On The Trail of - Colonel CHARLES COCKE

Portrait of a Well-Dressed Longhunter

The exploits of the longhunters have assumed the air of mythology.  The longhunters were men who spent months in the wilderness, exploring new territories and living off the land.  Some of the longhunters were attempting to make a living off the land by harvesting furs and game.  However, most appeared to be motivated by a love of the outdoors and of adventure.  The presence of potentially hostile Indians only made things more interesting.  Not everyone returned from these hunts:

"In January l775, when we were on our way out to settle Martin's Station in Powell's Valley, in going down Wallen's Creek, near its junction with Powell river, where the hills closed in very near the creek, was found the remains of an old hunting camp, and in front of the camp the bones of two men were lying bleached. They were said to be the bones of two men who went out hunting in the fall of l773 and never returned. Their names I have forgotten." [Statement by Major John Redd]

Some of the most famous longhunts are the ones organized by Elisha Walden during the period 1760-1776.  These longhunts are supposed to have resulted in the exploration of much of southwest Virginia and parts of Kentucky.  Many of the features of the landscape were supposedly named by or after the longhunters, such as Walden's Ridge in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, and Cox's Ridge in Rockcastle County, Virginia.


There is some suggestion that Charles Cocke participated in the longhunts organized by Elisha Walden, Jr.  (Although the last name is sometimes spelled Wallen or Walling, Landon C. Bell insists that the name should spelled Walden. ["Sunlight on the Southside", p. 26])  The list of participants includes a Charles Cox:

The following compilation includes the names of those who hunted or were associated with the Long Hunters on their trips in the fifteen year period 1760-1776 . . . Charles Cox . . . .
[F. B. Kegley & Mary B. Kegley, "Early Adventurers on the Western Waters", p. 83.]

Another listing, indicates that Charles Cox participated in the first long hunt, which took place in 1761- at a time when our Charles Cocke would have been only 11 years old:

In 1761, Elisha [Walden] II, the longhunter-explorer, made his first hunt through this part of the country with a party which included Jack Blevins, William Blevins, William Pittman, Henry Scaggs, Charles Cox, William Newman (for whom Newmans Ridge is named), and William Harrison.  [Joe C. Wallen, "Wallen (Walling)", Bicentennial History of Lee County, Virginia (1792-1992)]

Nevertheless, several authors have apparently has concluded that this is our Charles Cocke.  In "Dawn of Tennessee Valley and Tennessee History", Samuel Cole Williams states that:

For Cox, see Hening, Statutes, VII, 208. He seems to have settled in Russell county, Va., and as a colonel of the militia to have led troops into Tennessee in 1792. Cal. Tenn. Papers 55. [p. 321, footnote 10]

Another webpage discussing the longhunters states that:

Charles COX  Originally a member of Walden's party of 1761 and 1763. He later moved to Tennessee and became a captain in the militia. Cox’s Ridge in Rockcastle County is named for him. [http://www.bright.net/~rblevins/longhunters/l_h.htm]

In my view, it is extremely unlikely that our Charles Cocke would have gone on a long hunt in 1761, since he would have only been 11 years old at the time.


Major John Redd indicates that the longhunts were held later:

(Question) 6th. I hardly think it probable that WALDEN, with some 16 others, ever established a hunting camp in POWELL's Valley as early as 1761. there is no doubt but W ALDIN was a long hunter as early as 1761, and probable before that day. the long hunters hardly ever went with more than two or three in a company, besides as you remarke at that period war existed between the Indians and whites, and it would have been the very highth of folly for 16 men to have gone at that time to POWELL's valley. It is vary probable that WALDEN, COX & BLEVINS established a hunting camp in POWEL's valley a few years after 1761, for the BLEVINSES & COXES were a vary numerous family, and many of them were long hunters; they lived on SMITH's river in the neighborhood with WALDEN, and they were connected to him by marriage. If WALDEN had of establish a station in POWELs valley in 1761, I am satisfied that I should have heard something of it. WALDEN was a man of darke skin about 5 feet 10 or 11 inches; a big, square built and weighed about 180 pounds, vary cours fetures, ordinary intellect and was regarded as a very honest and correct man in all his transactions. When I became aquainted with him in 1774, he was about 40 years of age. WALDEN had vary little property, he never cultivated the soil but lived entirely by hunting. I know not where WALDEN was from originally. When I first knew him he lived on SMITH's river at a place called the round-about, near the centre of the conty, and about two miles east of Martainsville, the present county seat of henry, he lived near his wife's fathers, Will. BLEVENES. WALDEN, the BLEVINES & COXES owned no land, but were squatters on land owned by a company of speculators. During the revolutionary war the assembly of Va. passed a law that all British subjects owning land in Va. must come in by a ceartin time and take an oath of alegance, and become actual setlers, or ther land would be confiscated. After the act was passed, two of the british subjects owning land in Pitsolvania (now henry), came in and complied with the act of the assembly, the BLEVINSES and COXES, for they feared they would have to pay many years rent they all moved off enmess. The BLEVINSES & COXES settled on the holston above the long Isleans. WALDEN settled on the holston about 18 miles above where knoxville now is. I know not how long he lived there. In the year 1776, I called by to see him, he was not at home, his wife informed me that he had gone on a hunt and had been absent for a month. A few years after this he moved to POWEL's valley, remained there a short time, removed from there to Missoura and settled in the vary extreme settlement up the Missoura river. I suppose his object in going to Missoura was to get where game was more plentiful; he followed up hunting as long as he was able to follow the chase; he died on the fronteers of Missoura at a very advanced age; he performed no military duty during the war."

In addition to indicating that the famous longhunt of 1761 was really held much later, this account indicates that the hunt took place in Powell's Valley, where Charles Cocke spent much of his time.  If this is true, then it is much more likely that our Charles Cocke would have participated.


In 1775, the Virginian legislature appointed Thomas Wallen and Charles Cocke to find a better road into Kentucky.


Another possibility is that the Charles Cox who participated in the 1761 longhunt was Charles Cox of Henry County, VA.  This Charles Cox was born ca 1725 and died 1798 Henry County, VA.  He married Eleanor Watts.  His descendants believe that he is the Charles Cox who participated in the longhunt.


It cannot be said for sure whether our Charles Cocke participated in the longhunts organized by Elisha Wallen.  If they were held in 1765, as Major John Redd suggests, it is possible that our Charles Cocke participated.  If earlier, it is possible that the Charles Cox who participated was Charles Cocke of Lunenburg County, likely father or uncle of our Charles Cocke.  Both Charles Cocke of Lunenburg and our Charles Cocke appear to have associated with the Wallens.  However, if, as L.P. Summers indicates, the Charles Cox who went on the longhunt was a brother in law of Elisha Wallen, he may have been a different Charles Cox altogether, an unidentified son of Stephen Cox and Judith Woodson.

At present, I am more inclined to believe that the Charles Cox who participated in the longhunt organized by Elisha Wallen was Charles Cox of Henry County.  The accounts list the name of the participant as "Cox", not "Cocke".

Although it cannot be proved that our Colonel Charles Cocke participated in the longhunts organized by Elisha Wallen, there should be no question that he engaged in longhunts, at one time or another.   He was a noted explorer and Indian scout.  His father-in-law, John Ewing, was known as a longhunter.