Virginia Dox
Virginia Dox 1885 Oxford Idaho

Full name

Virginia T. Dox

Alternative names

Virginia Dox, V. Dox, V. Dix, U-hoox Stah-nat[1]

Presence at Shimer


Presence on Earth



Seminary period alum, Seminary period faculty


Wilson, NY
Oxford, ID
Hartford, CT[2][3]

Virginia Dox was a student at Shimer College in the Seminary period, graduating in 1875. She worked as a missionary and educator in the American West, and later as a fundraising agent on behalf of schools including Whitman College and Berea College.

After graduating, Dox stayed on at Shimer as an instructor of English and music. Her exact dates of service on the faculty are unclear, but she is listed in the 1877 board of instruction for these subjects.[4] She subsequently attended the University of Michigan from 1880 to 1881, studying medicine, but did not graduate.[2]

Dox was an early explorer of the Grand Canyon, where she was guided by William Bass in 1891. She was reportedly the first white woman to visit the Havasupai nation.[5] The "Dox Castle" outcropping and related Dox Sandstone formation are named for her.[6] She also reportedly gave the Holy Grail Temple there its original name, "Bass Tomb".[7]

According to her obituarist,[2] Dox became an honorary member of nine tribes; these included the Osage and all six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.[1] The Tuscarora gave her the name "U-Hoox-Stah-Nat", meaning "Bright Light".[1][8] She was also a collector of American Indian artwork, donating her collection to Bowdoin College in 1893 as the "Virginia Dox Collection of American Antiquities".[9]

Dox castle

Dox Castle



  • in "Personals", Oread, January 1876, p. 5:
    Miss V. Dix, remains with us and proves herself a useful and efficient teacher. At the same time continues her study of music.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1877, p. 3
    Miss V. Dox, class '75, is reading medicine, with a view of making it her profession.
  • in Oread, August 1878, p. 16:
    Miss Virginia Dox of Wilson, N.Y., who, for several years past has been connected with the Seminary has been prepared by her study with Dr. Shimer to enter a Medical College. At no very distant date, she expects to finish her studies and enter upon the profession she has chosen for her life work.
  • in "Personals", Oread, January 1880, p. 5:
    Miss V. Dox, of the class of '75, is preceptress in the academy at Wilson, N.Y. Since leaving the Seminary, she has been continuing the study of medicine with the untiring zeal that has always characterized her.
  • in "Personals", Oread, April 1880, p. 6:
  • in "Personals", Oread, p. 10
    Miss Dox at Ann Arbor, Mich., and Miss Wishon, in Chicago, are pursuing their medical studies with characteristic energy.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1883, p. 8:
    The friends of Miss V. Dox will very much regret to hear that failing health has forced her to lay aside the study of medicine and all employment that demands much continued mental effort. Notwithstanding her ill-health, however, Miss Dox has helped to prepare an important report of her State, by classifying the birds in the vicinity of her home. She has assisted, also, in much missionary work, and contributed to several papers, the product of her pen.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1884, p. 22:
    We have not room to copy all the letter sent to the “Reunion" by our friend, Miss Dox, but we must quote enough of it to tell her school mates where she is and what she is about:
    Saturday, May 10, 1884.
    “ I had anticipated being with you this year at the Reunion exercises, but instead I have wandered away to one of the most beautiful mountain nests you could well imagine. Oxford is situated in the southeast part of Idaho in the very heart of the Rocky Mountains. It is in a small valley called Round Valley, which is so completely hemmed in by lofty peaks that, wherever I look the mountains and the sky appear to meet. We are at an elevation of over five thousand feet, with an atmosphere so pure and dry that sickness is almost unknown.
    Our population numbers only about two-hundred and fifty, mostly Mormons, the Gentiles consisting mainly of land agents in the employ of the government, ranchmen, and merchants. The houses are built of adobe, some times boarded over. They are all small with the exception of a few, which are owned and occupied by wealthy Mormons.
    The entire country is covered with a thick growth of sage brush, which is an evergreen. The soil is made to produce fine fruit and vegetables, however, when properly irrigated. The principal occupation of the people is stock-raising. Cattle and horses graze on the ranches all winter.

I will now tell you how I came to be in this charming country. I am in the employ of the New West Educational Commission, and was sent here to organize a school. Through the kindness of the people, both Gentiles and Mormons, we already have a fine one started, though I did not commence my work here until the tenth of last December. The building we occupy is an old land office. Though we have a Mormon school in town my pupils numbered thirty-six last winter, and thirty-one at present. The ages of my pupils range from six to forty-five. Last winter an old saloon-keeper came with his three children and two dogs. I have also organized a fine Sunday School, the first Oxford has ever had. Sunday is a great holiday in these little western towns. Horse-racing, ball-playing, and picnicing constituting the principal pleasures.

