History of the Cockayne Family 1066 to 1795

This information was compiled and provided by Jane Cockayne Weaver, a descendant of Hiram Cockayne (1810).

Cockayne Family Early English History


English historians believe that the first Cockayne probably came to England as a soldier with William the Conqueror in 1066. As a reward for service, William gave this Cockayne a title and land in Derbyshire. Eventually Ashbourne Hall was built in Derbyshire, and this is considered the ancestral home for the Cockayne family in England.

In 1417, Sir John Cockayne, Chief Baron of the Exchequer and a descendant of the Ashbourne Cockaynes, bought about 1500 acres of land in East Bedfordshire. On Sir John’s 1500 acres there was a small village called Hatley Port or Hatley Bury. The town was so named because there is a hill nearby that looks like a hat. There was also a church in Hatley known as St. John the Baptist, which had been built in the 13th Century. Sir John renamed the village Cockayne-Hatley and established his manor adjacent to the church. Parts of the manor house still exist and have been much modified. But, the church survives to this day as a wonderful example of an English country church. Many Cockaynes are buried in front of the altar while others are buried under brasses in the nave.

The Ashbourne succession of Cockaynes died out in the 17th Century, but the succession at Cockayne-Hatley flourished until 1897. Cockayne descendants spread out to every part of England and the world. In fact, the mayor of London during the 1850s was a man named William Cockayne. The Cockaynes had strong relationships with other English families of equal social and economic standing. Often these relationships led to marriages between members of the families. For example, records indicate that Cockaynes found marriage partners in the Lowe family, an old and distinguished English family. When the Cockaynes and Lowes migrated to America, this practice continued. So, Cockaynes and Lowes married one another in colonial America, just as they had in England. In this way, families protected and consolidated their wealth and power within a framework that was familiar and comfortable.

The Cockayne Coat of Arms consists of three silver cocks, armed, crested and wrapped in sable for the shield, and for the crest, there is a cock’s head, beaked, crested, and wrapped in sable. The family motto, “En Bon Espoir,” roughly translated means, “In good hope or faith.”

The Cockaynes and the Carters

More than three centuries have passed since an Englishman named Samuel Cockayne arrived in America. Born in Gilling, Yorkshire, England in 1662, Samuel came to Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in about 1700. Talbot County at that time was something of a paradise. Rich in game and with an abundance of sea life from the Chesapeake, the land provided well. Englishmen in Talbot County considered themselves the most fortunate of all of the colonials. 1

Samuel’s choice of Talbot County as his destination was far from accidental. In fact, his friends, mentors, and business associates, Richard and William Carter, had come to Maryland a number of years earlier and had established themselves as successful tobacco planters with extensive land holdings in the area. The Carters were from the town of Kirby Wiske, also in Yorkshire, and Richard and William were two of many children born to Thomas Carter and his wife, Unika Palisser. The Carters had prospered in Maryland, and they encouraged Samuel to join them and help them manage their business ventures in the fledgling colony. Samuel took to the area immediately, and consolidated his position with the Carters by marrying William’s daughter, Anne Carter.2

Samuel had trained in the law, and he proved useful to the Carters in that capacity. Land, slaves, and tobacco changed hands often in colonial Maryland, and Samuel represented the Carters in business transactions involving holdings such as Hillson Farm, Costin’s Chance, Lambeth Fields, St. Michael’s Fresh Runs, Carter’s Farm, and Jacob and John’s Pastures. When Richard Carter died in 1708 at his plantation, Pleasant Valley, some of the Carters returned to England, leaving the administration of the family’s business to Samuel and Anne Carter Cockayne.

Samuel and Anne had four children--Thomas, William, Samuel, and Sarah—who they raised on their plantation near St. Michaels in Talbot County, Maryland. Samuel Cockayne from Gilling was dead by 1717, and Anne took over the management of the family’s affairs. By 1725, Anne had died, but during the years subsequent to Samuel’s death, Anne had become a regular at the Talbot County Courthouse, managing her land holdings and personal property with the expertise equal to that of any man in the colony. 3

Every generation after Samuel’s and Anne’s would produce at least one and sometimes several men named Samuel. In addition, the Cockaynes were devoted to traditional naming patterns, passing along the name William and Carter multiple times. By marriage, the Cockaynes were related to and allied with many of Talbot County’s families, including not only the Carters, but the Lowes, Hopkins, Nobles, Teasdales, Hargraves, Coles, Perkins, Berrys, Kemps, and Edmondsons.4

