Robert Ralston Cox (1822-1851)

ROBERT RALSTON COX was a Philadelphia-born scholar of church architecture in the circle of early American Ritualist educator James DeKoven (1831-1879). Cox was involved in the organization and design of the Church of St. James the Less, Philadelphia. He was a member of the New-York Ecclesiological Society and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who entered the General Theological Seminary in New York in 1848. Cox planned to build the Church of St. John Chrysostom, Delafield, Wisconsin, adjacent to Nashotah House Theological Seminary, with his cousin William Markoe as its first priest, but drowned on the Ohio River en route to construct the church. It was completed in his memory. Cox’s body was returned to Philadelphia, where he was one of the first burials at St. James the Less.

This page of obituary and estate notices supplements biographical material compiled by Richard Mammana in 2004 for an uncompleted biography. Cox’s only published essay is also available on this site. In 2019, American National Public Radio carried a story by Jacki Lyden on Cox’s architectural legacy: In Wisconsin, An Enduring Sanctuary Was A Pioneer Dream.

From the Milwaukee Sentinel, May 29, 1851

Melancholy Casualty.—A Telegraph dispatch, received in this city, Tuesday evening, brings the unexpected and melancholy tidings of the drowning of Mr. R. Ralston Cox, of Nashotah, Waukesha County. Mr. Cox was on his way home from the East, in company with some relatives, by way of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. He fell overboard, from a steamboat on the Ohio, about 10 o’clock on Friday night last. Mr. Cox was a gentleman of high character and finished education, and the intelligence of his sudden and distressing death has given a painful shock to a large circle of relatives and friends. 

From the Milwaukee Sentinel, June 6, 1851

☞We learn that a letter was received in town yesterday, stating that the body of the much lamented Mr. Cox, who was recently drowned in the Ohio River, has been found near Newport, Ky. The watch and other valuables of the deceased were still upon his person, thus making it certain that this sad occurrence was accidental. How the incident occurred, can never be known. 

From the Milwaukee Sentinel, June 25, 1851

From the Marietta (O.) Journal.


R. Ralston Cox, of Milwaukee, on the 28th of May. The body of the above named individual was found drifted ashore, opposite the foot of Battes [?] Grape Island, on the Ohio side. An inquest was held on the 29th ult., and the body buried on the lands of Benjamin Vallentine, near the mouth of Davis’ Run, in Newport Township. There was found on his person various papers, from which the following facts were learned, to wit:

That his name was R. Ralston Cox; that he was of Milwaukee, that he had a cousin at Manhasset, Long Island, by the name of S. Cox; that on the 22d of May he paid to W. B. Anderson, Clerk of the S. B. Clipper, No. 2, $39, in full for six and one half Cabin Passages from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati; that he had in charge Mrs. Markoe, Miss Markoe, Master Markoe, Mrs. Pope, Mrs. or Miss Charton, Mr. or Mrs. Cramoe—the last two names are difficult to make out—that he paid the fare of the above named person for one and one-half day’s boarding at the Monongahela House, Pittsburgh, May 23, 1851.

There was found on his person one hundred and ninety six dollars and ninety six cents, principally in gold. He had a small travelling watch, to the chain of which is suspended a small cross. Several other small articles were found on his person. The money, and all the other articles, and papers, found on his person, are in possession of the subscriber at Newport, Washington Co., Ohio and will be given up on application of the proper person or persons—and an information in possession of the subscriber, will be cheerfully given to all friends who may enquire by letter or otherwise. 

M. H. Needham.

From The Banner of the Cross, volume 13:24, June, 1851.


We penned, for last week’s paper, a brief and hasty notice of the death of this valued friend. The following more particular notice is furnished by the Rector of a Parish, which may well do honor to the memory of one who has there nobly recorded his love for the Church.

