98 North 100 West; Manti, Utah
Completed in 1861

A History As Solid as Its Foundation

Once known as the "biggest and best" house in Manti, it took seven years to build the "Big House" for Cox and his four wives. It also functioned as one of Manti's social centers. Today it would easily qualify for the National and State Historic Register. Its oolite exterior was quarried from the same hill as the Manti Temple. When the Blackhawk War erupted in 1865, the home was protected within the walls of a nine-block area known as the Big Fort. Basement walls were thirty inches thick. Each wife had their own separate room with a fireplace and outside entrance. All levels combined, there were twelve rooms and five fireplaces.
The home originally faced east. The porch was eventually removed and added to the front of the Manti House Inn located on Main Street.

Porch of the Old Cox Home was moved to the front of the Manti House Inn on Main & 4th N

Walter Cox spoke three Indian dialects, and it was not uncommon for Indians to ride up by the hundreds on horseback to listen to him preach from the east steps. In 1876 he was called as a special missionary to the Indians. They considered him a trusted friend as well.
Painting by a great grandson, Owen Richardson
(Courtesy of Carl Cox who maintains the family website at http://www.oscox.org/fwcox/fwhistoryindex.html)

Frederick Walter Cox

Frederick Walter Cox was born in New York in 1812 and came to Manti, Utah in 1852. He was an excellent craftsman who helped build forts, bridges, wagons, furniture, looms, farm equipment, and sleighs; with the help of his sons he built a water-powered sawmill by the creek. In the community he served on the City Council, was Treasurer of Sanpete County, and a member of the Territorial legislature. In church affairs he was counselor to Welcome Chapman, President of the High Priest Quorum of the Manti Stake, and laid the northwest cornerstone of the temple. There was always time for music. Cox played the flute beautifully and enjoyed singing in choirs. He died in 1879 in a logging accident at the age of sixty-seven, the father of thirty-eight children and fifty-six grandchildren.

The Wives of FW Cox

Emeline Whiting (1817-1896) was born in Ohio to Elisha Whiting Jr. and Sally Hulet Whiting. She was married by Joseph Smith in 1835 in Ohio after he had just been brutally tarred and feathered by anti-Mormons the previous evening. In 1845 she watched as her house was burned by a mob which ravaged most of the Morley Settlement. Once her life settled down in the "Big House," she became known as a skilled tailor, making suits for the boys and men and gloves out of tanned animal skins. Family members were captivated by her storytelling, including vivid stories about her Indian ancestry. She died a widow at the age of seventy-nine.

Jemima Losee (1823-1901) was the daughter of David Losee and Lydia Huff Losee, born in Canada, and an older sister to Lydia. When the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois was ready for ordinance work in 1846, Jemima became the second wife of Walter Cox. In 1852 she and Cordelia were exiled with their children in Iowa to avoid persecution due to their being Walter's other wives. Meanwhile, Walter was building wagons and making preparations for the trek west. During a malaria outbreak in Mt. Pisgah, Jemima singlehandedly cared for the sick in the family. Her resourcefulness also enabled her to make shoes out of left over heavy cloth for colder weather. She died at the age of 78. 

Cordelia Morley (1823-1915) was born in Ohio to Isaac Morley and Lucy Gunn Morley. In 1831 Joseph Smith and his family stayed with the Morley family until the Smith home could be built. The lives of the Coxes, Morleys, and Whitings became strongly intertwined. At the age of seventeen in the Morley Settlement she was the community school teacher; Walter taught music to the children. They married in 1846. Isaac Morley, her father, was patriarch of the LDS church and brought the first group of settlers to Manti in 1849. Settling into the "Big House" was a happy time. Her skills included the making of fancy sun bonnets, hats woven of straw, weaving silk cloth, and writing. She was a widow for 36 years and died at the age of ninety-two.