1Robert W. Barnes, British Roots of Maryland Families (Baltimore: Genealogical Publication Company, 1999), 123-124; Henry C. Peden, Jr. and F. Edward Wright, Colonial Families of the Eastern Shore of Maryland (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots Publishing, 2005), 7:84-87.
2Barnes, British Roots, 103-104.
3The following sources have numerous references to the business dealings and descendants of Samuel and Anne Carter Cockayne: Clerk of the Circuit Court, Land Records of Talbot County, Maryland, 1662-1850 (Annapolis, MD); Archives of Talbot County, Maryland, Book of Wills (Easton, MD), Books 1-6; Maryland State Archives, Maryland Marriage Records (Annapolis, MD),1700-1799; Maryland State Archives, Maryland Colonial Wills (Annapolis, MD), Books 22-30; Maryland State Archives, Inventories of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, 1719-1772 (Annapolis, MD).
4The use of the name William was for William Carter, Anne’s father. Samuel was for Samuel from Gilling, and Carter was out of respect for Anne Carter Cockayne’s family name. For more information on the family ties in Maryland, see Barnes, British Roots, 103-104.

Subsequent Generations and Moving Westward

***The repeated use of the name Samuel makes it difficult to figure out who is who, so I have numbered them. Samuel from Gilling is 1; his son is 2, and so on. Confusion exists about the name Carter also, further complicated because there are two sets of brothers named Samuel and Carter. Samuel3 is the brother of Carter1 and Carter2 is the nephew of Carter1. JCW

The Cockayne family grew and dispersed in the years after Samuel1 and Anne Carter Cockayne died. Thomas’s family was active in the Quaker movement, relocated to Delaware for a time, and returned to Talbot County where some of Thomas’s descendants were living in 1820. William was dead by 1740, leaving a daughter and a son he named Christopher. Sarah took on the moniker, “Sarah the Spinster.”1

After Samuel 1 and Anne Carter Cockayne died, Samuel2 continued to live in Talbot County where he was born. He engaged in civic affairs, farmed, and enlisted in the militia. Samuel2 married, and on 01 November 1737, he had a son he named Samuel3. In addition to young Samuel3, the family included a son named Carter1 and a daughter named Sarah. The family lived near St. Michaels and attended the Anglican Church in their parish, but Samuel2 regularly conducted his affairs in Easton, the center of business for Talbot County. Samuel2 must have trained for the law at some point, or learned from his father, because he was a regular visitor to the courthouse in Easton where he facilitated wills and conducted property inventories and transactions.2

Samuel3 and Carter1 grew to manhood in Talbot County, watching and learning as their father took an active role in county government. Both young men seemed to have taken to the law, participating in local affairs as their father and grandfather before them had done. By the 1760s, the brothers were mentioned regularly in the court proceedings and land records in Talbot County.3 Both men were also looking for wives and to make families of their own. They did not need to look far.

Maryland was home to the prominent and powerful Lowe family. The Lowes had come to Maryland at about the same time that Samuel1 Cockayne from Gilling had come, and Marylanders regarded the Lowes as American royalty. Vincent Lowe had arrived in Maryland with two of his nephews, Henry and Nicholas Lowe. Vincent had come to Maryland because his sister, Jane Lowe, had married Henry Sewell, and Sewell was secretary to Charles Calvert, 3rd Lord Baltimore. Charles Calvert needed help managing colonial Maryland, and he summoned Henry Sewell from England to help. Naturally, Henry brought his wife, Jane Lowe Sewell, and Jane’s brother and nephews followed. Henry Sewell died soon after his arrival in Maryland, and Jane Lowe Sewell then married her husband’s boss, Charles Calvert. In doing so, Jane Lowe Sewell became first lady of Maryland and an important member of Maryland’s colonial society. Eventually, the Calverts returned to England, but Jane’s brother, Vincent, and her nephews, Henry and Nicolas, stayed in Maryland and established homes in Talbot County. With their connections to Maryland’s power structure, it was sure Jane Lowe Sewell Calvert’s nephews, Henry and Nicholas, would make good marriages, and they did. Henry Lowe married Susannah Maria Bennett, the daughter of the wealthy and prominent Marylander, Richard Bennett. Henry’s brother, Nicholas, married a woman named Elizabeth Roe. The combined and extended clan was a sprawling group, holding land and important public offices in Talbot, Calvert, and St. Mary’s Counties and extending their influence in the General Assembly in Baltimore City.4

