This collection of Cocke family papers consists of materials from four generations of family members. Materials include correspondence, diaries, commonplace books, reports, diplomas, statements, accounts, licenses, legal records, obituaries, clippings and genealogical notes from the Cocke, Preston and Meredith families. These families were located primarily in Cumberland, Powhatan, Rockbridge and Hanover counties, as well as the city of Richmond.
Thomas Lewis Preston (1781–1812) was born on the family estate "Smithfield," in Montgomery County. He attended Rockbridge Academy, Washington College and the College of William and Mary before reading law in Richmond in 1804. He returned to Montgomery but settled in Lexington after his marriage to Edmonia Madison Randolph, daughter of Edmund Randolph, in 1806. TLP was a major in the Virginia militia as well as a member of the Virginia General Assembly from 1806–11. In 1807 he was appointed by the assembly to act as agent in recovering funds due Virginia land warrant holders from surveyors in Kentucky. He was also a trustee of Ann Smith Academy in Rockbridge County, one of the earliest incorporated female academies in the South.
The papers of Thomas Lewis Preston consist of correspondence, legal documents, accounts and estate materials. Much of the correspondence deals with the affairs of Ann Smith Academy, state and national politics and family matters. Although there are only about forty items of correspondence, a good deal of this comes from prominent Virginians. Among these correspondents are: Peter Vivian Daniel, associate justice of the Supreme Court; John Floyd, governor of Virginia and brother-in-law of TLP; Thomas Gholson, Virginia congressman; Andrew Moore, Virginia senator; James Pleasants, Virginia senator; General John Preston, treasurer of Virginia and brother of TLP; Benjamin Howard, first territorial governor of Missouri and congressman from Kentucky; Edward Coles, second governor of Illinois and secretary to President James Madison; and John Coalter, judge of the Court of Appeals and delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829–30.
Thomas Lewis Preston had two children, John Thomas Lewis Preston and Elizabeth Randolph Preston (1808–1889). Elizabeth Randolph Preston married William Armistead Cocke of "Oakland," Cumberland and Powhatan counties, where the couple lived. After the Civil War, ERPC offered "Derwent," a small house on the Powhatan section of the "Oakland" estate, to General Robert E. Lee. Lee and his family lived at "Derwent" from June–September 1865, when he assumed the presidency of Washington College.
This collection contains several items of correspondence and obituaries concerning ERPC. There is also a great deal of estate material, particularly concerning the disposition of land she owned in Louisville, Kentucky. This correspondence is among her sons, John Preston Cocke (executor) and Edmund Randolph Cocke, and their attorneys and agents in Louisville. George Washington Custis Lee is also an occasional correspondent in this material.
On November 15, 1870, John Preston Cocke, youngest son of William Armistead Cocke and Elizabeth Randolph Preston Cocke, married Eliza Bernard Meredith, daughter of Judge John Alexander Meredith and thus several items from the Meredith family are included in the collection. Judge Meredith (1814–1882) was a lawyer and delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1850–51, commonwealth's attorney from Hanover County, and judge of the Circuit Court of Richmond from 1852–69. He, along with Richmond mayor Joseph Mayo and Judge William Henry Lyons, surrendered the city to Union forces on April 3, 1865. Judge Meredith was also counsel for mayor-elect Henry K. Ellyson in the Richmond Mayoralty Case of 1870 and witnessed the "Capitol Disaster," the collapse of the galleries in the capitol building.
Items pertaining to Judge Meredith include several letters, diplomas, a license to practice law and a certificate to practice before the Supreme Court. There is a pardon signed by President Andrew Johnson as well as commissions in the Virginia militia signed by governors James McDowell, Littleton Waller Tazewell and David Campbell. The collection also includes commissions signed by Governor John Letcher and diplomas belonging to Judge Meredith's son, William Bernard Meredith (1839–1862), as well as miscellaneous materials concerning other Meredith and Bernard family members.
William Armistead Cocke and Elizabeth Randolph Preston Cocke had four sons: William Fauntleroy, Thomas Lewis Preston, Edmund Randolph and John Preston. William Fauntleroy Cocke (1836–1863) attended both Washington College and the University of Virginia. On April 23, 1861, he enlisted in Company E, 18th Virginia Infantry, CSA. He was killed at the battle of Gettysburg. The collection includes a letter to his brother, John Preston, describing army life, as well as several diplomas and class reports from the University of Virginia.
The second son, Thomas Lewis Preston Cocke (1838–1895) was twice married and, although this collection contains none of his material, it does contain records of a daughter from his first marriage, Elizabeth Randolph Preston Cocke (b. 1866). These records are included with the papers of her guardian, John Preston Cocke. The third son, Edmund Randolph Cocke (1841–1922) is also not a major figure in this collection although there is a good deal of correspondence between John Preston Cocke and him concerning their mother's estate. ERC is noteworthy because he was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1893 on the Populist ticket.
