Lt. Col. William M. Cockrum Biography Page

William Monroe Cockrum
Lieutenant Colonel

Father: Col. James W. Cockrum (b. 6/12/1799 - d. 11/19/1875)
Mother: Judah P. Barrett (b. 12/1/1813 - d. 11/24/1875)
Date and Place of Birth: December 8, 1837. Gibson County, Ind. (Now Oakland City, Ind.)
Spouse: Lucretia Harper (b. 1/4/1839 - d. 2/22/1919) ???
Children: John B., Ella C. Wheatley, Clara C. Campbell, , Willie (died in infancy), Oliver M.(d. 1907), Zoe C. Aldrich, Mary C. Dearing, James W., Marion O.
Date and Place of Death:  2/24/1924. Oakland City, Ind.
Place of Burial:

Montgomery Cemetery, Gibson County IN (Columbia Township)

Picture Taken 4/9/02

Military History: Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, 9/10/1861
Promoted 1st Lieutenant, 3/15/1862
Promoted Captain, 11/9/1862
Promoted Lt. Colonel, 5/1/1865

Wounded in the right shoulder at the Battle of Stones River.

Wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga, September 20, 1863, and confined to Libby Prison for eight months.

See Also: 42nd Indiana at Chickamauga, Report of Killed, Wounded, and Missing in the Battle of Chickamauga, 1894 Chickamauga Battlefield Visit and Reminiscing by Lt. Col William M. Cockrum

Comments: Col. Cockrum authored two books after the war:

1. Pioneer History of Indiana; Including Stories, Incidents and Customs of the Early Settlers. Oakland City, Ind.: Press of the Oakland City Journal, 1907.

2. History of the Underground Railroad as It Was Conducted by the Anti-Slavery League. Oakland City, Ind.: Press of the J.W.Cockrum Printing Co., 1915.

Active in numerous veteran activities after the war.  See below:

The A.H. Cockrum Post No. 520 GAR - Oakland City, IN

42nd Indiana Co. F Monument

Reunions of Company F, 42nd Indiana

Reunions of Company E, 42nd Indiana

Appointed to the State of Indiana Chickamauga Battlefield Commission, April 9, 1895

Submitter of Information: Jeff Hirsch

Source: Horrall, S. F., History of the Forty-Second Indiana Volunteer Infantry, p. 103


Other Pictures of Lt. Col. Cockrum, His Wife Lucretia, Some Personal Effects, and Commission Document
Photos Courtesy of Jeff Hirsch


Picture of senior Lt. Col. William Cockrum and wife Lucretia


Pictures of framed items from Col. Cockrum's uniform
Epaulet, lower left; buttons, lower right


William M. Cockrum Captain's Commission 
November 9, 1862

Obituary of Col. William M. Cockrum
Source: The Princeton Clarion Newspaper - February 25, 1924

Col. Cockrum Passes Away
-Distinguished resident of Gibson County summoned by death

Col. William M. Cockrum, distinguished as an Indiana historian, educator, manufacturer, farmer, and veteran of the Civil War, with more than ordinary experiences in that great conflict, died at his home in Oakland City at 1 o’clock Sunday morning. Six years ago he suffered a stroke of paralysis and had been an invalid since that time, having been for the last two and a half years absolutely helpless in bed. He was 86 years of age.

The funeral will be at 10 o’clock Wednesday morning at the family residence in Oakland City. Rev. F. G. Kenney officiating with Rev. John E. Cox of Evansville assisting. Interment will be in the Montgomery cemetery in Oakland City.

Early in his life he married Lucretia Garder of Oakland City. The couple settled in the home in which Col. Cockrum died. The wife died seven years ago on February 22, two days proceeding the date of Colonel Cockrum’s death.

Surviving are seven children, three sons and four daughters as follows: John B Cockrum of Indianapolis, general solicitor for the Nickel Plate railroad; Ella C. Wheatley, dean of the women and head of the English Dept. at Oakland City College; Clara C. Campbell, wife of Mont Campbell of the Mont Campbell Auto company in Oakland City; Zoe C. Alrich, wife of Professor B. W. Aldrich, deceased, former head of the Latin department at Mooreshill college; May C. Dearing, wife of Dr. W. P. Dearing, president of Oakland City College; J. W. Cockrum, president of the J. W. Cockrum Printing company in Oakland City, and Dr. O. M. Cockrum, optometrist in Evansville. Oliver Morton Cockrum, a son, died several years ago at Bismark, S.D. Nine grandchildren survive, one of whom is B. W. Cockrum, principal at the Columbia school in Evansville and formerly principal of Princeton High School.

Colonel William M. Cockrum was born in Oakland City, Dec. 8, 1838. He enlisted as a Private in Co. F, 42nd Indiana Volunteers, Sept. 12, 1861. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant March 15, 1862, to Captain Nov. 9, 1862 and to Lieutenant Colonel May 1, 1865. He mustered out with the regiment July 21, 1865. While leading his company he was shot down on the battlefield of Chickamauga, was captured and taken to the famous Libby Prison at Richmond, VA. After his release from there, he was in charge of the Federal prison at Nashville, Tenn.