Henry and Susannah Bennett Lowe had a huge family, and as always, they relied on traditional naming patterns for their children. Nicholas and Elizabeth Roe Lowe did the same. One of Nicholas and Elizabeth’s sons, Vincent Lowe, married a woman named Elizabeth Martin. Vincent and Elizabeth Martin Lowe’s family included a son they named Henry. Henry Lowe married a woman named Hannah, and the couple had a family whose children were, Mary, Vincent, Sally, Henry, Elizabeth, and Margaret. Henry Lowe’s family would be important to Samuel3 and Carter1 Cockayne. On 10 November 1761, Samuel3 married Mary Lowe. Later, Carter1 married Mary’s sister, Margaret Lowe. Another sister, Elizabeth Lowe, married a man named John Harmoni and moved to Pennsylvania. Although no one could know it at the time, John and Elizabeth Lowe Harmoni would play an important role in the destiny of the children of Samuel3 and Mary Lowe Cockayne.5

After their marriage, Samuel3 and Mary Lowe Cockayne set up housekeeping in Talbot County. Samuel3 was busy with his business affairs, but the times had turned turbulent politically. The American colonies were on a collision course with England, and Samuel3 and his family would feel the effects greatly. In the meantime, Samuel3 and Mary had a family which included at least four children: William (1762), Carter2 (1764), Elizabeth (1766), and Samuel4 (1768). When hostilities erupted in 1776 between England and her wayward colonials, Samuel3 swore an oath of allegiance to the new American nation, raised a militia company, and went to war. Samuel3’s brother, Carter1, did the same, calling his unit the Miles River Camp Militia of Talbot County.6

By the time the Revolution was over, the children of Samuel3 and Mary Lowe Cockayne were reaching maturity. According to family legend, William died of small pox while on a ship at sea. Elizabeth married a man with the last name of McCain and moved to the part of western Virginia that would become the state of Kentucky. By the mid 1780s, of the four children born to Samuel3 and Mary Lowe Cockayne, only Samuel4 and Carter2 remained in Maryland. Then in about 1784, Samuel3 Cockayne died. There are no records to indicate what happened to Mary Lowe Cockayne, but by January of 1785, the administrator for Samuel3’s will, his brother, Carter1, was settling Samuel3’s estate. It was about this time that Samuel4 and Carter2 decided to move west.7

The Cockayne brothers had several reasons to eye land to the west. Times in post-war Maryland were difficult. Tobacco had leached the soil of its nutrients, and war had disrupted the local economies. Historians estimate that between 1785 and 1795, Maryland lost up to thirty percent of its population to the western territories. With their father dead and the assets from his estate distributed, Samuel4 and Carter2 would have had the financial means to join the westward movement. Most people who moved west knew someone who lived in the area where they were going. This was true for Samuel4 and Carter2. Their aunt, Elizabeth Lowe Harmoni, had been living well and happily with her family in the Amberson Valley in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, not far from the town of Shippensburg. John Harmoni, Elizabeth’s husband, had been a soldier in the Continental Army and had served notably. Samuel4 and Carter2 could depend on the Harmoni family to help them in a new place. At some point, Samuel4 married. We know little of Samuel4’s wife except that her name was Sarah. The Cockayne family believed that Sarah’s last name was Jones, but there are no records to support this claim. It is unclear whether Samuel4 married Sarah before leaving Maryland, or whether he met and married Sarah in Pennsylvania, but what little evidence there is suggests Samuel4 and Sarah married in Maryland. 8

By 1790, the Cockayne brothers were well established in Franklin County, where they lived in close proximity to John and Elizabeth Lowe Harmoni.9 Samuel4 and Sarah Cockayne’s first son, William, was born in 1792 in Franklin County. It is possible that their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was also a Pennsylvanian by birth. In about 1794, the Cockaynes decided to leave Franklin County and move two hundred miles to Ohio County in the western part of Virginia, near present-day Moundsville, West Virginia. The purpose of the move was obvious—the Cockaynes were ambitious and saw opportunity in Virginia. At least one other family from the Amberson Valley appears to have made the trip to Virginia at about the same time. The Van Scyoc family had lived in Franklin County for many years and farmed in addition to owning various businesses. Abel Van Scyoc and his brother, Benjamin, were neighbors of the Cockayne family, and it seems that a good friendship developed. When Samuel4 and Carter2 decided to move to Virginia, Abel elected to go with them.10

Samuel4 Cockayne wasted no time establishing himself in Ohio County. He initially purchased land to the north of Moundsville where he built a home, farmed, and operated a hotel. As time went on and the means presented themselves, Samuel4 bought more and more land. Samuel4 was never shy about seeking opportunity, self-promotion, and working to improve his and his family’s fortunes. Samuel4 and Sarah’s family continued to grow as well. In addition to William and Elizabeth, Samuel4 and Sarah became parents of Jane, Samuel5 (1801), Bennett (1805)11 , Vincent Lowe (1807), Mary (Polly), and Hiram (1810). Samuel4 and Sarah Cockayne would maintain their close relationship with their old Pennsylvania neighbor and friend, Abel Van Scyoc, until Abel’s death in 1814. 12