  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1885, p. 20:
    Miss Virginia Dox is still in charge of the school at Oxford, Bingham Co., Idaho, which she founded under the auspices of the New West Education Commission. A most interesting letter from her was read at the public exercises of the Reunion Society, June l0th. Had we space, we should be glad to print it for the pleasure of her friends who were not able to be present. Miss Dox owns an Indian pony and has learned to use it with the skill of an experienced equestrienne. She speaks warmly of the kindness of the people, Mormons included, and dwells, at length, upon the great desire of some of the young people to enjoy educational advantages. As an illustration, she mentions two young men who go eight miles from their ranch, each Friday evening, to recite; and a young woman who rides for a long distance on horseback to attend the same class. One of her pupils, a girl of eighteen, is a famous horse tamer and helps to support herself by her skill in this line. This young woman performs all the out-door work of her home in the morning, harnesses her horse and rides to school with her little brothers and sisters, three miles, daily. The Indians have named Miss Knox U-hoox-stah-nat, "Bright Light." May she prove to be indeed a bright light in that new and undeveloped country.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1887, p. 20:
    Miss Virginia Dox, wile lecturing during the past season, in the East in behalf of the New West Educational Commission, met Miss Caroline White, who went with her to Utica, Miss Dox addressing the Welch in that city. She, also, met Miss Sophia clark in Northampton, mass., and Miss Georgia Leonard in Providence, and Cambridgeport. There have been received at the Seminary several reports of miss Dox's very important work and highly complimentary notices of her as a public speaker.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1888, p. 25:
    Miss Virginia Dox, still connected with the New West Education Commission, has been establishing a school in San Mateo New Mexico. Though doing without a large part of the necessities of life, persecuted by the Jesuits who bitterly oppose all protestants, and a stranger to the language of the children she must instruct, she bore the discomfitures and conquered the difficulties, remaining through the entire school year. The commission, however, consider her service too valuable for this work, and have planned for her to spend the coming year in the East informing the people of the work ofthe commission, and raising money to carry it on. The Seminary friends had a most pleasant surprise in a visit from her the week before commencement. It was the cause of deep regret that she could not be among those present at Re-union.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1891, p. 24:
    Miss Virginia Dox was called last winter to the Mexican Department of the Academy at Albuquerque, N. M., under the auspices of the N. W. E. C. She remains in charge of the Mexican Department and continues to use her pen in behalf of the poor people in whom she is interested.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1892, p. 23:
    Miss Virginia Dox is teaching in Albuquerque, in the school of that place, under the auspices of the New West Education Society. She is writing for various periodicals, among which is the special organ of the society, and so she is helping the work with her pen. We are pleased to have been remembered by her with copies of several papers giving us a glimpse of the wonderful scenery of her section and of the condition of the people whose interests she so much desires to promote.
  • in Oread, August 1893, pp. 25-26:
    Miss Virginia Dox has had such a varied life since her graduation in '75, we speak of it at length. Some years were devoted to the study of medicine, first with Dr. Shimer and then at Ann Arbor University, and in teaching at the Seminary and in the town of her home, Wilson, N.Y. This seemed to be but preparatory to the principal work of her life. In '83 she was sent by the "New West Education Commission" to Idaho to establish a school among the Mormons in that part of the country. This she did successfully at Oxford, and later established a school in San Mateo, N.M. Here she lived in a little mud hut with nothing but bear earth for a floor, and among people speaking a foreign language and accustomed to rude ways. She suffered persecution because of her religious belief, but the result of her work has shown it was not in vain. Later she held a responsible position int he Government school for the Osage Indians, Pawhuska, and later in Albuquerque, N.M., organized a mission school for the Mexicans of that vicinity. For some time Miss Dox has been engaged in lecturing through the East, in this way serving the Commission. She speaks many times each week. Her days are crowded full to the brim with her work for the unenlightened. Through all these years she has written much for the press and used opportunity at hand to visit places of special interest. She is the only woman in the world who has visited the Yona Supai Indians, as the journey to their canon villages is an exceedingly perilous one. The address of Miss Dox is 22 Cong. House, Boston, Mass.
  • in Bowdoin Orient 24:3, 1894-05-30, p. 34:
    MISS VIRGINIA DOX, of the Educational Mission, visited the college recently and made several additions to her very interesting collection in the Art Building. The pieces of Toltec pottery taken by her own hand from the buried city of San Mateo, New Mexico, are especially valuable because known to be genuine. It is to be regretted that the collection cannot be given greater space. The large Navajo blanket should be spread out where its beautiful workmanship can be better seen, and many other pieces would show to better advantage, if less crowded. Miss Dox has taken a great interest in the college. The Orient wishes for her the best of success in her work, which is so closely connected with our own.