John Preston Cocke (1845–1917) is the major figure in the collection from this generation. He attended Virginia Military Institute in 1863–64 where, as a cadet, participated in the battle of New Market. After the war, he attended both Washington College and the University of Virginia. At the latter he received a law degree in 1870. That year he moved to Richmond to practice law under the guidance of his father-in-law, Judge John A. Meredith. The firm of Meredith and Cocke was a highly respected one and JPC, although seldom appearing in court as an advocate, was widely sought after for his knowledge of equity and probate law. He also served for many years on the vestry of St. James's Episcopal Church, Richmond.
This collection deals with the personal affairs and not the legal ones of JPC. Personal materials include diaries of a trip to England and Scotland, memoranda books, correspondence, and a series of biographical sketches written by JPC on notable persons buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond. Educational materials include diplomas and class reports from the University of Virginia as well as six class reports from Washington College signed by General Robert E. Lee. There is also a letter from Woodrow Wilson, thanking JPC for his support. Materials for the guardianship of Elizabeth Randolph Preston Cocke (b. 1866) from 1873–1887 include accounts, vouchers and reports to the Cumberland County Court. The last box of JPC material contains obituaries, resolution and sympathy letters directed to his wife.
Materials pertaining to Eliza Bernard (Meredith) Cocke (1848–1922), wife of JPC, include correspondence, obituaries and miscellany. Among the correspondents are: Nancy Astor, author Mary Johnston and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt, as assistant secretary of the Navy, wrote to thank EBMC for her participation in a Navy Department program where citizens lent binoculars, spy-glasses and similar items to the Navy to aid in the war effort.
John Preston Cocke and Eliza Bernard (Meredith) Cocke had four daughters, three of whom are figures in the collection: Ella Meredith, Sarah Bernard, and Elizabeth Preston. Ella Meredith Cocke (1873–1966) was the oldest and her personal correspondence is in the collection. Much of this correspondence concerns the family genealogy and is included with the genealogical notes at the end of the collection. The third daughter, Sarah Bernard (Cocke) Nash (1885–1974), was the only daughter of JPC and EBMC that ever married. There are only a few of her letters and other miscellaneous materials in the collection, yet her children and grandchildren are correspondents of both Ella Meredith Cocke and Elizabeth Preston Cocke.
The major figure in the Cocke family papers is Elizabeth Preston Cocke. EPC was involved in numerous civic, religious and benevolent activities in Richmond throughout her life and these are documented in the collection. EPC attended Sweet Briar College from 1909–12. She was trained as a nurse and in 1913 became president of the Girls' Auxiliary of the Instructive Visiting Nurses Association. The IVNA sponsored a summer camp for underprivileged children from Richmond. Although too frail to serve overseas, EPC joined the Army in 1917 as a reconstruction aide in Boston. Her work entailed the care and rehabilitation of handicapped soldiers. After the war, she was active in the organization of children's nurseries and was second president of the Richmond Junior League. In this capacity she was involved in the restoration of Williamsburg, Va. During World War II, EPC was active in Richmond's Volunteer Service Bureau in helping to train interviewers to screen and place prospective volunteers. She performed the same task for Richmond's aircraft filter system, which was part of a network of volunteer women that identified and tracked all aircraft that flew over the eastern seaboard. She was coordinator of the nurse's aid program for McGuire Hospital and was also active in overseas relief work from 1944–1946. After the war, EPC was active in the United World Federalists movement, which was dedicated to international understanding and cooperation. She was a life-long member of St. James's Episcopal Church.
This collection contains correspondence, reports, bulletins, printed materials and clippings concerning these activities as well as personal and institutional correspondence and diaries detailing travel abroad. Some of this correspondence deals with her father's participation in the battle of New Market, its centennial celebration and its commemoration with a bronze plaque in St. James's Church. Other correspondents include Alexander Wilbourne Weddell, former U. S. ambassador to Argentina and Spain, and Dugald Stewart Walker, artist and illustrator.
The Cocke family papers also contain clippings concerning items of interest and members of the extended family. There is information on several houses owned by the Cocke family: "Oakland," "Bremo" and "Derwent"; and the Preston family: "Smithfield." The collection concludes with genealogical notes and correspondence concerning the Bernard, Byrd, Carter, Clopton, Cocke, Conway, Fauntleroy, Manning, Meredith, Preston, Randolph, Roane, Vivian and Walker families.
Series I. Thomas Lewis Preston (1781–1812), Lexington, Va.
Series II. Elizabeth Randolph (Preston) Cocke (1808–1889), "Oakland," Cumberland County, Va.
Series III. John Alexander Meredith (1814–1882), Richmond, Va.
Series IV. William Bernard Meredith (1839–1861), Richmond, Va.
Series V. Bernard - Meredith families
Series VI. William Fauntleroy Cocke (1836–1863), "Oakland," Cumberland County, Va.
Series VII. John Preston Cocke (1845–1917), Richmond, Va.
Series VIII. Eliza Bernard (Meredith) Cocke (1848–1922), Richmond, Va.
Series IX. Ella Meredith Cocke (1873–1966), Richmond, Va.
Series XI. Elizabeth Preston Cocke (1891–1981), Richmond, Va.
Series XII. Family and genealogical material
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Last updated: March 21, 2005