Sarah Cockayne was probably dead by 1816 although no record exists to confirm this date. Sarah’s death would have left Samuel4 alone to raise their young children. Although William, Elizabeth, Jane, and Samuel5 were old enough to have needed little attention from their father, Bennett, Vincent, Mary, and Hiram would have been young enough to have required his help. The family of George Washington Price lived close to that of Samuel4, and by 1820, Mr. Price had died leaving his widow, Martha Ellis Burbridge Price, with a growing family and the same challenges raising her children alone as Samuel4 Cockayne faced. Shortly after Mr. Price’s death, Samuel4 Cockayne and Martha Price married, thus combining their two families. Although the two families were now one, it appears that the children initially thought of one another more as good friends than siblings. Friendship became something more, though, when Samuel5 Cockayne married one of Martha’s daughters, Mary Price, in 1822, and four years later, Bennett married another of Martha’s daughters, Sarah Price. Martha’s death on February 25, 1825 did nothing to lessen the ties between the Prices and the Cockaynes. Bushrod Washington Price, Martha’s son, would count himself a close friend of the Cockaynes until his death in 1903.13

Again, Samuel4 found himself without a wife, and again, he married. This time, he chose a woman more than twenty years his junior. Hannah McDonald Arnett was a young widow when she agreed to marry Samuel4 Cockayne. Their daughter, Margaret Cockayne, was born in about 1827. Margaret would be the last of Samuel4 Cockayne’s children.14

As the years passed, Samuel4 became a prominent and wealthy man, well known in the Glen Dale and Moundsville areas. Carter2 Cockayne continued to live with his brother until the mid-1840s when Carter2 moved out of Samuel4’s home and began boarding with family and friends. Samuel4 and Sarah’s daughters, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mary all died at young ages. Two of the couple’s sons, Samuel5 and Hiram, moved to Burlington, Iowa. By 1840, only William, Bennett, Vincent, and Margaret remained in close proximity to their father. Carter2 died in March of 1850 at the age of 87. Samuel4 died on June 14, 1854, just two months and a few days shy of his 86th birthday. 15

Samuel1 and Anne Carter Cockayne would have been hard-pressed to imagine the lives their offspring have lived over the past three hundred years. But in many ways, the lives of their descendants mirrored their own. Samuel1 and Anne gambled on the unknown, forging their lives in a place far from home. They enjoyed great successes, grieved failure and loss, and labored to give their children a better life. Their descendants have scattered far and wide, moving on when they had to, moving up when they could, sometimes succeeding, and sometimes failing. The Cockaynes were westward-looking, valued education, believed in hard work, possessed determination and optimism, and had faith in God and themselves. Their story is little different from that of millions of America’s families, past and present; one might say their saga is ordinary, mirroring the experience of so many others. But stories such as these represent what is uniquely American about us. These stories speak to that thing we call American Exceptionalism--the ability of ordinary Americans to do extraordinary things. These are the characteristics we celebrate and acknowledge as our collective spirit, and that compels the telling of this story.

A Word About Carter2 Cockayne

Questions about the life of Carter2 Cockayne abound. Although Carter2 was Samuel4’s senior by four years, Carter2 never married, and he never lived independently of his brother or his brother’s family. Carter2 never appeared as the head of household on any census report, he was never listed as an independent taxable, and family stories about him are nonexistent. By the mid-1840s, Samuel4 and Carter2 had a disagreement, and Carter2 permanently moved out of Samuel4’s home. Carter2 boarded with various family members and friends, and Samuel4 paid his bills. A logical conclusion would be that Carter2 was somehow physically or mentally disabled and required a lot of help, although he lived a full eighty-seven years. We will probably never solve the mystery surrounding the life of Carter2 Cockayne, a life he lived in the shadow of his brother and his brother’s family.