  • in "Personals", Oread, August 1895, p. 32:
    Miss Virginia Dox has been lecturing in Spencer, Iowa. A friend writes of her: "What a wonderful woman she is - She says Dr. and Mrs. Shimer and the Seminary made her, and fitted her for her present responsible duties."
  • p. 33:
    Miss Dox has been appointed recently to speak for Whitman College. She has been sent to Walla Walla to look over Whitman's old tramping ground. After this she expects to spend some time in the cities of the North-west and, also, those down the Pacific coast. All who know her believe she will succeed in this good work.
  • in Berea Citizen, 1904-09-29, p. 1:
    Miss Virginia Dox, formerly missionary in the Indian Territory, will speak in the Tabernacle Sunday night.
  • in Frances Shimer Quarterly 1:1, March 1909, p. 22:
    Miss Virginia Dox, '75, now residing in Hartford. Conn., has rendered large service in educational ways in past years for Berea College in Kentucky, and Whitman College.
  • in "The Family Scattered", Frances Shimer Quarterly 1:3, October 1909:
    Miss Virginia Dox, '75, writes from Hartford, Conn., concerning the death of Miss Caroline White at her home in Delta, New York. Miss White was for many years a much loved teacher in the school.
  • in The Life of Dr. D.K. Pearsons, 1911, pp. 199-200:
    If Dr. Pearsons should have the credit of refounding and developing Whitman College, the part which Dr. Nixon had in it must not be overlooked. It was through him that the labors of Miss Virginia Dox, a very gifted young woman, were secured to present its interests wherever in New England she could obtain a hearing. The amount of money which through her came into the treasury of the college was in the aggregate quite large, sufficient in fact to enable the college to carry on its work until an endowment placed it upon a solid financial foundation. But there were years of waiting. The college was far away from those centers of civilization in which givers to educational institutions reside. It was difficult to make them feel the need of a college in a territory so thinly populated. The gifts of Dr. Pearsons, the publication of the Life of Marcus Whitman by Dr. Nixon, the labors of Miss Dox and Rev. Mr. Maile of the Education Society, gradually drew the attention of benevolently inclined persons to the college and led them to listen favorably to appeals on its behalf.
  • in Whitman: An Unfinished Story, Stephen B.L. Penrose, 1935, pp. 149-150:
    Miss Virginia Dox was secured at the suggestion of Dr. Nixon to act as financial agent for the College. This remarkable woman had been a missionary in Utah, a teacher and a field representative of the New West Education Commission. Eloquent, dramatic, picturesque and indefatigable she became filled with enthusiasm for the memory of Dr. and Mrs. Whitman and the college founded in their honor which she had never seen. She devoted herself with fiery ardor and tireless energy to completing the Pearsons Endowment Fund. She told the Whitman story all over the middle states and the Mississippi Valley in hundreds of churches and to thousands of individuals. She begged for gifts, large or small, and by her thrilling oratory as well as by personal persistence she completed the raising of the fund within the given time. She wore herself out in the service of the College. Dr. Pearsons was so impressed by her original and self-sacrificing personality that he recommended the College to continue her in its employ after the completion of the campaign, and advised that she be appointed Instructor of American History on the College Faculty. The announcement was made in the catalogue of 1899 but the position was never filled. Miss Dox's health had broken irretrievably, and, after a winter on half-pay in Cuba seeking in vain to recover her strength, she resigned as field secretary of the College and severed her connection with it, greatly to the regret of all connected with the institution. It is faint praise to say that but for the labors of this gifted, eccentric, indomitable woman the first financial campaign of Whitman College would have ended in failure or been long delayed.
  • in Levi Noble: Geologist, USGS Open-File Report 02-422, Lauren A. Wright and Bennie W. Troxel, 2002, p.:
    Noble named the Dox sandstone from exposures below Dox Castle, a large butte in the vicinity of the Bass Trail. Miss Virginia Dox, of Cincinnati, Ohio, visited the Grand Canyon in 1891. She apparently was the first woman to be guided by William Bass to the western part of the canyon and the first white woman to visit the Havasupai Indians. It is said that Bass, impressed with her intelligence and beauty, named the Dox Castle soon after she left. It is also said that Levi, in naming the Dox sandstone, visualized its red color as matching the flaming red hair of Miss Dox.
  • in Grand Canyon Place Names, Gregory McNamee, 2004, pp. 47-48:
    The name of this pillar and the associated Dox Formation honors "Miss Virginia Dox, pioneer lady visitor to the interior of the Canyon at this point." Ths according to the writer George Wharton James, who did not elaborate on why Miss Dox should have merited the recognition. In fact, she explored many buttes in the Canyon and gave Holy Grail Temple (q.v.) its original name, Bass Tomb.
  • in "Keene Industrial Institute (Keene, KY) / Beattyville Industrial Institute (Beattyville, KY) / W. H. Parker", Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, retrieved 2012-01-12:
    In November, 1901, the school was visited by Virginia Dox from Boston. It was an impromptu visit that was encouraged by Dr. W. G. Frost, President of Berea College. Virginia Dox had raised money for schools in the West and in Mexico. She encouraged W. H. Parker to continue his efforts and they would pay off in the long run.


