Cobb Family History – by Isabel Cobb (born 1858)
Bradley County, TN & Okla. Cherokee Indian Terr.
This letter is on file at the Oklahoma Historical Society
In February 1870 our father Jos. B. Cobb sold his farm on Candy's Creek, E. Tenn., 3 1/2 miles N.W. of Cleveland in Bradley Co. to a Mr. Julian, an M.E. preacher and we turned our faces westward to the far off Indian Ty. Being part Cherokee Indian we all had a right to land in the Cherokee nation. We had relatives and acquaintances who had emigrated and sent glowing accounts back. So we came. There were six of us children, Isabel, Billy, Mattie, Joe, Alex and Sam. All of school age except the two youngest boys. No longer would we treck a mile and a half across Candy's Creek to school where Mr. Niblo taught us our first lessons in geography and guided us thro' the old blue backed spelling book and where a contest in spelling almost broke up the tie of friendship between us and one, Pocahantas Cowan, of our dearest loved cousins. And no longer would we walk the slim foot log across the Creek and hie us to school, two miles to a school in a grove near Mr. Kirby's where a Mr. James Rucker with a short leg, big owl eyes and a quid of tobacco bulging out one cheek, a switch under on arm, hopped about among his students, a terror to the little ones. But he was counted a good teacher in those times. Our timid heart never swelled and beat with more pride than one evening he overtook us going home, he on his pony with his crutch across the saddle in front of him, he said, "Well, Bell, you beat them all spelling". We had had a spelling of the whole school, a string of boys and girls, some young men and grown girls standing round the room against the wall. I well remember standing at the foot and spelling them all down and going to the foot again. it was the custom to go to the foot and then climb to the head again. It was also customary for the pupils to study aloud; the humming becoming so loud sometimes the teacher had to subdue it be rapping with his cane. Nannie and Will Kirby, Melissa and Dan Shipley, Nannie and Lou Beard, Darthula and Fannie Bradford, John and Annie Lea were pupils in that school at that time.
Across the Ridge where the other school was went the families of Larrisons, McReynolds, Normans, Clingans, Cowans and Cobbs. Aunt Bell rode a pony to school. Everybody was kind and thoughtful of her. One evening her pony did not come for her as usual and she walked home. It occurred that the pony had turned to the right on top of the ridge and gone to Walkers who knew him and sent him home.
The Clingan homestead was a fine old place 3+ miles N.W. from Cleveland, half mile east of Candy's Creek at the foot of a ridge called Candy's Creek Ridge which ran almost north and south. The place had been homesteaded by Grandfather Alexander Clingan, born February 20, 1801- Alex he was called for short, that must have been about the time he married our grandmother Martha (Patsy) Blythe, born January 31, 1812, daughter of Wm. blythe of Blythe's Ferry. The Blythes had emigrated from So. Carolina at an early date, and this William married Nancy Fields, granddaughter of Richard Fields, later of Texas history and about one eighth Cherokee Indian. Mother had several young brothers - Elijah, George and Frank.
Patsy Blythe, their daughter, our grandmother born May 11, 1828, was sixteen when she married Alex Clingan and started housekeeping at the homestead in a cabin which was later replaced by a substantial two story weatherboarded Ell building with three chimneys and twice as many fire places, a long front porch looked out on the big road and the Ridge beyond at the foot of which was the family graveyard.
A cellar beneath with folding outside doors on south side of the house, all surrounded by hard maple and cedar trees - which in the memory of the grandchildren were large trees with a walk thru to the front gate where there was a large plank for a mounting board - everybody rode horseback in the early day - not even buggies had come into use, so the women and girls had to have an elevation from which to mount their horses which in those days were saddled for them with sidesaddles - disgraceful to ride astride.
What was called the Big Road passed in front of the house running north and south from Cleveland several miles north till it turned West and crossed Candy's Creek bridge and east to Georgetown.
Near the Lea place-Mrs. Lea, widow of Frank Lea, raised several orphan children, Elvira, carrie, Mary John and Annie Lea. Johnny married Lottie Beard later and Annie married Will Kirby after we moved from Tenn.
