John Willcox, I

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John Willcox, I

Birthplace: Concord, PA
Death: September 16, 1793 (65)
Deep River, Chatham, NC
Place of Burial: Willcox Graveyard, Gulf, Chatham County, North Carolina, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Willcox and Elizabeth Wilcox
Husband of Rebecca Wilcox
Father of Polley Alston; Elizabeth Wilcox; Mary Jane Alston; John William Wilcox, II; James Wilcox and 3 others
Brother of Ann White; James Willcox; Elizabeth Wilcox England; Mary Montgomery; Deborah Willcox and 4 others

Occupation: Armorer, Owner Iron Works, Armorer & Mfger of cannon & munitions
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Willcox, I

John Willcox (or Wilcox), Chatham County iron manufacturer, was born in Concord, Chester County, Pa., the first son of Thomas and Elizabeth Cole Willcox. About 1759 he moved to Cross Creek where he operated a store and gristmill. Later he lived in Deep River, Orange County. An active supporter of the Regulator movement, he was one of those excluded from Governor William Tryon's pardon on 31 May 1771. Later that year Chatham County was created out of Orange, and Willcox was elected to represent the new county in the Provincial Assembly.

By 1771 Willcox had built an ironworks on Deep River where he discovered deposits of both iron ore and coal. Iron was in short supply during the Revolution, and Willcox operated one of the two ironworks in the province. His bloomery and forge supplied the area with good bar iron from which rough wrought iron utensils could be forged. In April 1776 the Fourth Provincial Congress sent a committee either to hire Willcox's ironworks or "purchase and repair" the Speedwell Works in Guilford County. Following the committee's recommendation, the Revolutionary government advanced Willcox the needed funds to complete a furnace under construction on Tick Creek about ten miles from his bloomery and forge and hired him slaves that had been confiscated as Loyalist property. Willcox and his brother-in-law and partner, William England, were to supply molten metal to founders employed by the state.

After various delays in getting the furnace into operation Willcox sold the ironworks to the state in February 1777 for £5,000. The state-appointed manager was no more successful than Willcox had been in keeping the furnace going. In April 1778 after months of haggling, the legislature restored Willcox's property and paid him £1,000 for damages he had sustained from public interference with his ironworks. When Willcox resumed management of the furnace, he turned out at least a few pots and possibly as much as five tons of pig iron. In June 1780 a freshet destroyed the furnace. When his accounts were settled in 1783, Willcox received £386.18s.6d. specie in payment "for sundries furnished for the use of the public."

In 1771 he married Rebecca Butler, of Philadelphia, by whom he had eight children. Willcox kept the Roman Catholic faith of his parents, and the records of St. Joseph's Church in Philadelphia indicate that at least three of their children were taken to Philadelphia for baptism. Willcox died in Richmond County.


A Patriot of the American Revolution for NORTH CAROLINA. DAR Ancestor # A126397

Lost over 1200 acres of iron ore land in Franklin Co, VA to an unscrupulous business partner by 1760. Moved from PA to NC 1759-60. He became an influential citizen, owned a large plantation and slaves. He built the Iron Works of Chatham Co. including: blast furnace, forge,saw mill, stores, and a ferry. He represented his county in the colonial legislature of NC in 1771. Was jailed as a member of the NC "Regulators" prior to the Revolutionary War for protesting unjust and tyrannical treatment of citizens by the British. During the early part of the Revolutionary War he operated his iron works for making cannons and cannon balls for the Continental Army. In 1780 a memo to the General Assembly of NC showed he supplied 5 tons of iron, still to be paid. After his ironworks was destroyed he served the Continental Army by helping to direct food supplies intended for the British Army to Washington's forces in Philadelphia. A broken leg as a child made him unfit for active military duty.

A Patriot of the American Revolution for NORTH CAROLINA. DAR Ancestor # A126397
John Willcox was the son of Thomas Willcox and Elizabeth Cole. He was born at Ivy Mills, PA, but moved to NC after his marriage to Rebecca Butler. In NC, he became part of the Regulator movement, which actively resisted British rule in the decade before the revolution. He was imprisoned but reprieved (some of his fellow Regulators were hanged). During the Revolution, he manufactured cannon balls to use against the British. He was significant enough to have a painting made of him. He and Rebecca had numerous children.

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John Willcox, I's Timeline

June 21, 1728
Concord, PA
December 6, 1771
Age 43
March 16, 1773
Age 44
March 17, 1775
Age 46
Fayetteville, Chatham, North Carolina, United States
Age 48
North Carolina, United States
September 30, 1779
Age 51
North Carolina, United States
Age 50
May 4, 1781
Age 52
Chatham, NC, United States
Age 54
Gulf, Chatham County, North Carolina, United States