  • by the Bentley Historical Library
  • in "Eldert Van Woert Dox", in Niagara County, New York, vol. 2, 1921, p. 829:
    Virginia Dox, the sixth member of the family under consideration, was born at Wilson, N. Y., Oct. 13, 1851, and has had a useful and somewhat notable life. She was educated primarily at Wilson, then attended the Lockport Union school, Claverack Seminary, N. Y., and Mt. Carroll Seminary, in Illinois, and studied medicine at the University of Michigan. For several years afterward Miss Dox was employed by the New West Educational Commission in work among the Mormons in Idaho, the Jesuits in New Mexico and the Indians in Oklahoma. She is a woman of remarkable personality and has lectured extensively and successfully in behalf of colleges all over the United States.
  • in "Virginia Dox l'80-81", The Michigan Alumnus vol. 47, 1941-07-07, p. 455:
    Virginia Dox, l'80-'81, pioneer teacher in the West, died on February 14, 1941, at her home in Hartford, Conn., at the age of 89. She has lived in Hartford for more than 30 years and had been an invalid for the past seven years. Early in her career she opened frontier schools and taught among the Indians and Mexicans. She had been made a member of nine Indian tribes and owned a fine collection of Aztec and Indian pottery and curios. These, together with her tribal costumes, she presented to Bowdoin College, where they are housed in the Walker Memorial in Brunswick, Me. This was the first college for men to allow Miss Dox to lecture to the students and she was asked by the faculty to repeat her lectures there several times. She also had lectured at Berea College and was connected as Financial Secretary with groups raising money for colleges and missions. Her greatest triumph in this work was for Whitman College at Walla Walla, Wash., which made her Professor of Physiology and American History in recognition of her efforts.
  • in "Our Homes", Gleanings in Bee Culture, vol. 24, 1896-12-01, pp. 866-868:
    I listened to a talk last Sunday evening from a woman whose lifework has been teaching in the far West. For many years she was in the employ of the New West Educational Society. She gave us a sort of word-picture of her labors in one little town In Idaho. She was sent there about fourteen years ago. At that time there were no schools within many miles in any direction. The children were growing up entirely destitute of school privileges, and they were really hungering for a school. The town as she found it was composed of cowboys, Indians, and a class of people who are often found in the vicinity of the mining regions of the far West. I hope that no reader of GLEANINGS will feel hurt when I mention that the Mormons were pretty well intrenched there at the time. One of the leading men of the town had fifteen wives all together. As a rule these Mormon friends were opposed to the Yankee school-ma'am, on general principles: for, as a matter of course, if she taught Christ Jesus she would,at least in the end, be a rebuke to polygamy. Our good friend Miss Virginia Dox was, however, agreeably surprised to find a warm welcome awaiting her. The fact is, the fathers and mothers, and children too, had been longing for a school, and they were so eager to see a school started In their town that they forgot all differences, and warmly welcomed the little schoolma'am. There was no schoolhouse in the town: but in order to begin work at once, a vacant dwelling was secured. Nobody knew how many pupils would come: but they thought that, if the largest room should not prove sufficient, she could occupy two rooms, the door being open between them. If I remember correctly, there was more than a roomful the very first morning. The juveniles took their places on cheap wooden benches that had been hastily provided, and waited anxiously to see what the schoolma'am was going to say to commence with. Her remarks were something as follows:
    "Children, we expect to have a real good time here together; but in order to do so we must have law and order. Now, I am not going to read a lot of rules, but I am going to give you just one rule to take the place of all others. This one rule must be that we love each other. Unless I love you, I can not really do you any good; and unless you love me, you can not really do me any good; therefore the one rule of our little school is to be that we love each other."
    Under the influence of this same love between pupil and teacher, this school began to thrive. The children soon had such glowing accounts to give of the wonderful things that they had learned at the school that the older ones caught the enthusiasm and wanted to go too; and the little teacher gave each a very warm welcome. The older ones used tobacco, both boys and girls. She said that, if she had ruled out tobacco to start with, she would have ruled out the greater part of her pupils. Blasphemy among the older boys—aye, and some of the girls too—was also a common thing in that Idaho town. She did not stop the swearing all at once, but she made up her mind that it would have to go eventually.
    Pretty soon the parents caught the fever. Before the school opened, beer-drinking was so common that almost the whole of the inhabitants patronized the saloon more or less. This she passed by for a while; but her triumph came later on. When some of the parents talked about going to school she told them smilingly that she would do the best she could for all who wanted to come; and it was no uncommon thing to see fathers and mothers studying in the same class with their children. She mentioned seeing a man of forty-seven in the same class, and studying the same book, with his little girl seven years old; and the girl was the brighter and better of the two in their recitations.
    At first everybody who owned a dog—and almost every one did own one there in those days—had to bring that dog to school. Perhaps the dogs were curious in regard to the new points of interest; but by degrees the teacher managed to draw the line, excluding the dogs during school hours. Had she undertaken to banish the dogs at the outset it would probably have banished pupils, or a great part of them, as it was so common to see the dogs everywhere.
    By the way, dear friends, have you never noticed how common a thing it is to see a town of two or three hundred people all becoming enthusiastic over some particular new thing that comes up? This new thing may be pitching horse-shoes or playing marbles or flying kites; it may be skating in the winter time; it may be having spelling schools; yes, and some-times beer-drlnking and smoking tobacco seems to take the energies of all classes of one of these little towns. Under the guiding hand of some good and wise leader a community of this kind may all get a fever for getting an education: and what a glorious thing it is when this is the case! Well, this one town and the country roundabout seem to have been strongly taken with a wonderful craze to go to school and learn to read. The cowboys caught the fever, the Indians abandoned their usual habits, and they came too, and made their flat noses still flatter against the window-panes of the three-room schoolhouse. The teacher, it seems, had a wonderful gift for the work, and, besides, her heart was full of the grace of God and the love of Christ Jesus. She went out and took the Indians by the hand and won their confidence so as to bring them in also. When the mothers also began to come, bringing their babies with them to such an extent that it was a serious interruption to the lessons, she planned an evening school for the benefit of the mothers. The children could stay at home and take care of the babies while the parents went to the evening school. Perhaps some of you may laugh at the idea of such a school as Miss Dox kept. Instead of saying "yes" to a question from their teacher, she would be more likely to get "you bet, schoolma'am." She says she remembers one great stalwart specimen of manhood who was so slow in answering the questions she gave him that she was about to pass on to the next. Said he, "Just hold your horses, schoolma'am. I have got it all in my head, and I will get it all out on the square if you will only give me a little time." And, true to his promise, he did.
    When she had obtained a sufficient hold on the whole community by her cheerful and bright way of teaching, a Sunday-school was proposed. The Mormons held some sort of services on Sunday, and tbey raised some objection, fearing the new Sunday-school might conflict with their teachings. But she compromised the matter by agreeing to attend their Mormon services if they would attend her Sunday-school; and she even told them that they might convert her to their Mormon religion if they could do so. She had the grace of God in her heart all day long: and, as a consequence, the Sunday school flourished like the day school, and crowded every thing else into the background.
    The saloon-keeper was quite a friend to the school business until he saw that it was spoiling his custom; then he remonstrated some; but the good-natured school ma'am was too much for him. The profanity that had been so common was giving way day by day and week by week as the result of that Sunday-school, and people came from miles around to drink in the glad tidings that were sure to be proclaimed every Sunday.