I saw Annie Lea Kirby at the Kirby home in 1881 when on a visit after graduating at Glendale, O. On this trip I visited Uncle Henry at Morganton and he took me to see Aunt Fannie Howard. We ate one meal with Aunt Fannie Howard's daughter, cousin Betty Cruzes - the best dinner! Among those poor hills and rocks, one wondered how the people could set such good tables. Aunt Fannie's son, Cousin Jimmy Howard was home. I think he was a member of the Legislature.
Southeast and south of the house which sat on an elevation not amounting to a hill, was a branch of clear sparkling spring water taking its origin in a spring up on the Ridge, the waters of which had been dammed by a huge log over which the water fell in a cascade about two feet high and crossed the road and ran on down thro' the meadow with other springs along its course one of which furnished the house with water and cool milk and butter from the log spring house and near it the family washing was done, the big black pot and wooden tubs with a bench and battling stick, not even wash boards to help get the dirt out, but plenty of soft soap.
An orchard was set which yielded in the day of us grandchildren delicious great big apples - one calld the horse apple.
Children came thick and fast to this little grandmother, 7 boys and 9 girls, all of whom she raised to be grown except the eldest who died in infancy. Her neighbors called her a good general and her commands if such they might be called were seldom questioned but usually obeyed to the letter. Tasks set the girls to do were accomplished readily. Many a beautiful quilt and much fine needlework were wrought by these girls who also were experts at cooking and among the older ones the spinning wheel and loom gave forth fine works of linen and beautiful counterpanes and coverlets.
The younger girls took their turn in the fields at light jobs like dropping corn or using the hoe in covering it. Our mother said she had celebrated a good many of her birthdays dropping corn on the 13th of April. The 4 or 5 grains of corn must be dropped exactly in the check where the two furrows crossed - the furrows being laid off by the boys who could run the straightest row with their one horse bull-tongue plows. No such thing as corn planters and cultivators in those days, and grandfather raised fine corn on his creek bottom land.
And when it came to wheat, no new fangled drills could take the place of the man with his sack of wheat strung over his left shoulder while his right hand scattered broadcast over the mellow freshly harrowed ground the wheat by handfulls, then followed the harrow to cover the seed, or sometimes a big brush was used to cover with, drawn by horses or oxen. And then at harvest time, in June usually, when the wheat and oats fields had grown yellow and ready to cut, men with cradles went thro' them cutting and gathering into bunches which the binders picked up and tied into bundles which in turn were bunched into shocks and carped so that rain did no damage tho' the shocks might remain in the fields for days or weeks. Finally the thrashing was done by the tramping of horses feet or the beat of the flail on a floor or level clean place on the ground - then of course the grain must be winnowed and cleaned and stored.
The first threshing machines were run by horse power - 8 or 10 horses so that threshing was a big and expensive process. A hackle was a lot of sharp nails set in a board which could be held in the lap or set on a table. The course fibers were called tow and was spun and woven for coarse towels or straw ticks.
If a crop of flax had to be cared for, it was cut with sickles, tied into bundles ready for the brake which crushed off the outer stiff coat of the stalk leaving the soft fibre which was hackled and made ready for the spinning wheel, the little ones the spinner sat down to and operated with her foot on a pedal.
Wool and cotton were carded into rolls and spun on the big spinning wheel turned by hand. Thread on the brooches from those wheels was made into hanks on the reel, also turned by hand, and these were then ready to be washed and dyed ready to be woven into cloth on the big loom in a vacant room upstairs or in fine weather out beside the house.
So you see those boys and girls were busy, each one fitting in where he or she could be of most use in carrying on the business of this establishment started in a tiny cabin by a young couple among the foothills of the Smoky mountains of E. Tenn, the management of a big housefull of children.
A school was kept in a log school house across the ridge; writing school and singing school became common and parties and dances called the young folks together. There were picnics, barbecues, shooting matches, camp meetings and singing and wedding in those early days.
