Emery M. Cockrell is one of the oldest settlers in the Kaw River Valley of Shawnee County. He located in Mission Township of that county in 1873. For forty years or more his business interests have been chiefly farming, and he had developed and improved some of the best land found in that township. Mr. Cockrell is also widely known in Shawnee County as a public spirited citizen, had filled several offices of trust and responsibility, and for a number of years had made his home in the City of Topeka.
He was born in Wayne County, Ohio, August 21, 1850. He is one of three living sons in a family of four whose parents were John and Esther Ann (Seeley) Cockrell. He comes of a very old and substantial American lineage. John Cockrell, his father, was a native of Virginia, a son of Robert Cockrell, who moved from the old Dominion to Ohio in 1840 and spent the remainder of the life there as did also his son John. There is also a record of many generations of the Seeley family in America. They came to the American colonies before the Revolution. Seeleys fought with the colonies in the struggle for independence, and among others Captain Isaac Seeley commanded a company, and was killed at the battle of Danbury in 1777. He was great-great-grandfather to Mr. Cockrell. Mr. Cockrell’s mother was born in Lorain County, Ohio.
Reared to manhood in his native county and state, Emery M. Cockrell attended one of the Ohio district schools of half a century ago. Among his fellow students was Henry Lamm, who in later years became chief justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri. During this period of his life Mr. Cockrell worked as strength permitted on the home farm. He was ambitious to gain a better education than the average farm boy, and for about three years he was a student in the Smithville Academy. That school was about twenty miles from the old home farm. He attended there during the fall terms and in the winters taught.
Another experience of his young manhood was the learning of telegraphy and for several years he was employed as station agent and telegrapher by the Atlantie & Great Western, now a part of the Erie railroad system.
On December 1, 1872, Mr. Cockrell married Mary C. Eckert. In the spring of 1873, following the advice of the famous New York Tribune editor, this young couple came west. Arriving at Topeka, Mr. Cockrell bought eighty acres in Mission Township of Shawnee County from the Santa Fe Railway Company. This land was a part of the old Pottawatomie Indian Reserve. It was several years before the land had reached a stage of successful productivity, and in the meantime during the winters Mr. Cockrell taught school in districts adjacent to his home. However, farming had been his chief interest since he came to Kansas. At the present time he owned 300 acres in three separate tracts in the Kaw River bottom of Shawnee County.
Politically he had been identified with the republican party since reaching his majority. His public spirit led him to take a keen interest in his party and in public affairs, and for four terms he served as trustee of Mission Township, and was also a member of the school board many years. In 1894 he was elected clerk of the District Court of Shawnee County and was re-elected for another two year term. Since 1895 Mr. Cockrell had had his home in Topeka, and from that city he supervises his extensive farming interests. For two years in the earlier part of his career Mr. Cockrell was employed in the clerical department of the Santa Fe Railway Company, part of the time at Topeka and part of the time at LaJunta, Colorado. He removed to LaJunta on account of failing health, and while living in that Colorado city he superintended the Sunday School of the first religious organization in the town. He and his wife are very active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In the early days he was also affiliated with the Anti-Horse Thief Association.
By his first wife Mr. Cockrell had two children: Viola M., who died at the age of eight years; and Anna Ethel, the widow of Dr. George P. Lux and now living in California. The mother of these children’ died in January, 1880. Her father Daniel Eckert, who came to Shawnee County, Kansas, about 1873, afterwards moved to Los Angeles, California, where he is still living at the age of eighty-four.
In July, 1881, Mr. Cockrell married Frances G. Eckert, a cousin of his first wife. Her father, Henry Eckert, spent his life as a farmer in Richland County, Ohio. There are also two children of the second marriage; Grace M., now Mrs. Edward G. Robertson of Wichita, Kansas; and Helen G., wife of Grover Pierpont, the present judge of the Court of Wichita.