    In the neighborhood was a girl of seventeen who was caring for a poor intemperate father and a family of children. In her zeal to have the children get an education she went out in the woods and cut down trees, and did almost every sort of man's work. She had such a reputation for training and breaking wild mules and horses that they named her Wild Anna; and when Miss Dox found her she was the center of a crowd gathered in front of the saloon while bets passed from mouth to mouth as to whether Wild Anna would succeed in conquering a vicious mule, as she had succeeded in taming all that had heretofore been brought to her. Anna had a peculiar gift for managing horses. She too caught the fever, however, and wanted to go to school and be taught to read and write. I can imagine how our little school ma'am thanked God when this great stout girl of only seventeen came to her to be taught as a little child. She had not been there many days before the schoolma'am look her by the arm and proposed that they should go out to walk one noontime. During that walk the teacher told her the story—the old, old story— of Christ and him crucified. The wild girl was touched. She confessed she had never heard any such wonderful story before.
    "Why, teacher, can this man of whom you have been telling me—can he be the Jesus whose name I have taken upon my lips, especially while with those men breaking their wild horses? Can it be that this one whose name I have so often taken in vain was he whom God sent down from heaven to call poor sinners such as I am to himself?"
    Then she stopped her coarse talk right then and there. As a means of providing food and clothing for the poor father and motherless children she kept on, I believe, using her rare gift and skill in training vicious horses; but from that day forward she was a friend of the little schoolma'am.
    In those days, in the mining towns remote from railways there were more or less stage-drivers; and among others who were called to come to that new Sunday school was one Jimmie Boyle, a stage driver. He had patronized the saloon so long that his clothes were ragged, his hair and beard untrimmed; and when one of his friends asked him to come, rough and rude as he was, he recognized the need of fixing up a little. Without saying a word to anybody he scraped up his money, made a long trip to Ogden, Utah, and purchased a brand-new suit of clothes. When somebody joked about it he told them his new suit was simply his "trotting-harness; " and much was the merriment when Jimmie presented himself so used up that nobody recognized him, and brought in the wake his wife and children. Henceforward he was a strong and faithful champion of the little school-ma'am and of the Sunday-school work.
    There was in the town a notoriously wicked man, but he was a man of some wealth. Somebody told the schoolma'am that, away back in days gone by, this man had been a professor of religion. She called on him, and God answered her prayers by causing the man to renounce his profanity and intemperance, and to come out clothed and in his right mind, a champion and defender of the Sunday-school.
    Three years had passed, and the reputation of that school was still growing, and pupils were coming from far and near. The untiring little woman who had already accomplished so much slipped in getting out of a wagon, and the result was such that she was obliged to go to a distant city for surgical relief. She returned with her limb in a plaster cast, telling her friends and pupils that sne would have to give up her school. When the news came, not only did the children and fathers and mothers implore her to stay, but the cowboys formed themselves into a committee, and volunteered to bring her in an easy wagon to and from the school, and carry her in her arm chair, if she would only go ou.
    "But, dear friends," said she, "how can I teach school in all three rooms when I can not even walk from one room to another?"
    "O schoolma'am! if you will only consent to stay and live with us as you have been doing we will all be so good that you won't need to walk from one room to another."
    They kept their promise—at least they kept it so well that the school was continued in this way until she began to lose health from lack of exercise. But the cowboys were equal to this emergency. They procured a gentle pony for her, and a comfortable side saddle, and outside of school hours she went around from house to house and paid visits, the people coming out to the pony to tell her how much she was needed, and that they could not have her go away.
    Now, dear friends, I have given you only a part of that woman's talk on that Sunday evening. As she sat in our church, near the pastor's desk, before he had introduced her, I feel free to confess that I did not see any thing remarkable about her nor any thing particularly attractive. I could scarcely believe it possible that she was the talented woman of whom I had heard; but when she arose to speak, and her face was lighted by that Christlike spirit from within, then we began to understand the wonderful secret that had given her such success. It was the spirit of Christ that shone forth from every word and look that she gave us. Most of you, dear readers, have known something of such a town as I have described. May be some of you know places now where there are no schools or churches, and where there are children growing up like noxious weeds in a neglected garden. Many of you have seen the beneficial changes that have been brought about by schools and Christian churches. Let us consider the effect that shall go on down the ages as a result of this one mission teacher's work. At first she was paid no salary. If I am correctly informed, the Christian people of the State of Ohio paid her salary for several years. As the school progressed, however, the people of the town contributed more or less toward her support. One of the Mormon elders gave $100, even though her teaching was in direct opposition to his own creed. I hardly need tell you that the result of that work was the building of a church. After the Sunday-school was well started she found pupils in her day school capable of taking classes; and one of these pupils, a young lady, has since risen to prominence. The beneficial results that went out to the world from that little school with its poor appliances and surroundings, who can measure them?
    Very likely the incident I have given you is a remarkable one. I judge so from the fact that Miss Dox was afterward employed in starting schools in other localities. These schools were then handed over to some teacher who could do very well after things were set going, and then she was moved about from place to place. At present she is employed to solicit funds for the Whitman College, at Walla Walla, Wash., an institution in memory of Marcus Whitman, the founder of the great Northwest country.
  • in "Women's American Baptist Home Mission Society", in Baptist Home Mission Monthly vol. 9, 1887, p. 159:
    Miss Virginia Dox, a missionary and teacher among the Mormons, gave an interesting account of her educational work among the people of Oxford, Utah. When she arrived in that town there was not a school in the place. At one time the Mormons had ran what they called a school for a few weeks in each year, but it was so far from what it should be that it was closed. The missionary school was the first regularly organized institution of that kind in the town, and before it was opened the Mormons were warned by the Church not to send their children to it, but after it had been in operation a few weeks more than one-half of the children in the school came from Mormon families. This led the Mormons to see the inferiority of their school system, and they are now endeavoring to secure a better system of instruction.
    Miss Dox was soon made a welcome guest in all the Mormon families, and as a result of what she saw could not condemn the believers in the faith of the Mormon Church; she pitied them all and deeply. They were industrious and sober people, but they were bound by infatuation to the tenets of the Church, and would suffer even martyrdom for the cause they were so blindly supporting. Polygamy was causing much misery, yet some of the wives of the polygamists believed in the dual marriages, and said that they were happy in it because it was a part of their creed. So far as the children were concerned, she had no trouble in controlling them, making no rules, but trusting to their sense of honor. Under that system the school was a happy one for the three years she was in it. Her pupils ranged from a girl four years old to a man forty-five years of age. Several of them were cowboys, and from them she received the most courteous treatment. One pupil was a young mother with her babe in arms. When the school first opened every boy brought one dog, and some brought two; but rather than lose the pupils she kept both boys and dogs, and very fortunately she managed to maintain order with both boys and dogs. One other pupil was an uncouth, overgrown girl, eighteen years of age, who was noted as the best trainer of horses in that part of the country, in whose hands the wildest bronchos were speedily subdued. On Saturdays this girl spent her time in felling huge trees, and stripped them for the market. And yet that girl was influenced by the work of the school, and had developed into a kind-hearted, intelligent woman.
    Miss Dox, through a serious accident and sprained ankle, ascertained the true sympathy which dwelt in the hearts of those simple-minded people, and could truly say that while suffering from lameness, which prevented her from walking, she experienced happiness such as she had never felt before. In conclusion, she said that while there was not a Christian in that town when she entered it, there was now a regularly established school with two Christian teachers, a church edifice with a zealous pastor, and a congregation of worshipers at the foot of the Cross. Many Mormons are being converted, and many have become members of the Christian Church.