Lydia Margaret Losee (1837-1921) was also born in Canada. She was eight years old when she witnessed the burning of her family home and belongings by a mob. This occurred in the same settlement where Walter and Emeline were living (the Morley Settlement was situated between Nauvoo and Quincy, Illinois). She become the fourth wife of Walter Cox in 1855 in Manti. After Walter died she worked as a housekeeper for Joseph S. Snow, a widower, and took care of his children. They were married in 1888. She died at the age of eighty-four.

Mary Ann Darrow (1818-1872) was the daughter of  Stephen Darrow and Harriet Burbank  She was born in Hebron, New York and baptized in October 1853 shortly after arriving in the Salt Lake valley. Mary and Walter Cox were married civilly in January of 1858.  They had two sons, Charles and Sullivan,  but soon after divorced.  Mary moved to Springville where she was reunited with her first husband Edmund Richardson.  She was an excellent weaver, including the shawl she is pictured wearing.  At the age of fifty-four she passed away of pneumonia.

Emma Sophia Peterson (1850-1900), from Denmark, lived in an adjacent home made of stone which was later stuccoed. At the age of six she traveled to Utah with her mother and siblings in the Willie Handcart Company. She was married to Walter in 1869. After his death, she eventually remarried for her obituary lists her last name as Cox-Burt; it also states she left a large family behind, among them small children with neither mother nor father.

Original floor plans

The second floor had a partition in the center that could be opened and used as a multi-purpose room: dance lessons taught by Uncle Orville Cox, silk and wool spinning, classroom instruction, public dances, weddings, and other community events. The garret, or attic, has the famous round window on the north side from which Walter's children anxiously watched for his return from a 27 month mission.

House directly south built for Emma

Before the remodel

Next door to the house pictured above was the home of Orville S Cox, one of the original 49ers, a blacksmith, and brother of FW Cox

Architectural styles:
Limestone vernacular double house
Greek Revival elements in the low-pitched roof
and cornice returns
Gable ends

National Register of Historic Places
Utah State Historic Preservation Office

Manti Cemetery where Walter Cox and
wives are buried

Frederick Walter Cox (1812-1879)

The "Big House" stands as a silent and majestic witness of faith and industry.

Genealogy of Ownership

After the death of Walter Cox, the estate of the Big House was deeded to Gustav E. Carlson August of 1882; in March 1883 he deeded it to Lars C. Kjar; it was deeded back to Gustav in March of 1887. Later it was deeded to Neils J Provstgaard, whose daugher lived in it until it was pruchased by Paul and Loretta Bender. Next in line of ownership were Roy and Carol Maynes, the couple who removed the porch on the east side to be used on the front of the Manti House Inn. They added a cement porch on the west side. They sold the home to Ed Gilman who sold it to Gary and Janice Carlson. They converted the attic (garret) into an apartment with a dormer on the west side. Herb and Wendy Basso purchased the home in 2008; the Bassos value historical homes, the spirit of Manti in general, and would love to see Manti more active in home preservation and in offering more for tourists year-round.  Gary Erickson, a direct descendant of Walter Cox and Emeline, purchased the home in 2015.  He and his wife Rashel will restore the home into a residence once again and cherish it with the generations to come. 
Book sources:
Manti Sesquicentennial, 1849-1999, Manti Sesquicentennial Committee, pp 27-32
Song of a Century, Manti Centennial Committee
Utah's Historic Architecture, 1847-1940, Thomas Carter and Peter Goss
View from the Redpoint, Albert Antrei, p.56 (photo of east porch)
Before and After Mt. Pisgah, Clare B. Christensen, 1979

Charles Edmund Richardson, Annie Richardson Johnson and Elva Richardson Shumway, 1982

Online sources:
Histories of FW Cox, Wives, and Children
Stone Houses in Manti Recall Utah Past
Home Manufacture of Silk
(scroll to bottom of page)
Historical Sites - Southern Sanpete

Manti City Walking Tour
Manti City Zoning Map

Other sources:
Photo and Information of Emma
Courtesy of Kent Barton of Manti, Utah