The second of eleven children born to William Harvey Cockram and Millie Jane DeHart, James David (J.D.) Cockram was born on the 22nd of April 1871 in the Wood’s Gap area of Floyd County, near the Patrick County line. On the fifth of May 1897, twenty-six-year-old J.D. married seventeen-year-old Miss Mary Ellen Wood, the daughter of Stephen Greene Wood and Judith Virginia Rakes of the Charity community.
The following year, the couple’s first child, Ephraim was born, followed by James Barnard Cockram in 1901. In 1902, tragedy struck when Ephraim died. J.D. Cockram wrote about this heartbreaking event in the preface to his book, The Celestials and Terrestrials; or, Spiritual Law in Natural Kingdoms, a book published by Excelsior printing company, in Eona, Virginia. “It was in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and two, that great confusion laid hold upon me, and stood up around me until my spirit appeared as if it had been broken, and rest departed from me. Amid all this the hand of the Lord fell still more heavily upon me and removed from our midst, Ephraim, my first born, who was my heart’s delight, and when I could no longer see him I cried out because of my weakness and said: Your bright little face did cheer our home with ever laughing eyes, But closed, they are, upon these scenes, to open in the skies. Now reconcile us, Lord I pray to thy almighty hand; And give us faith that we may live in that far better land. While I waited for reconciliation-upon a certain day when my spirit was stirred within me, I rose up suddenly and almost unconsciously taking hold of an old calendar and turning it over wrote, “The Celestials and Terrestrials” for a heading; and continued to write amid which it was said “do the work of an Evangelist.” I found not how to move forward for being encumbered with many things; but, greatly fearing the Lord, I plead that His judgments fall not upon me to a farther extent. I meditated upon the work that was before me, wondering what its nature and character might be, realizing all the while that there were peculiar features, all of which I endeavored to see in the writing which I was exercised with the greater part of my time. Now that it has continued with me until the present, and presents itself in this volume, I submit it for no other reason than that I believe it is of God and is required in this day and generation. James D. Cockram, Woolwine, VA, September 29, 1904.”
If you would like to read more of Elder J.D. Cockram’s book, “The Celestials and Terrestrials; or, Spiritual Law in Natural Kingdoms,” the entire 247 pages are available on the Library of Congress website at https://www.loc.gov/resource/gdcmassbookdig.celestialsterres00cock/?sp=1&st=image.
During the time that J.D. wrote his book and became a Primitive Baptist elder, J.D. and Mary Ellen’s third son, Jedidiah was born in 1903, followed by John Theodore in 1906, Virginia Celestial in 1908, Geneva Marie in 1911, and Mary Joy was born on November 20th, 1916. Sadly, the same day Mary Joy was born, her mother Mary Ellen Wood Cockram passed away; she was thirty-seven years old.
The following year, J.D. married recently widowed Emma Lee Walker, the daughter of Abraham Linville Walker and Mary Williams of the Cruise community located at the foot of Lovers Leap mountain. Emma’s husband, Henry Lee DeHart, Sr. had also passed away in 1916, from an appendix that ruptured on April the 18th. Henry suffered for over a month before passing away on May 22nd, 1916. Henry was the son of Stephen Hubbard DeHart and Isabelle Woolwine Dehart of the Rock Castle community. Henry and Emma had one son, Henry Lee DeHart, Jr., born in 1914. William Abraham Cockram was born to J.D. and Emma Walker DeHart Cockram on August 7th, 1918.
D. Cockram was very busy with farming, preaching, writing, and serving as editor of the P.D. Gold Publishing Company that was based in Wilson, North Carolina; he also was the postmaster of the Tuggles Gap Post Office in the early 1900s. J.D. was very active in organizing the Dickey Wood family reunions and each year, served as the master of ceremonies and/or performed the religious rites at the monument. On the 6th of July 1939, in an article in the Roanoke Times, J.D., chairman of the monument committee, stated that “Dickey Wood’s first wife, Rachel Cockram Wood, would be represented by the daughter of the seventh son of the seventh son of their only daughter Ann Wood Cockram.” In the 1930’s, the Dickey Wood reunions were famous for at least 2,000 descendants coming from all over America to Wood’s Gap each year to visit and pay their respects at the grave of early settler Dickey Wood and his four wives.
Old newspapers are filled with accounts of J.D. Cockram and other Primitive Baptist preachers gathered to preach to thousands in the small communities of southwest Virginia and neighboring counties in North Carolina. In the May 21, 1924, edition of the Danbury Reporter, it was reported that “the biggest crowd that ever attended a Primitive Baptist Association in Stokes County and likely all of North Carolina and Virginia was at North View where it was estimated to be between 7,000 to 10,000 people. Fatted calves had been slaughtered, fatted pigs had been roasted, fried spring chicken was abundantly in evidence, and wagon loads of cakes, pies, pickles, and pastries and all the good things to eat which the ladies of North View know so well how to prepare were plentiful. Tables spread under the leafy trees groaned with the weight of the edibles, and it goes without saying that the multitude did ample justice to the loaves and fishes.”
J.D. traveled the country preaching for many years as a Primitive Baptist elder, traveling as far as Detroit and Highland Park, Michigan where his three boys, James Barnard, Jedidiah, and John Theodore moved to work in the auto industry. Daughter, Virginia Celestial, moved to Trenton, New Jersey; this is where 84-year-old J.D. Cockram was staying when he passed away in 1955. J.D. was buried at the Laurel Memorial Park Cemetery in Pomona, New Jersey.
J.D.’s daughter Geneva Marie worked for many years as a manager of a guest house in New Orleans before eventually moving to Easton, Maryland to be near her younger sister, Mary Joy. Eventually, both sisters returned to Virginia to live and were buried beside each other at Mountain View Cemetery in Vinton, Virginia.
J.D. and Emma’s son, William Abraham married, lived in Collinsville, and drove a truck for Virginia-Carolina Trucking. While on a trucking run near Annapolis, Maryland, Cockram’s truck hit a patch of black ice and overturned. Cockram died from his injuries; he was 46 years old.
Woody may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (276) 692-9626.