1Clerk of the Circuit Court, Land Records of Talbot County, Maryland, 1662-1850 (Annapolis, MD); Archives of Talbot County, Maryland, Book of Wills (Easton, MD), Books 1-6; Maryland State Archives, Maryland Colonial Wills (Annapolis, MD), Books 22-30; Maryland State Archives, Inventories of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, 1719-1772 (Annapolis, MD).
2Clerk of the Circuit Court, Land Records of Talbot County, Maryland; Maryland State Archives, Inventories of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, 1719-1772 (Annapolis, MD). There is a colonial record of a marriage between Samuel Cockayne2 and Sarah Sales dated June 1738. This date would be after the birth of Samuel2’s son, Samuel3. There are several possible explanations. Samuel3’s mother may have died after he was born, and his father remarried a woman named Sarah Sales. Or, Sarah Sales was the mother of Samuel3, but the marriage was late in occurring or in recording.
3Clerk of the Circuit Court, Land Records of Talbot County, Maryland; Maryland State Archives, Inventories of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, 1719-1772 (Annapolis, MD).
4Robert W. Barnes, British Roots of Maryland Families (Baltimore: Genealogical Publication Company, 1999), 296-298; Maryland State Archives, Maryland Colonial Wills (Annapolis, MD), Book 29; http://www.laurahenderson.com/genealogy/genweb/ps19_387.html (accessed 01April2013); The Lowes claimed descent from the House of Plantagenet through Ann Cavendish, the illegitimate daughter of Henry Cavendish. Ann married one of the first of many to bear the name Vincent Lowe in the early 1600s in England.
5Maryland State Archives, Maryland Colonial Wills (Annapolis, MD), Books 22-30; Alcinda McMechen to B.W. Price, 11January1892 and B.W. Price to Alcinda McMechen, 20January1892, Cockayne Farm Collection, Glen Dale, WV. Mrs. McMechan references an old family Bible that gave the dates of Samuel3 Cockayne’s birth and marriage to Mary Lowe.
6Maryland State Archives, Accounts of the Legislature, (Annapolis, MD), Request for payment for expenses made by Carter1 and Samuel3 Cockayne, 1781. The brothers had paid for expenses for their militia units and wanted reimbursement, which the legislature approved.
7Maryland State Archives, Maryland Colonial Wills (Annapolis, MD), Books 22-30. Samuel3’s brother, Carter1, was the administrator of Samuel3’s will. Carter1’s will was administered by his wife, Margaret Lowe Cockayne.
8 Harry E. Forman, Conococheague Headwaters of Amberson Valley (Franklin County, PA, 1968), 78; Elizabeth Lowe Harmoni’s brother, Vincent Lowe, died while visiting his sister in Franklin County, PA. Elizabeth buried Vincent on her farm. Elizabeth’s husband, John Harmoni, was away fighting with the Continental Army at the time of Vincent’s death.
9United States Census of 1790, Franklin County, PA, 284-285.
10Alcinda McMechen to B.W. Price, 11January1892 and B.W. Price to Alcinda McMechen, 20January1892, Cockayne Farm Collection, Glen Dale, WV. B.W. Price tells Mrs. McMechen that Samuel4 and Carter2 stayed only briefly in Pennsylvania; See Foreman, Conococheague Headwaters for information about the Van Scyoc family.
11Confusion exists about Bennett Cockayne’s name. He appears on at least five census records. In 1830 he is Bennett; in 1840 and 1860 he is Benj; in 1850 he is Benjamin; and in 1870 he is Bennet. The Iowa Cockaynes called him “Ben” and addressed their letters to him to Benjamin Cockayne. Several Cockaynes in subsequent generations were named Benjamin, and Bennett Cockayne himself had a grandson named Benjamin, possibly in his honor. In his business dealings in Glen Dale and Moundsville, he was primarily known as Bennett, but some documents refer to him as Benjamin. Samuel and Sarah may have named him Bennett Benjamin or Benjamin Bennett, but no official record exists to tell us. In the end, it is probably best to let Bennett Cockayne speak for himself. Upon making his will, Bennett Cockayne called himself simply Bennett Cockayne. Likewise, the name on his tombstone is Bennett Cockayne. Until there is evidence to the contrary, Bennett Cockayne has the final word in this document.
12Ohio County Court Order Book Five, Ohio County, Virginia, page 297; Ohio County Court Order Books, Ohio County, Virginia, 1819-1834; Powell, History of Marshall County, 108-117.
13United States Census of 1820, Elizabethtown, Ohio County, VA, 474; For information on George Washington and Martha Burbridge Price, see obituary of Hilda Jane Kirby, http://www.wvgenweb.org/marshall/obitk.htm" (accessed March 15, 2011)
14Marshall County, West Virginia, Marriage and Birth Records, 1820-1855.
15Marshall County, West Virginia, Death Records, 1850-1855.

I wish to thank Linda Cunningham Fluharty and Edmund Grose for their kind help. Both have contributed greatly to my understanding of the Cockayne Family. I appreciate their generosity in sharing information and their patience and support of my efforts. JCW