The Disappearance of William Cox :
William Cox spent a great deal of money on Prospect Place in 1886. He installed a new floor in the main hall and replaced the thirty year old copper barn roof with a slate roof (slate being very popular at the time), 1886 being written into the slate. At some time around the turn of the century there was a grand ball at the estate. It was a reception for a new Episcopal Bishop. There were more than two hundred people in attendance from all over the state. This was the first time ice cream was served in Muskingum County, having been brought in on a specially refrigerated train car. Life continued at the house for some time and all was well. Then around the turn of the century a terrible thing happened. The following is an excerpt from a local paper of the time:
'IS WILL COX DEAD?
That is the question agitating the public today - or if not dead what has become of him?
The mysterious disappearance of Mr. William E. Cox, whose country residence, Prospect Place, located between Dresden and Trinway is the most palatial in the county, has been the theme of conversation in this community for the past week. While it was known last week that he had disappeared and no trace of him could be found, although a detective had been put on his trail, yet it was hoped and thought he would turn up and through respect for the feelings of his family and connections the TRANSCRIPT refrained from mentioning the matter in any respect. But Mr. Cox is gone as completely as if the very earth had opened up and swallowed him and in spite of every effort made to get some trace of him by his family, his legal advisors and his friends none can be had.
Mr. Cox left home on Friday, November 15, just before noon, informing his family that he was going to Zanesville on business, and that as he was in a hurry he would not stop for dinner. When he arrived at Trinway he spoke to Henry Park and said he wished he had someone to do an errand for him in Zanesville as he had some business in Columbus and it would put him out very much if he did not go to attend to it. Mr. Park said his wife was on the C & M.V. train which would soon start for Zanesville, and she could attend to Mr. Cox's errand, and the latter gentleman gave Mr. Park $255, and told him to have Mrs. Park pay it to A. E. Starr & Co., on his (Cox's) account. He then took the Panhandle train for Columbus.....
In another article later...
W. E. COX LOCATED
Seen on the streets of San Francisco by Miss Jennie Adams, who formerly resided here.
Mrs. W.E. Cox has received a letter from Jennie Adams, daughter of the late Samuel Adams and who was born and for the greater part of her life resided in Dresden, in which she states that she met Mr. Cox a few days ago upon the streets of San Francisco, California, in company with a strange gentleman. Having been absent from Dresden several years and having been intimately acquainted with Mr. Cox she was naturally very much pleased at seeing him and advanced towards him calling his name and asking a question about his folks, etc., almost in the same breath. He seemed annoyed, did not speak a word to her and hastily swept past her. She started after him and seeing her following he entered a cigar store. She thinking perhaps he did not recognize her followed him in but he passed on into a side way and hid from her. She had no knowledge of his disappearance here and, being an old friend of his wife's, wrote to Mrs. Cox telling about Will's strange action. It was undoubtedly Mr. Cox as it seems impossible that she could be mistaken and then his actions almost verify his identity.
A peculiar and interesting matter has developed in connection with the disappearance of Mr. Cox. On November 8 he was a guest at Schrader's hotel in Columbus and had with him a friend whom he refused to register and he and the clerk had a few warm words over the affair. A good description has been obtained of this man from Schrader's clerk and the peculiar and perhaps significant part of it comes when the strange man who was seen with Mr. Cox in San Francisco by Miss Adams, and whom she minutely describes, tallies to a dot with the description of the person furnished by Schrader's clerk.
Mrs. Cox feels perfectly satisfied that Miss Adams could make no mistake and that the man she saw in California is none other than her husband, W.E. Cox. Why he is there no one but himself knows at present but perhaps later developments may some time reveal his object for his, to say the least, strange and unnatural actions.'
Officially William Cox was never seen again. He never attempted to make contact with his family either. Young George Cox, grandson of George W. Adams grew up, went to college and became an engineer. He worked on President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Tennessee Valley Authority” dam projects all over the south and lived most of his life in Georgia and Florida. George spent most of his life and a large sum of money in an attempt to locate his father, without success. He owned Prospect Place until 1969 when he sold the home to the Cox Gravel Company. This firm was owned by Eugene Cox, who was unrelated to George.
So we have a mystery surrounding Prospect Place. Where did William Cox go and why? Had he ran through the money left to Anna as well as his own inheritance? We know he threw lavish parties at Prospect Place and lived very large. William never returned home and Anna was left a single mother. She did a wonderful job thereafter, even against the odds. George Cox spent a great deal of time and money during his life in an attempt to locate his father, with no luck. We may never know what became of William Cox, but we will continue to look for clues.
We now believe that we have a resolution to the destiny of Mr. William Cox. A Cox family historian and genealogist has informed us that she believes Mr. Cox did indeed settle in California. He had family previous to the area as the Cox family were scattered between Ohio, Toronto, Canada, and California. It is thought that Mr. Cox was in residence at a hotel in San Francisco when in 1906 that building was destroyed by the great earthquake and fire and Mr. Cox and many others were killed. So this is the likely end to the tragic life of William Evans Cox, Jr. We finally know after a hundred years!
Download a free copy of our in house history text here:
History of Prospect Place