Further inquiryEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Women's American Baptist Home Mission Society". American Baptist Home Mission Monthly: p. 160. March.;view=1up;seq=170;q1=shoshone;start=1;size=10;page=search;num=160. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 University of Michigan (1923). "Non-Graduates". Catalogue of graduates, non-graduates, officers, and members of the faculties, 1837-1921. p. 830. OCLC 00926107.;view=image;seq=845;q1=%22virginia%20dox%22;start=1;size=10;page=search;num=831. 
  3. Addresses given as 9 Olds Place (1923), 195 Barker (1909).
  4. Volney Armour, ed. (1878). A History of Carroll County, Illinois. pp. 351-352. 
  5. Lauren A. Wright and Bennie W. Troxel (2002). Levi Noble: Geologist. 
  6. Gregory McNamee (2004). "Dox Castle". Grand Canyon Place Names. p. 47. ISBN 1555663346. 
  7. Gregory McNamee (2004). "Holy Grail Temple". Grand Canyon Place Names. p. 64. ISBN 1555663346. 
  8. For partial etymology, see root huk-: [1]
  9. Henry Johnson (1906). "Historical Introduction". Descriptive Catalogue of the Art Collections of Bowdoin College. p. 9. 


Note: Part or all of this article is being groomed for possible export to Wikipedia.

