Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Man, The Doctor, The Mystery....Dr. William Cobb

A few weeks ago I emailed a 4th cousin on my Cobb side that I found through the magic of DNA.  Our common direct ancestor is Hewitt Cobb.  John Ashley Cobb was her 2nd great grandfather. I have been in contact with a descendant of Zachariah Taylor Cobb for a number of years. James Hiram was my 3rd great grandfather and a brother to John Ashley and Zachariah Taylor! It has been fun exchanging information and of course this has rekindled an interest in my Cobb family. Dr. William Cobb is the earliest Cobb I have been able to find and like most that research this Cobb family I have the one burning question…

Where the heck did Dr. William Cobb come from?

It is like he just appeared in Greenbrier County where at the age of 42 he married Elizabeth Morrison (8 August 1787) in Greenbrier County. Forty-two seems a bit older than the average age of first marriages so inquisitive minds want to know…

Could Dr. William Cobb have been married before marrying Elizabeth?

There are several land grants in Kanawha County 1788, 1792, 1799, 1799 and 1825. I believe most are in or near what is now Clendenin. I’m going from memory so this may not be exactly right…but the grants are near/on the Elk River. So…we know he married in Greenbrier in 1787, obtained a land grant in Kanawha in 1788 and also had a son in 1788. Where was he before 1787? This is just a few years after the Revolutionary War. He was of the right age to fight. Could he have been part of the British Army and decided he loved the Virginia Mountains, who doesn't, and decided that he didn't want to return to England? Okay, maybe I have more than the ‘one burning question’! Here is another, we know that he was a doctor. not just any doctor, but the FIRST doctor along the Elk River! Cool….! But one can’t help but wonder…..

How did he become a doctor? 

Surely he had to have had some training. Right? Well, I have devoted a lot of thought to this question over the years. The University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1765. U of Penn was the first and only medical school in the 13 colonies. Did William attend U of Penn…I seriously doubt it…. That would be too easy. Plus, I looked at their amazing online collection and found no hide nor hair of dear William. I know many doctors received training as an apprentice. Here is an interesting fact from the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology

“On the eve of the Revolutionary War it has been estimated that the colonies contained 3,500 physicians, only 400 of whom had undergone some sort of training, and about 200 of these actually held medical degrees.

I once found a reference to a William Cobb who was an apothecary during the Revolutionary War. This makes sense to me but I have not been able to locate any additional information. The History of Charleston mentions Dr. Cobb and early medical care in the area.

Pg. 216: “William Cobb MD – the first physician on Elk River – residing one mile up Big Sandy, not far from the present site of Osborn’s Mills. These were the only settlers in this part of the Elk valley in 1795.”

Pg. 269: “There was also a Dr. William Cobbs settled up Elk, about the mouth of Big Sandy, who practiced medicine for a long time and was said to be “lucky,” If not learned. He had a large territory to serve and he killed himself riding about visiting the sick, and last of all the Doctor died also.”

Read more about early Kanawha Physicians...... 

Monday, January 6, 2014


Now that the holidays are over I hope to get back to my research and this blog. I didn't completely stop research over the past few weeks…I have just been lazy about writing anything. Lately I've been taking another look at my Cobb family. Today I came across some new information on Fold3 that I found not only interesting but also extremely sad. I am amazed by the things that people have lived through and have been able to survive. Women were not often recognized or even acknowledged in the past. I have discovered some amazing women in my family and the wife of Thomas Cobb is one. I am not related to her by blood but I am still proud to include this lady in my family. 

 My 5th great grandfather, William Cobb, had nine children. What I found today relates to his son, my 4th grand uncle, Thomas B. Cobb and his family. During the Civil War all four of his sons enlisted and only one survived with minor injuries. Two sons, Frances M. and James C. were both killed in action. Thomas’s wife, Virginia Mayhorn Cobb, filed for a pension after the death of her son Frances. She must have been a strong lady! I find her story quite sad and worth sharing. The year of 1864 must have been unbearable. After losing her husband April 19th she lost her son James near Harper's Ferry September 22 then Frances October 19th at Cedar Creek. 

I transcribed a few of the things I found and I'll attach a copies of the documents at the end of my post. 

            My husband Thomas Cobb (father of Frances M Cobb late of Co “A” of 13th Regt Va vols who was killed at Cedar Creek Va on the 19th Octr 1864) departed this life on the 19th day of April 1864. leaving me in a destitute conditions I had four sons in the army 2 of them were killed on crippled for life. One only returned safe and he has a family of his own

Signed in presence of                                                     her
WC Blaine                                                      Virginia (X) Cobb
Mary E Wells                                                              mark

 In other parts of the file I learned that before he died Thomas was very ill with a form of cancer and could not leave his home. So, Virginia was taking care of a very sick husband while her sons were off in the war. I cannot imagine how difficult her life was at that time. She also had three young daughters. Before his death Frances was the family main source of support. Statements in support of Virginia Cobb were made by several people including John Ashley, Sanford Williams, Wilson Jones, John C. Bird and Benjamin Hinsley, MD.