Colonel Cockrum was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and also of the Loyal Legion, two patriotic orders which arose from the Civil war.

In politics, he was a Republican. He was also active in the Masonic Knights Templar and the I.O.O.F orders. He was active and prominent in the General Baptist church at Oakland City, having been a member of the church the greater part of his life.

Col. Cockrum through his writings was recognized as one of Indiana’s foremost authors and historians. His “Pioneer History of Indiana” published in 1907, was incorporated into the Indiana history text books now in use in the public schools of the state. In 1915 he published “The History of the Underground Railroad,” which gives an interesting account of the passing of slaves to their freedom through this and neighboring states.

It is interesting to recall that Col. Cockrum did his state and inestimable service by beginning the collection of historical data while still a boy, thus getting material from the original sources for the two books issued by him late in life. He was one of the founders of Oakland City College and a loyal supporter of this institution. From his farm he gave the ground, which is now the college campus. He was a trustee of the college from the time of its organization in 1885 until his death and he was at all times a liberal contributor to its needs.

Biography of Col. William M. Cockrum
Source: History of Gibson County, Her People, Industries and Institutions, by Gil R. Stormont. 
B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc., 1915.  pp. 392-394

The Cockrum family of Gibson county are of Scotch descent and among the very early settlers in this part of Indiana.  Col. James W. Cockrum, the father of William M., was born in North Carolina in 1799.  From there he removed to Tennessee, and in 1816 came to Gibson county, Indiana.  He settled near Francisco, but soon afterwards removed to a farm east of Oakland City, where he lived for several years.  He subsequently moved onto a farm where the town of Oakland City now stands and remained there until his death, in 1875.  In early days he was, a colonel of militia.  He was a man of unusual intelligence and business capacity and for ten years followed steamboating on the southern rivers.  He was the owner of two steamboats, the "Otsego" and the "Nile," and wore them out in the southern cotton trade.  He ran a great many flat-boats that carried produce to New Orleans and other southern cities.  In addition, he always carried on farming and mercantile business at home.  In later years he became an active and zealous member of the General Baptist church..  His efforts in building up that religious denomination of which he was a member and supplying it with a house to worship in, are still remembered by the older people of Oakland City.  He was a just man.  It can be truthfully said of him that he died leaving to his posterity the legacy of a life and name untarnished by an act of wrong or injustice to a living man.  His intelligence pointed out to him that a free and liberal system of schools was the best safeguard of our liberties, therefore, any proposition in that direction found him an enthusiastic supporter.

Politically, be was an old-line Whig and later a Republican.  He represented Gibson county in the State Legislature in 1848 and again in 1852.  He was an active supporter of the old Straight-line railroad and one of its directors.  He was a firm temperance man and, with the aid of his two sons, kept Oakland City free from saloons as long as he lived, and the two soils fought it out for the next seven years, or until 1881.  Mr. Cockrum was twice married.  His first wife was Sarah Barrett, a native of South Carolina.  By that union there were seven children, none of whom are now living.  After the death of his first wife, Colonel Cockum married Indah P. Barrett, a sister of his first wife and a daughter of William Barrett.  Col. William ,M. Cockrum is the only survivor of that union.  He was born December 8, 1837, on the old Cockrum homestead, now in the center of Oakland City.

William M. Cockrum is a self-made man.  There was but poor opportunity in his youth for receiving an education.  He was very active in "underground railroad" work in this section.  After the passage of the fugitive slave law of 1850, there was a great impetus given to fugitive slave hunting in all the free states, and in many cases free negroes were captured and sold into slavery for life.  He was one of the twelve men who kidnapped the ten negro hunters who were trying to capture free negroes and gave them a lesson that they never forgot.  This act greatly lessened the annoyance that our people had from these negro hunting bullies.

At the breaking out of the war, he enlisted in Company F, Forty-second Indiana Infantry, and rose through the intermediate grades from a second lieutenancy to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the regiment.  He re-enlisted and continued in the service until the close of the war.  In the battle of Chickamauga he was desperately wounded, an ounce ball passing through his body at his hips.  He was captured lying on the battlefield and taken to Libby prison, where he remained for eight months, suffering untold misery which has left him a cripple for life.

In his younger days, William M. Cockrum engaged with his brother, James M. Cockrum, in a general store and the produce business and dealt largely in pork and leaf tobacco.  They had over one hundred hogsheads of tobacco in New Orleans when the war came that they never got one cent for.  Since the war he has engaged in farming and fruit growing.  Colonel Cockrum, in many respects, is a typical Westerner, imbued with that vim and push that is so characteristic of the free sons of the West.  He has done more to build up the town of Oakland City than any other resident.