Virginia Dox was a 19th-century American missionary, educator and explorer in the Intermountain West, and later a noted lecturer and fundraising agent for educational causes including Whitman College and Berea College. She was the first white woman to explore the Grand Canyon, and also the first white woman to visit the Havasupai. Under the auspices of the New West Education Commission, she founded schools in Idaho and New Mexico. Dox's subsequent success as a lecturer was owed in no small part to the remarkable stories with which she returned from her Western labors. Her vivid depictions of Western life for Eastern audiences earned her the nickname of "the female Bret Harte".[1]

In the course of her travels, Dox lived among 23 Indian tribes,[2] and was an adopted member of nine: the Old Town Penobscot, Delaware, and Osage, and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora.[3] She was likewise adopted into the faculty of Whitman College, in recognition of her fundraising work, but was prevented from taking the position by a sudden decline in health.[3][4]

Early life and educationEdit

Virginia Dox was born in Wilson, New York on October 31, 1851, the sixth of an eventual nine children of Susan Yates and Eldert Van Woert Dox.[5] She received her primary education in Wilson.[5] For secondary education, she initially attended the union school in nearby Lockport, New York, followed by Claverack Seminary. However, she eventually headed to northwestern Illinois to complete her studies at the Mount Carroll Seminary, later known as Shimer College.[5]

Dox graduated from the collegiate course of the Mount Carroll Seminary in 1875.[6] She was one of a graduating class of eleven, then the largest in the school's history.[6] After graduating, Dox stayed on as an instructor of English and music, until at least 1877.[7] She also studied medicine during this period under Seminary physician and naturalist Henry Shimer, and continued these studies independently after leaving Mount Carroll and returning home. Upon returning to Wilson, she served as preceptress of the union school there.[8]

Miss V. Dox .... has been continuing the study of medicine with the untiring zeal that has always characterized her.[8]

Intending to become a physician, Dox studied medicine the University of Michigan from 1880 to 1881.[9] However, failing health forced her to abandon these studies, and she returned to Wilson once again. As she waited for her health to recover, she busied herself with writing and ornithology.[10]

Educational and missionary careerEdit

Virginia Dox 1885 Oxford Idaho

Virginia Dox on her pony in Oxford, Idaho in 1885.

Dox worked for the New West Education Commission (NWEC) for six years.[11] The NWEC was a Congregationalist missionary venture, founded in 1880.[12] Dox's NWEC career began in December 1883, when the Commission sent her to the remote town of Oxford, Idaho to establish a school.[13]

In Oxford, Dox was the "pioneer pedagogue"[14] for a school to be known as the New West Academy (a name it shared many others founded by the Commission). The town of Oxford, Idaho was then much more populous than it is today, with some 250 inhabitants,[13] but extremely remote. It had however been reached by the Utah and Northern Railroad a few years before, in 1879, and was even home to a newspaper, the Idaho Enterprise (which later removed to Malad City).[15] Almost all the inhabitants were Mormon, and there was also a preexisting Mormon school; however, Dox was able to draw more than thirty students for the new Academy, and the school continued to function for some time even after her departure. After more than a year in Oxford, she slipped and injured her leg badly, requiring surgery, but her students dissuaded her from abandoning the school by arranging the classrooms so that they would move around her instead of she around them, and providing a pony for her to get around the town.[16] The kindness of the "uncouth" people of Oxford became a frequent topic in Dox's later speeches.

In 1885, Dox was sent by the US government to the Osage Indian Boarding School at Pawhuska in present-day Oklahoma.[9][17] Her predecessor there had beaten an Osage boy to death, not an uncommon atrocity in these institutions. As a result, she faced considerable hostility upon her arrival; this was alleviated when she was adopted as a daughter by the head of the Osage tribe, James Bigheart.[17] She took an Osage name that was a partial translation of her Tuscarora name, meaning "Shining Light".[3]

Dox later worked for the NWEC in the Spanish-speaking village of San Mateo, New Mexico for a period variously described as three months,[18] nine months, and "the entire school year".[19] Here she met a much stiffer resistance than she had in Oxford. Her later stories about this period often focused on her difficult plight in the village, with a local priest scheming against her and a wealthy rancher trying to starve her out, and on the peculiar practices of the community's Penitentes,[20] but also on the kindness of the local women who saved her and gave her gifts on her departure.[2]

Subsequently, Dox was one of several teachers who, after "tried experience"[21] working for the NWEC, were tasked with going on speaking tours in the East to raise funds and support for the Commission's work. This led naturally to Dox's subsequent career as a public speaker for educational causes. She made her first eastern tour in 1888.[19] She then returned to New Mexico for a time, working for the NWEC in the suburbs of Albuquerque.[22]

The Indians never harmed me, because I was brave. They respect a brave man but they respect a brave white woman a thousand times more for they believe all white women are cowards.
—Virginia Dox, c. 1885[2]

During her time in the Southwest, Dox was an early explorer of the Grand Canyon, where she was guided by William Bass in 1891.[23] She was reportedly the first white woman to visit the Havasupai nation.[24][25] The "Dox Castle" outcropping and the related bright red Dox Sandstone formation are named for her,[26] supposedly in tribute to her bright red hair.[24] She also reportedly gave the nearby Holy Grail Temple its original name, "Bass Tomb", after her guide.[27] Soon after emerging from the Grand Canyon, Dox wrote that "in all the wide, wide world there can be nothing more wonderful and beautiful."[28]

Fundraising and publicity careerEdit

It is faint praise to say that but for the labors of this gifted, eccentric, indomitable woman the first financial campaign of Whitman College would have ended in failure or been long delayed.
—Stephen Penrose[4]

