General William Cocke

excerpted from
"Genealogy of the Cocke Family of Virginia"

prepared by
James C. Southall
[transcribed by Carole Thomason]

Gen. William Cocke, of Tennessee, son of Abraham, married [to] Sarah (Mary) Macklin [MacLin], was in the Virginia House of Burgesses from Washington County, Virginia, in 1778.  He was at this time thirty-one years old.  He had gone "West", and located in what was then known as the "Watauga" settlement, at a point then claimed by both Virginia and North Carolina.  He was elected to the House of Burgesses of both Virginia and North Carolina about the same time, and after coming to Williamsburg (1778) he sat in the General Assembly of North Carolina.

He was a man of very active life, and was at this time a Captain in the Revolutionary Army, and fighting the Indians in the Southwest on the North Carolina and Tennessee line.

There is a memoir of Gen. William Cocke by William Goodrich, of Philadelphia, one of his descendants, in the July number (1896) of the "American Historical Magazine", Nashville, TN.  We learn from this sketch, that William Cocke studied law in his early life, and it is there stated that at the age of twenty-seven, he was sent for [by] Lord Dunmore and offered a very high position if he would espouse the cause of the King against the Colonies, which he indignantly declined.

Somewhat previous to this he had, in the company with Daniel Boone, explored what is now East Tennessee and Western Kentucky, being about a year.  In 1776 (see Ramsey's History of Tennessee) four companies, principally Virginians, were raised, who marched to Heaton's Station, where a fort had been built by the advice of Capt. William Cocke, and named after him "Cocke's Fort".  There was here a fierce battle with the Indians, in which they received a crushing defeat.  After this he was very active in the military operations in this quarter, and took part in the engagements at Long Island, Threkeldry Fort, and King's Mountain.

He was very prominent in the efforts to withdraw from the State of North Carolina and establish the separate State of Frankland, or Franklin, and made a speech of great power before the House of Commons of North Carolina.  He was sent by the people of Franklin to Philadelphia with a memorial to Congress applying for admission to the Union.

In 1796, he was elected by the new State of Tennessee [as] the First Senator from the State of Tennessee to the Federal Congress, having been previously very prominent in the Convention which framed the first constitution of that State.  Andrew Jackson became his colleague in the U.S. Senate in 1797.  The State of Tennessee honored him in 1797 by naming a county after him.  He continued in the Federal Senate until 1819, when he was appointed Judge of the First Circuit [for Grainger County, TN].

Removing to Mississippi, he was elected to the State Legislature, and in 1814 President Madison appointed him Agent for the Chickasaw Nation.

It was a remarkable circumstance in his life that he served in two wars, in the Legislatures of four states (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi), and in the Senate of the United States.  He was active in laying the foundations of the educational systems of his adopted state.  He was the founder of the University of Tennessee, a trustee of Greeneville College, and incorporator of Washington College.

He died in Columbus, Miss., August 22, 1828, in the 81st year of his age and is buried there under a tombstone erected to his memory by the State of Mississippi.  This monument bears the inscription:

"Here lie the remains of William Cocke, who died in Columbus, Miss., on the 22nd of August, 1828.  The deceased passed an eventful and active life.  Was Captain in command during the War of 1776.  Was distinguished for his brave daring and intrepidity.  Was one of the pioneers who first crossed the Allegheny Mountains with Daniel Boone into the wilderness of Kentucky.  Took an active part in the formation of the Franklin Government, afterwards the State of Tennessee.  Was the delegate from that free limit to the Congress of the United States.  Was a member of the convention which formed the first Constitution of Tennessee, and was one of the first Senators from that State to the Congress of the United States, for a period of twelve years, and afterwards one of the Circuit Judges.  He served in the Legislatures of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, and at the age of sixty-five was a volunteer of the War of 1812, and again distinguished himself for his personal bravery and courage.  He departed this life in the eighty-first year of his age, universally lamented."

[The wording here is not entirely accurate.  See pictures of William Cocke's grave.]

[Notes in brackets [] were added by Carole Thomason, descendant of Gen. William Cocke.]

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