Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Samuel Emanuel (Sam) Cox (1773–1891)

This article was published:

Samuel Cox, by Stephen Spurling, 1890

Samuel Cox, by Stephen Spurling, 1890

State Library of Victoria, 49333206

Samuel Emanuel Cox (1773-1891), known as 'Sammy Cox', wild white man, claimed to have been born on 15 November 1773, Samuel Emanuel Jervis, the son of Roman Catholic Squire Jervis of Shenstone Park, Lichfield, England. When his father was killed in a hunting accident, he became ward of his uncle, Captain Jervis, who placed him at Oscott College; a relation, claimed by the lad to be his uncle, became an admiral and received the title Earl St Vincent.

On leaving the college he accompanied Captain Jervis in the Regent Fox on a voyage in the South Seas. Frightened by the boatswain into believing that his uncle intended to maroon him on an uninhabited island to get possession of his inheritance, Sammy decided to escape. When in 1789 the ship drew in for water near the River Tamar in Van Diemen's Land, then unoccupied by white men, he accompanied the party ashore, hid in the bush, and the party, unable to locate him, went back without him. He was found by the Aboriginals and lived with them until 1812 when he met some white settlers in the Quamby district. The Cox family befriended him and he took their family name, and as 'Sammy Cox' worked for many years in the districts of Pateena, Carrick and Longford, as a jobbing gardener. Thomas Monds, flour-miller of Carrick, took an interest in him, accepted and recorded his story, and finally urged him to enter the Launceston Benevolent Asylum. He died there on 5 June 1891, aged 117 years if he is to be believed. Sammy's claims provoked some discussion in the Launceston Examiner in June 1890, and as a result of inquiries in England a relation of the family wrote confirming the truth of Samuel's assertions and stating that he was heir to the properties of his father and of his uncle Earl St Vincent who had died without heirs.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Button, Flotsam and Jetsam (Launceston, 1909)
  • L. S. Bethell, The Story of Port Dalrymple (Hob, 1957)
  • C. L. Barrett, White Blackfellows (Melb, 1948)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 2, 9 June 1890, 6 June 1891.

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Citation details

'Cox, Samuel Emanuel (Sam) (1773–1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Samuel Cox, by Stephen Spurling, 1890

Samuel Cox, by Stephen Spurling, 1890

State Library of Victoria, 49333206

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Jervis, Samuel Emanuel

15 November, 1773


5 June, 1891 (aged 117)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

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Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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