On Saturday afternoon, with many of the city clergy, and with a large number of sorrowing friends, we attending the recovered remains of our friend, to their last earthly resting place, under the shadow of that beautiful Sanctuary where he last worshipped on earth, and where we united with him in prayer and praise just three weeks before. The services were peculiarly impressive, as the greater portion was chanted, in accordance with the expressed desire of him who heard them not. As we stood in that beautiful church-yard, overshadowed by the Church of St. James the Less, we wondered that so few had chosen it, for themselves and their friends, as a burial-place. No more appropriate spot can be found around our city. The quiet beauty of nature is here consecrated by a temple of the ever-living God. Surely, we thought, as we saw our friend laid tranquilly to rest, beneath the chancel wall of that noble sanctuary, over each true Member of Christ who here “sleeps in Jesus,” even inanimate nature responds to that prayer of Christian faith—“Requiescat in pace!” As the solemn services closed, the sun just setting broke through the intervening clouds, and seemed to write in letters of gold on all around those words of comfort, which heaven ever sends to cheer the heart when earth’s darkness broods upon it.

For the Banner of the Cross.

The afflicting providence by which Robert Ralston Cox, a young and gifted Christian gentleman, has departed this life, has plunged a large circle of friends and kindred into the deepest grief, and awakened a heartfelt sympathy in more than one community.

In the hope of contributing in some degree to the soothing of this bitter grief, and for the purpose, also, of recording the sterling worth of the deceased, this tribute far more brief than his memory deserves, is rendered by one who knew him well in college days, and in many of the scenes of early manhood.

The writer can truly say that the conduct of the lamented dead was actuated by the deepest sense of duty, and the loftiest principles of life. Uniting the gentleness and refinement of the woman with the strength and moral courage of the man, he was tenderly loved, and truly respected. Those who knew him best held him dear, not only for the natural endowments and the discipline of head and heart, which he possessed in an eminent degree, but because they felt a thorough confidence that in the hour of danger or of trial, he could be leaned upon, and in that hour would faithfully discharge his trust.

True as well-tried steel, his word had to himself and to all who knew him well, the sanction of a bond.

True indeed, as well as “pleasant” hast thou been to me, my brother!

Thy friendship was like thy faith and charity, a warm and sweet reality.

The hope of fond hearts, always a welcome guest at the firesides of the many friends, whom, by his generous and warm affections he had secured, he has been suddenly snatched from our side in the very morning of his strength and usefulness.

Munificent almost to a fault, he delighted in bestowing freely the means that God had given him for the good of his fellow-[several illegible words] of his Redeemer’s kingdom.

For some years, he was actively engaged in building one of our District churches, and to the people and Rector of the parish he continued faithful to the last.

Sweet shall be the remembrance of him which is now embalmed in their hearts.

Having transferred his residence to Wisconsin, the spiritual wants of his brethren in that State had enlisted his warmest sympathy. Like the good centurion, he “loved” the people of God, and was building for them entirely at his own expense, a Christian “synagogue.” There also,

“The sweet remembrance of the just
Shall flourish, though he sleep in dust.”

Our grief for the deeply afflicting bereavement we have sustained in the loss of such a heart, ought, however, to be mingled with joy at our dear friend’s exchange of the temptations, toils and cares of this earthly pilgrimage, for the rest and joy and paradise.

We, who knew his strong faith and fervent charity, have, from his life, the reasonable and comfortable hope that his death was truly Christian.

On the dark and lowering night of his departure, surrounded by the cold and restless waters, as the steamer which bore away together his friends, and earthly hopes receded from his longing gaze, we have the humble and holy confidence that he addressed himself to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

To faithless eyes he seemed on that night to have been alone, but God was with him. We believe that on his dying sight flashed across that gloomy sky the bow of heavenly promise, and that as he sank, after a manful struggle, beneath the gurgling waves, he heard a voice saying “My son, come up hither,” and enter into the rest of the faithful.”

Peace and love to the memory of Ralston Cox, the refined scholar, the true friend, the warm-hearted Christian gentleman. His memory will long be tenderly cherished for his labors of love, for his continual ministry to the saints. Earth has lost a true heart. Heaven has gained one more. H. E. M.

June 9th, 1851.