Dox's work on behalf of Whitman College began around 1896, when she was contacted by a Whitman supporter, Dr. O.W. Nixon of the Chicago Inter-Ocean.[29] Although she had never visited the school, Dox went on speaking tours across the East and Midwest, seeking donations large and small, sometimes giving five speeches in a single day.[3][30] Her work raised $250,000 for Whitman's Pearson Memorial Endowment.[17][4] She is sometimes credited with the school's ability to survive its first financial crisis and continue into the 20th century.[4] Dox was rewarded with an appointment to the Whitman College faculty in 1899, but was unable to accept it, as in that year her health took a severe turn for the worse, under the strain of her lecturing work.[4]

Dox also served as a fundraising agent for Berea College in Kentucky, although at a lower level, since only became acquainted with Berea in 1901.[31] Her support was instrumental in gaining for a major gift of $200,000 to Berea by Andrew_Carnegie in 1908. The college president William G. Frost had been unable to see Carnegie in the US, but Dox raised funds and encouraged him to travel to Europe, where he was able to meet with Carnegie in Scotland.[32]

Death and legacyEdit

Dox castle

Dox Castle.

Her travels left Dox with a considerable collection of American Indian artwork.[2] Upon realizing the value of this collection, she donated it to Bowdoin College in 1893 as the "Virginia Dox Collection of American Antiquities".[33] Bowdoin had been the first men's college to allow her to address its students.[34]

After her health broke in 1899, Dox was an invalid for five years.[2] She later returned to fundraising and speaking work, but only on a much smaller scale than before. Living quietly in Hartford, Connecticut, Dox gradually slipped into obscurity. A 1932 feature article in the Hartford Courant introduced her as "a forgotten heroine."[20]

Dox died on February 14, 1941, at the age of 89.[17] She was buried in Hartford's Cedar Hill Cemetery.[3] Although of slowly failing health, she had remained healthy enough to hold an open house for her 89th birthday in 1940.[35]

Today, Dox is remembered chiefly in the name of a wing of Prentiss Hall, a women's dormitory at Whitman College, and by the Dox Castle butte and Dox Sandstone of the Grand Canyon.

Works citedEdit


  1. "Female Bret Harte: Experience of Miss Virginia Dox in the Far West". Jackson Citizen Patriot: p. 6. 1896-01-28. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Isabel Foster (1928-08-19). "A Little Schoolmarm of the Old West". Hartford Courant: p. E3. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Miss Dox Who Long Taught Indians Dies". Hartford Courant: p. 4. 1941-02-15. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Penrose 1935, p. 150.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Williams, Edward T. (1921). "Eldert Van Woert Dox". Niagara County, New York, vol. 2. p. 829.;view=image;q1=%22virginia%20dox%22;start=1;size=100;page=root;seq=589;num=829. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Oread (Shimer College): p. 13. January 1876. 
  7. Volney Armour, ed. (1878). A History of Carroll County, Illinois. pp. 351-352. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Oread (Shimer College): p. 6. April 1880. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 University of Michigan (1923). "Non-Graduates". Catalogue of graduates, non-graduates, officers, and members of the faculties, 1837-1921. p. 830. OCLC 00926107.;view=image;seq=845;q1=%22virginia%20dox%22;start=1;size=10;page=search;num=831. 
  10. Oread (Shimer College): p. 8. August 1883. 
  11. Hood 1905, p. 138.
  12. Hood 1905, p. 9.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Virginia Dox (August 1884). "Dear Friends of Auld Lang Syne". Oread: p. 22. 
  14. Hood 1905, p. 50.
  15. Minnie Fisher Ellsworth (1976-12). Andrus Recorder. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  16. Gleanings 1896, p. 867.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 "Virginia Dox". New York Times. 1941-02-15. 
  18. Mrs. Willam Kincaid (1907-12). "Our Enlarged Opportunity". The Home Missionary (Congregational Home Missionary Society). 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Oread (Shimer College): p. 25. August 1888. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Harry A. Hershman (1932-11-20). "She Saw The World's Most Cruel Passion Play". Hartford Courant: p. E5. 
  21. Hood 1905, p. 14.
  22. Hood 1905, p. 83.
  23. Wright & Troxel 2002, p. 6.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Wright & Troxel 2002, p. 7.
  25. Oread: pp. 25-26. June 1893. 
  26. Gregory McNamee (2004). "Dox Castle". Grand Canyon Place Names. p. 47. ISBN 1555663346. 
  27. Gregory McNamee (2004). "Holy Grail Temple". Grand Canyon Place Names. p. 64. ISBN 1555663346. 
  28. Charles Gregory Crampton (1972). Land of living rock: The Grand Canyon and the high plateaus. p. 195. 
  29. Penrose 1935, p. 149.
  30. Penrose 1935, pp. 149-150.
  31. "Keene Industrial Institute (Keene, KY) / Beattyville Industrial Institute (Beattyville, KY) / W. H. Parker". Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  32. "Helped to Get Gift for Berea". Hartford Courant: p. 5. 1908-03-28. 
  33. Henry Johnson (1906). "Historical Introduction". Descriptive Catalogue of the Art Collections of Bowdoin College. p. 9. 
  34. "Virginia Dox l'80-81". The Michigan Alumnus 47: p. 455. 1941-07-07.;view=image;seq=467;q1=%22virginia%20dox%22;start=1;size=10;page=search;num=455. 
  35. "Miss Dox Marks 89th Birthday With Open House". Hartford Courant. 1940-10-14. 

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