Aunt Polly, Aunt Lizzie, Aunt Martha and Mother Evaline all left the home nest before the Civil War broke out. Andrew F. Cowan claimed Aunt Lizzie and carried her off to Morganton, Blount Co. where he ran a store. John Spriggs wooed and won Aunt Polly and lived near Ooltawah in a big 2 story frame house on a farm. Jos. B. Cobb met Evaline at her sister's in Morganton and it was not long till they were married, Dec. 1857 and went to Morganton his home town to live, at first with father's mother, his father having died in 1856 of pneumonia and also his young brother James. But Mother wanted a house of her own, so they moved to a double log cabin where I [Isabel] was born October 25, 1858.
Cyrus W. Norman claimed Martha and took her to live at his home with his parents, not two miles away.
Much could be written of the great preparations for the weddings- Old Mariah Soles was there for days baking cakes, bread, chickens, etc. in ovens round a big fire in the fireplaces. At one wedding a roast whole pig with a red apple in its mouth graced the table along with nine other kinds of meat we have been told.
The wedding cake was iced, dressed and decorated as only Old Mariah knew how to do it- and much merriment attended its cutting as it contained a ring, a thimble, and a dime. The fortunate (or unfortunate as the future might develop) young lady who cut and drew the ring was supposed to be the next one to get married. She who drew the thimble was doomed to be an old maid, while the one who drew the piece of money would marry a rich man.
The knot was tied good and fast by a minister and without any thought of its ever being untied except by death. "Until death do us part" had real meaning. No divorces ever occurred in those days among the members of our family. Indeed divorced people were considered disgraced in those days.
Soon after the four oldest girls were married the war came on. Uncle Will [William Clingan] had been in Texas for several years and under the influence of his surrounding, he took sides with the south till on a visit back to his old home where his father and younger brothers were staunchly for the Union, Uncle Judge having gotten up a company of men and marched off to war. His attitude changed especially when he saw how his father and family were being treated by his neighbors of opposite side, so he went back to resign his commission but Uncle Will was taken prisoner by the Federal forces and sent to Camp Chase, O.
Uncle Jimmy [James Clingan], a young man barely old enough to enlist, took typhoid fever and died 6-5-63 in Nashville attended by our father and Uncle Cyrus Norman who were in the Commissary Dept. there.
Our father and mother had moved just before the war began from Morganton to a farm three miles down Candy's Creek from grandpa Clingans. Mother was left alone, for father had to go, with her three small children, myself, Billy and Mattie - all having been born near Morganton - two or three of father's young brothers were with her, one or two at a time stayed with mother part of the time but considered Aunt Melinda's house as home since their mother (our grandmother) died in Jan. '61. They were Uncles Tommy, Billy, and Henry. Uncle Tom would have in the army but was incapacitated from rheumatism and was walking on crutches - he was older than Uncle john and Sam both young captains fighting for the Union. he mad his home at his sister's and Aunt Melinda Cowan at Red Clay, Ga. whose husband uncle Wm. Cowan had been forced to leave home as had also our own father. most of our neighbors sympathized with the confederacy - the South - feeling ran pretty high and bitter - even brother fought against brother and father against son - so father and Uncle Wm. Cowan left home in the dead of winter traveling by night to avoid capture, and reached the union line at nashville where they found employment in the service of the government without enlisting as fighters, for they were ever opposed to shedding a brother's blood be he of the north or south.
Father was in the Commissary Dept. while in Nashville in 1863 while mother and her four small children were left at home to try to keep the little they had from being carried off by the Yankees, usually. But her pig pens and chicken roosts were frequently raided.
On Feb. 21, 1863 she gave birth to her fourth baby - a boy weighing 15 lbs. named for his father - Jos. B. Cobb who was away and did not see him till he was 6 mo. old. I can faintly remember the night Jo was born. A midwife old Aunt Betsey Lane and her husband Anderson came dow the Creek in a canoe by torch light. Dr. John Long from Cleveland came later and said Jo weighed more at birth than he did at 6 months, tipping the scales at 15 lbs.