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) Wednesday, August 20, 1851; Issue 205; col F

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) [Monday], [August 25, 1851]; Issue 208; col F

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) Thursday, August 28, 1851; Issue 211; col A

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) Tuesday, September 02, 1851; Issue 215; col A

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) Saturday, September 06, 1851; Issue 219; col A

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) Tuesday, September 09, 1851; Issue 228; col A

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) Wednesday, September 17, 1851; Issue 228; col A

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, WI) Saturday, September 20, 1851; Issue 231; col A

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI) Saturday, September 30, 1854; col E

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI) Monday, October 02, 1854; col D


NOTICE is hereby given that the undersigned, having been appointed by the County Judge of the County of WAUKESHA, upon the estate of ROBERT RALSTON COX, deceased, with full powers to receive, examine and adjust all claims and demands against said estate, and all claims and demands exhibited in offset thereto, will meet for the purpose of attending to the duties of said appointment, at the house of Andrew Proudfit, in the town of Delafield, County of Waukesha, on the first and fourth Mondays in September, and first Monday of October, AD 1851, between the hours of 11 A.M. and 1 P.M. of said days, and at the office of William Meikleham, in the city of Milwaukee, on the fourth Monday of October between the hours of two and five P.M. of said day.



GEO. R. McLANE, Com’rs.

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI) Wednesday, October 04, 1854; col E

RIVER LOTS AT AUCTION.—It will be seen by advertisement that the sale of the two valuable river lots in the 5th ward belonging to the estate of the late Ralston Cox has been postponed till to-morrow (Thursday) when it will take place at Wall’s auction Room. The attention of real estate men is invited.

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, (Milwaukee, WI) Friday, October 06, 1854; col A


ADMINISTRATOR’S Sale of valuable and desirable River property and Dwelling Lots. On Thursday morning, Oct. 5 at 10 o’clock, I will sell at my Auction Room on Wisconsin Street, by order of the Administrator of Robert Ralston Cox, deceased, the following described property:

Lots 6 and 7, block No. 65, 5th Ward, on River.

Lots 17 and 18, block No. 61, 5th Ward, Walker’s Point.

Lots 1, 2 and 3, Block 29, 5th Ward.

Lot No. 7, Block 93, 2d Ward.

The lots on the River are very valuable. The sale will take place precisely at ten minutes after 10 o’clock, so no one must find fault if they should be too late and lose a bargain. Terms, ½ cash balance in 1 and 2 years, 8 per cent interest. Title is perfect. 10 per cent of the bid will be required to be paid down at the day of the sale.

CALEB WALD, Auctioneer.

The Ecclesiologist, volume 12 (NS volume 9), 1851, p. 295.


It is with great regret that we mention the decease of an active member of this Society, and a constant correspondent of the Ecclesiologist,—Mr. R. Ralston Cox, of the General Theological Seminary, New York, and latterly of Delafield, in Wisconsin; where he was building, from his own designs, and at his own cost, a wooden church, that has several times been noticed with praise in our pages. His death is a loss to ourselves, as well as to his American fellow-churchmen. The following extract from the Banner of the Cross gives some particulars of his sudden end:—

“On the afternoon of the fourth Sunday after Easter, after uniting in the solemn worship of the sanctuary, the hand which makes this record grasped, in parting, the warm hand which now is cold in death. Mr. Cox, full of hope and spirits, left the next morning, with a large party, for Wisconsin. He was going to complete the beautiful sanctuary which he had been erecting, at his own expense, in Delafield, and he bore with him some of the appropriate furniture, which he had procured from abroad, to adorn this house of God. On Friday night he parted from his friends to retire, and soon after, that fearful cry, ‘A man overboard!’ was heard. As he was very near-sighted, it is presumed he missed his foothold on the narrow guard of the steamer. Though his voice was heard for some time, the darkness of the night, and it is to be feared the too slight search of those who little value human life, prevented a rescue. The name of the lost one was not known, until his vacant place in the morning revealed the sad truth to his sorrowing friends. And even then strong hopes were entertained that he might have reached the shore, or that some other boat might have rescued him. These hopes were vain. The waters have only given back to his sorrowing friends the lifeless remains.”

Transcribed by Richard J. Mammana, 2004

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