State of West Virginia
County of Kanawha SS v Roane
 On the 14 day of June 1866 before me a Justice of the peace in and fore said county personally appeared Dr. Benjamin M Hensly and John C. Bird residents of said county,s persons whom I certify to be respectable and entitled to credit who being duly sworn according to law declare each for himself as follows, They both declare that they have been well acquainted with Mrs. Virginia Cobb mother of Frances M Cobb dead and widow of Thomas Cobb dec’d father of the said Frances M the former for .10. years the latter for 23 years. And know that the said Thomas Cobb dec’d on or about the 19th April 1864. That for some years previous to his death he was unable to do any manual labor from the effects of a cancer in the breast of which he died and for the last 2 years of his life he was entirely confined to his house, that the said Frances M Cobb was the only male member of the family who remained at home and provided to a great extend for the family during his father’s sickness he being rendered almost to destitution by his long confinement that there were several other Brothers all of whom enlisted in the Federal army and all of whom were either killed or wounded severely but each of the others had a family of his own to provide for the know as stated above that the said Frances M was almost the exclusive dependence of the family – and that Mrs. Cobb is an old lady and still in great destitution they have no doubt but that the said Frances M. Cobb enlisted in the army for the double purpose of defending his country and for the purpose of providing for the support of his parents and they have been informed that he did so as far as he could under the circumstances but of this they know nothing of their own knowledge. The said Benjamin M Hensly declares that he has been a practicing physician in the immediate neighborhood of Mr. Cobbs residence for the last .10. years. That he attended Thomas Cobb during his illness and had an opportunity of knowing the facts stated above, that Mrs Cobb has always been decidedly loyal to the Govt of the United States all her sons have been in the army (as stated above) and 2 of them lost their lives in battle and 1 other maimed for life. They further declare that they reside as above stated and have no interest in this clam.
 B.M. Hinsley, M.D
John C Bird
 Sworn to and subscribed before me the day and year aforesaid and I certify that I have no interest in this claim and I further certify that I am well acquainted with Dr Benjamin M Hinsly and know him to be a physician of respectability and standing in his neighborhood The figure “2” was changed to “1” at the instance of affiants in ____.
Vincent Jarrett 

 The following statement is from Sanford Williams, Wilson Jones and John Ashley:

State of West Virginia
County of Kanawha SS
            On this 5th day of January 1865 before me John Slack clerk of the circuit court of Kanawha County personally appeared Sanford Williams Wilson Jones and John Ashly residents of Kanawha County the 2 first named at present being privates in Company “A” 13th Regt Va vols persons whom I certify to be respectable and entitled to credit who being duly sworn according to law declare that they are well acquainted with Mrs Virginia Cobb widow of Thomas Cobb decd and mother of the Francis M. Cobb decd private Co “A” 13th Regt Va vols.) and know that she is a lady of very indigent circumstances with little means of subsistence and that since the death of her late husband Thomas Cobb she has been almost entirely dependent upon her said son Frances M Cobb for maintenance. The said Williams and Jones being in the same Regiment and Company with the deceased know that he always gave his mother the said Virginia Cobb the largest portion of his monthly wages at each pay day. The said Wilson Jones remembers that one occasion when the full amount paid him by the paymaster at Hurricane Bridge and Valley was fifty two (52) dollars – he gave his mother fifty one (51) dollars of that sum. They all declare that Mrs Cobb had but four sons that the other three Wm H Cobb Plyant Cobb and James C Cobb are all married men all were in the US Army one of them was killed in the Battle near Harpers Ferry. The other 2 are both wounded one of them a cripple for life so that she has no near relatives in a condition to render her any assistance. They further declare that even before the death of her said husband (who died of a lingering disease of some years standing) she was principally dependent upon the said Francis M her son for maintenance and afterwards almost entirely so, that the said Francis M Cobb was an unmarried man with no children –that Mrs is still a widow in indigent circumstances (as above stated) with 3 young girls comprising her present family. That she is a lady of unquestioned loyalty. The further declare that they reside as above stated and are entirely disinterested in Mrs Cobbs claim for pension. Witnesses do not know the date of Mr Cobb’s death but think it was in 1863
 Sanford Williams
Wilson Jones
John Ashly

Sworn to and subscribed before me the day and year first above written and I certify that I believe the affiants to be credible persons and that I have no interest in ths in Mrs Cobbs claim for pension
Given under my hand and the seal of said court
Jn Slack elk

Virginia was allowed pension commencing October 19, 1864 at the rate of $8.00 per month and the $12.00 starting March 19, 1886. She died 12 September 1895 and was dropped from the rolls.