On October 5, 1856, Colonel Cockrum was united in marriage to Lucretia, daughter of John and Mary (O'Neil) Harper.  She also is of Scotch-Irish descent.  Nine children have been born to them.  Their names in the order of their birth are: John B., who is a lawyer, is and has been for the last fifteen years Vanderbilt's general attorney for the Lake Erie railroad and its tributary; he has recently served two years as grand sire Of the Odd Fellows of the World; is a thirty-second-degree Mason and lives in Indianapolis.  Ella C., the widow of W. S. Wheatley, deceased, is the teacher of English and dean of the women of the Oakland City College.  Clara C. is the wife of T. M. Campbell.  Willie died in infancy.  Oliver M. was government land inspector and died in Bismark, North Dakota, in 1907.  Zoe C., the wife of Prof. B. W. Aldrich, at Moores Hill College.  Mary C., the wife of Rev. W. P. Dearing, president of Oakland City College.  James W., president of the J. W. Cockrum Printing Company.  Marion O. Cockrum, owner of the M. O. Cockrum jewelry store.

Mr. Cockrum is an earnest worker in the cause of Christianity, a member of the General Baptist denomination.  Politically, Colonel Cockrum since casting his first vote has been an earnest Republican.  In 1907 he published "A Pioneer History of Indiana." The book is full of thrilling incidents of the pioneer life, telling how people had to live, their manners and customs, giving the history of many of the battles they had with Indians and the beasts of the forest.  A history of the public schools is also given.

Another Biography of Col. William M. Cockrum
Source: Horrall, S. F., History of the Forty-Second Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Published 1892. p 103

The Gentleman whose name is written above was born December 8, 1837, in Gibson county, Indiana, on a farm, a part of which is now Oakland City, and he now resides within a few hundred yards of where he was born.

He was a farmer when the war broke out, and resumed that occupation when the war closed. As second lieutenant of Company F, he was one of the original line officers of the regiment who remained in the U.S. service until the close of the war.

At the battle of Murfreesboro, Tenn., he was wounded in the right shoulder, from which he did not fully recover for six months. At the battle of Chickamauga, on the second day of the fight, Sept 20, 1863, he was severely wounded – a ball passing through the hips from right to left – and taken prisoner, conveyed to Libby Prison, Richmond, where he remained for eight months; so severe was the wound that he was unable to walk for twelve months.

After recovery, partially, however, he was assigned to duty as commandant of the military prison at Nashville, Tenn., where he remained until ordered to join his command at Washington City, preparatory to muster out of service.

Col. Wm. M. Cockrum was a son of Col. James M. Cockrum, who came to Indiana from North Carolina, being born in 1799 in that State. Colonel Cockrum’s grandmother was a niece of Governor Rutledge, of South Carolina, and his uncles, on the father’s side, were all in the War of 1812.

Col. James W. Cockrum, father of the subject of this sketch, was prominent in the politics of his day, and as a Whig represented his country in the State’s General Assembly from 1848 to 1852.

Since the War the gentleman of whom we write has been a factor of prominence in his county and district in politics, in Agricultural Fairs, in farming, in manufacturing, in encouraging education as in the common school; and himself and wife have been chief among the promoters and building of a college at Oakland City for the Baptist people, or under their charge, which is proving quite successful. Col. Cockrum donated twelve acres of valuable land, within a few hundred yards of his residence, for the use of the college, and in many other ways substantially aided.  The college is a two-story brick and is a very important addition to Oakland City.

In all matters that tend to promote the best interests of former comrades in arms, he is not only a factor, but is always in the lead. Indeed, in all the relations of life it may be truly said of him: “He leads, he never follows.” As a citizen, he enjoys the confidence and esteem of all; as a citizen-soldier, the love and honor of all his comrades

Onetime Underground Railroader's Home to be Restored 
Source: Evansville Courier and Press, July 15, 2002

By By SARAH PAFF Courier & Press staff writer 464-6723 or
July 15, 2002 

OAKLAND CITY, Ind. - A historic building constructed after the Civil War by an active participant in the Underground Railroad will be restored. 

Cockrum Hall - the former residence of Col. and Mrs. William M. Cockrum - will house development and alumni offices for Oakland City University. 

The house was never used to assist slaves, but other property owned by the family was, according to Oakland City history professor Dr. Randy Mills. 

He said James Cockrum Jr., William's father, was an active participant in the movement to help slaves escape from the South. William Cockrum wrote a well-known book, "The History of the Underground Railroad," based on his father's experiences. 

Mills said James Cockrum was also an ardent supporter of Prohibition. Saloon owners unhappy with the family took revenge by burning down the original Cockrum family home. 

William Cockrum built a new house - now known as Cockrum Hall - in 1876. 

Dr. Jack Tichenor, Oakland City vice president for development, said that while his office's relocation isn't significant, the heritage of the house is. 

"We're quite pleased to restore it and be able to use it again," he said. "It's being preserved as a symbol of times in the 1800s." 

The two-story Italinate home was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978. 

It was bequeathed to the university after the death of Zoe Cockrum Adlrich, the last surviving child of the Cockrums. 

The university's music department was housed there until 1995, and the building had been unoccupied since. 

The Cockrums also donated large parcels of land and were "instrumental in starting Oakland City College," before it became a university, Tichenor said. 

The newly-restored Cockrum Hall will be dedicated July 24 at 4 p.m. The public is invited to the ceremony and tour to follow. 

Pictures of Restored Cockrum Home
Oakland City, Indiana
July 24, 2002
Photos Courtesy of Jeff Hirsch





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