GOD & TEXAS: The Quakers!
"Here, by the will of God, will be my home." It is reported that these were the words that Paris Cox uttered in awe in 1876 when he first saw the Staked Plains of West Texas. And he was not the first to be astonished at the sight. In 1540, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vaquez de Coronado described the same area as having “no more landmarks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea.” Historians believe that the area became known as the “Llano Estacado,” or “Staked Plains,” because early Spanish explorers drove stakes into the ground to act as markers for expeditions. Archaeologists have discovered primeval fossils and prehistoric ruins that indicate the Staked Plains was possibly an ancient lake. When the area was named Lubbock County in 1876, it was overrun with prairie dogs who were causing much damage to local vegetation and crops. Even today, there is a “Prairie Dog Town” in MacKenzie Park, Lubbock. Seeking freedom to worship, Paris Cox believed that the Llano Estacado was the perfect place to start a colony of the Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers. This religious group began in England in the 1650’s with such key leaders as George Fox and Margaret Fell. Each of them had experienced prophetic visions from God, and spent years in prison for beliefs that antagonized the Church of England. Quakers were known as conservative pacificists, rejected religious formalities, did not have clergy, and taught that women had spiritual equality with men. Critics gave them the sarcastic title of “quakers” because they often trembled and shook while under the influence of the Holy Spirit during their worship services. After migrating to the United States, William Penn received permission to establish a Quaker colony that eventually became the Province of Pennsylvania. But even then, their religious beliefs met hostility and many Quakers moved west and south. A few Quakers came to Texas before Cox, including Mifflin Kenedy, Richard Kings’s original partner in the founding of the King Ranch. Cox bought over 4,000 acres of land near Blanco Canyon in 1878, and brought the initial settlers from Indiana in 1879. The first winter was bitter and most of them moved back. But a resilient Cox established the town of Marietta, named after his wife, though later it was renamed Estacado. Soon, other families joined them and by 1890, it had a population of 200, and was appointed the Crosby County seat. The town contained several stores, a hotel, two restaurants, and true to their Quaker beliefs, no saloon. In 1888, Cox was stricken with throat cancer and died at the age of 42. He was one of the first committals in the Estacado Cemetery with a marker that reads, “Founder of Quaker Colony at Estacado, Texas, in 1879.” Like the Old Testament Abraham and the New Testament Magi, Paris Cox sought a place to worship God “in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). May we do the same.
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