section of the city.”
Burleith was subdivided by Frederic W. Huidekoper in 1887. The project did not blossom overnight. This may have had something to do with the lengthy period of construction – 1886 to 1907 – of the Washington Aqueduct, connecting the Distributing Reservoir on Conduit Road (MacArthur Boulevard) with McMillan Reservoir on North Capitol Street, and running right through Burleith. A sizable pond formed north of S Street when the stream called College Run was blocked grading operations, most likely in connection with construction of the new Washington Acqueduct.
“H.W. Huidekoper has been informed that the filling of Thirty-ninth and T streets by private parties has stopped a natural water course, causing pools of water to collect. He is directed to restore the water course to its original condition or have a drain constructed.” (“District Building”, Washington Post, April 3, 1888, p.8)
“Owner Not Responsible.––Court Sustains Demurrer in Case of Child Drowned in Pond.––A written opinion was filed yesterday by Justice Barnard, of the district Supreme Court, sustaining the demurrer submitted by the defendants in the suit of Nonia L. Sullivan, administratrix, to recover damages from Virginia C. Huidekoper and the District of Columbia, for the death by drowning of a ten-year-old child who fell into a pond near Thirty-second and W streets.
The pond was the result of certain grading operations under the direction of District officials, and the property on which it was located belonged to the defendant, Huidekoper. The plaintiff abandoned the claim as against the District, and the court holds that the owner of the property was under no obligation to fence in the pond so that it would be inaccessible to children.” (Washington Post, May 13, 1905, p.5)
It took more than three million cubic yards of fill to eliminate both pond and stream. (Edgar Farr Russell, A Short History of Burleith, 1955; Washington Post, October 24, 1939)
One of the uses to which Burleith was put while it awaited more favorable circumstances gave rise among speculative minds to a theory of communicability.
“Affairs in Georgetown – Carpet Beating Objectionable. The prevalence of diphtheria, scarlet fever and other contagious diseases in the northwest section of the town is attributed by some of the residents to the practice of beating carpets on the vacant lots north and west of the high school, on what is known as the Burleith subdivision. Carpets from all sections of the city seem to be brought to this place every spring and fall and dusted by colored men.” (Washington Star, October 2, 1899, 14:7)
Ninth and F Streets NW had been the downtown hub of employment prior to World War I, but at war’s end the firm of Shannon & Luchs concluded that more people were now employed west of 17th and Pennsylvania Avenue, and that there would be a corresponding demand for a new neighborhood in that direction. They bought Burleith from Huidekoper’s heirs in 1923, and announced plans to build five hundred moderately priced smaller homes of a very high quality. (Washington Post, March 25, 1923)
In the first years of the twentieth century the Dumbarton Club (3308 R Street) was said to have had a nine-hole golf course “where the suburb of Berleith is now”. (Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town, p. 298)
(North of Burleith there was another Huidekoper subdivision called Northwest Highlands––all that remains of it is the name Huidekoper Place. That subdivision was acquired by the United States for the future extension of Whitehaven Parkway, and is now the strip of parkland south of Glover Park. See Northwest Highlands.)
Threlkeld and Cox files, Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library
Abstract of Title to “BURLEITH” in Frederic W. Huidekoper, 1887: ms. 127, Historical Society of Washington
In memoriam, Frederic Wolters Huidekoper, 1910: https://archive.org/stream/inmemoriamfreder00wash#page/n9/mode/2up
Washington, City and Capital, 1937, pp.369, 745-6
Edgar Farr Russell, Short History of Burleith (1955)
A wide variety of interesting Burleith documents can be found at:
The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.
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Questions and corrections may be directed to
The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.