The neighbors who came to help in this time of need and anxiety came down the Creek in a canoe at night by torch light. If I remember right they were Anderson Lane and his wife Betsey, under whose care, Mother never lacked for attention - not the chores outside - for father's and mother's brothers were on hand when needed. Uncles Tom Cobb, the rheumatic cripple and his two younger brothers, Wm. C. and Henry C. Cobb who made their home at Aunt Melinda Cowan's, fathers only sister, who lived at Red Clay, Ga. tho' just over the line in Tenn. were always available when help was needed that they as boys could supply - and her own young brothers Elijah, George and Frank who lived nearer.
As before mentioned father sold his farm on Candy' Creek and started to emigrate to the West. Before starting, a visit must be made to the old home so we all went to Grandma's but Grandma was there no more. She had died in Aug. 1868 (from a spider bite and blood poison)- 4 yrs. after Grandfather had died from smallpox, contracted when he went to Knoxville to see Uncle Judge, his son Capt. J.K. Clingan.
The children left at home after the death of both parents were Adaline, Judge Keith, who was Capt. in the Union Army, Lillie, Elijah, George and Isabel - these six were there when as a family, we visited them in Feb. 1870 before leaving for the West. But while there we were to witness the wedding of Aunt Lillie and Uncle George. Aunt Lillie (her brothers and sisters always called her "Sis" and we children called her Aunt Sis), a very favorite aunt with long curls round her pretty head, ever ready with smiles which dimpled her cheeks. It was no wonder that father's young brother, a young graduate in medicine, fell in love with and married her in that Feb. of 1870.
Uncle George also a young medical student had wooed and won Darthula Bradford, pretty, curly haired blue eyed blushing Tulie (we called her at school) barely sixteen. They were married at her mother's home where this writer was often a guest of her younger sisters Fannie, Ella and Abbie.
It was quite a treat for us children - these weddings and gatherings of young people for in the years that followed they enjoyed nothing of the kind in their wind swept pioneer prairie home in the Indian Territory.
One day there on this farewell visit at this dear old place, Billy our oldest brother 10 yrs. old went riding across the Creek (Candy's) with Uncle Judge and came back wet to the skin by the showers of rain - not feeling very well. The next morning he was broken out thick with measles - of course this meant a delay in our starting for the last chick of us had his turn but all got thro' nicely except Alex who was troubled (as was our mother and father) with earache, abscess and discharge thro' all our hard trip by train, boat and wagon.
As I remember the younger children were puny, whining and restless all the way, requiring ceaseless attention and care on the part of mother. At Chattanooga as were changing trains, an unearthly blast from a nearby engine not only scared Alex but was agony to his sore ear.
Before leaving Aunt Addie took Mattie and me to a photographer's and had our pictures made - mine was very unnatural looking with corkscrew curls all over my head from having endured the rough curl paper bumps for a day and night (think of torturing a child thus to satisfy the the pride of two or three young aunts).
After we left, the two young married couples continued at the old home fore a short time only as the old home had been sold in 1868 to Mr. Harrel and possession must be given.
We left in the spring of 1870 and Uncle Andy and Aunt Lizzie Cowan followed in the fall of '70 and uncle Billy and Aunt Lillie and Aunt Belle in the spring of '71 all bound for the Cherokee nation, Ind. Ty.
Uncle Billy's folks must have stayed at Aunt Minerva's (Mrs. Arthur McDonald) for several weeks. A letter to uncle Judge from McD. at Ooltwah speaks of having left some chickens, meat and fruit cans for him to dispose of and Puss (Aunt Addie) was to send Aunt Minerva's brass bucket by Aunt Lizzie to be put off at Ooltwah. Uncle billy also said they had a letter of 15 from Uncle Lige who gone west in '68 shortly after Grandma's death 1st of Aug. and he mentioned Mother's new baby girl Addie Malinda born 9th Sept. As a girl of 12 yrs. I well remember that day. to go back a little, two young men came west with us, Tom Purcell and George Marlow.
