|Cox was born in Syracuse, NY, January 2, 1852. When he was eight, he moved with his parents to a homestead in Humboldt County, IA. Around the age of 14, he and an older brother went to Texas. This was where he got his start as a cowboy and involved with the cattle business. Cox may be considered as one of the earliest trail drivers. He was among the first Texas cowboys driving cattle up the Chisholm Trail from the South.
Cox arrived in South Dakota in the late 1870’s. In 1881, he started freighting from Pierre to Deadwood. When the railroad pushed into Rapid City he gave up freighting and filed on land in southeastern Meade County. This was the beginning of the Spanish Five ranch. Cox was a grizzled cowman whose legs were bowed from a lifetime in the saddle. Small but dynamic, he knew every facet of ranching. <p>Cox figured in a large degree with the early history of South Dakota. During the Indian trouble he served as interpreter between the Sioux and the white people. He made friends with Chief Big Foot, a close associate of Sitting Bull. <p>After the Battle of Wounded Knee, in which he was contracted by the government to supply meat and general supplies, Cox went into the cattle business. He generally went to Texas and bought yearling or two-year old steers and shipped them to Dakota. At one time he had 5,000 head of cattle. <p>During the period Cox was in the cattle business he experienced losses that would have completely discouraged the average man. In 1905, he suffered a great loss. On May 4th, a slight rain came up, a sharp cold breeze form the northwest changed the rain to sleet. Then the wind increased in velocity with every passing minute. The cattle, which were grazing on the uplands, started to move with the wind at their backs, headed straight east. The wind increased to the proportions of a tornado and the sleet changed to snow. Thus began the most terrible blizzard ever known to cattlemen. <p>Ahead of this storm went thirty-seven thousand head of cattle belonging to stockmen of Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado. The storm raged on furiously for three days. People who lived in the path of the storm told of the thundering herds, which stampeded wildly past their homes, all going straight east. The herds crossed the Lake Flat and went on across the flat where the town of Wall is now located. Hundreds fell in the mad races and were trampled underneath by thousands of hooves that followed. Blinded with ice and crazed, the cattle reached the five hundred-foot walls of the Badlands where they hurled themselves to death in the basins below. Bodies of cattle were piled thirty feet high with the long horns of those underneath piercing through those above them. Cox lost over 1,000 cattle due to the storm. <p>Jim Cox knew he was broke. Creditors immediately pressed him for payment of accounts. It was a desperate situation; then a break came for Jim. His banker in Omaha offered to stake him to another herd. He was back in business. He had many more reverses, but was lucky when he took his wife’s advice to “sell” at the first indication of the slump in market. <p>Mrs. Cox suggested that they help organize the Black Bills Building & Loan Company in Rapid City. She further invested in rental property in Pierre. She and Jim found life easier afterwards.
|Home Town (Humboldt County, IA)|