Lewsi Downing was principal chief at the time of our arrival in the territory in 1870 who I believe died in office and whose term was filled out by one W.P. Ross, a fine man and a gentleman educated at Princeton University who served on educational board and prominent in school circles in our young days. it was thro' his influence Eastern teachers were brought here and taught in the seminaries. The Miss Noyes of Mt. Holyoke among them. After them came Miss A. Florence Wilson who continued at the helm for 25 years.
Miss Mary stapler, a loved teacher was her able assistant till her health forced her to retire, a daughter of John b. Stapler, pioneer merchant of Tahlequah and Jane Hicks, one of the first students at the seminary before the war.
Miss Eloise Butler was also a teacher and Miss E. Jane Ross, sister of W.P. Ross.
Miss Butler married Dennis Bushyhead, prin. Chief of the Cherokees then, and two children, Frances and Butler came of this marriage. Mary who had made her home for at least part of the time with Leon Ross and wife. Leon being brother of Adda Ross Norrid, grandson of Chief Jno. Ross. The Rev. W.A. Duncan married Mrs. florence Lazalier Caleb whose daughter Florence (Florry) was near of an age with Mary Duncan Shelton and Emma and John (Red John) and Jennie who died young.
But to continue our journey after a visit at Webber's Falls. Our next stopping place was Tahlequah, the Capital and educational center of the Cherokees. One little incident occurred on the road between The Falls and Tahlequah, was the over turning of one of the wagons, loaded with household goods, but as I remember nothing was broken not even any part of our new cook stove.
Father had gone ahead and had engaged a small house on the hill east of town - a house said to be haunted because some woman had committed suicide there. What was most remembered was that pigs and fleas infested the dust about the place so that we had to rid ourselves of the hoppers before getting in bed at night. The month or two we spent here while Father looked about for a place to buy for a permanent home, we children went to school down in town.
One memorable event was a spelling match conducted by Spens S. Stephens who was the teacher at the Eureka school some 5 or 6 so. west of Tahlequah - a contest for a beautiful bay pony bedecked with gay ribbon, as he grazed about in the Capital yard where the contest was held and where a long line of contestants from various neighboring schools including the town school stood waiting. Johnnie Stapler then a boy of 10 or 12 was among the number, a fine looking fellow with eyes as yet alert and bright as any but afterwards he became blind and passed thro' life not seeing. He married Ella Morgan (sister of Gid and Frank) and left a son John and a daughter Nelle.
Johnnie Stapler's father, John W. Stapler was for years the leading dry goods merchant of Tahlequah. His wife was Jane Hicks, sister of Dan Hicks.
Their children were James who married Lelia Breedlove.
Mary who was one of our loved teachers at the old Seminary being first assistant under Miss Florence Wilson but after a year or two of teaching she contracted tuberculosis and died, a beautiful young woman.
John Jr. Married Ella Morgan, was blind many many years before he died in the year 1935. Maggie died of the same dread t.b. a young woman.
Living in Tahlequah at this time (1870) were Uncle James Blythe, his wife, Aunt Jemima (Rogers) and their girls. Love, Josie, Ellen Howard and Fannie - Elvina the oldest had married John Foreman, son of Rev. Stephen Foreman of Park Hill. Love married and died soon. Josie, a beautiful young woman later married a man named Cass and became the mother of Bruce and Ethel Cass. cousin Josie's second husband was Dr. Arnold by whom she had one child - a daughter who later became the wife of mayor of Bartlesville - Buck by name. After the death of Cass, she (Josie) married Geo. Keeler, a wealthy man of Bartlesville whose first wife was also our other's cousin, Clare Gilstrap who left a son, Fred Keeler.
Ellen Blythe-Howard we called her, married Wm. Miller, lived in Bartlesville, had three children. Fannie married - Marks, lived in Vinita, and has a son that is an M.D. Her daughter, Marjorie, married but died young of cancer.
Father found a place on the prairie in CooweesKoowa Dist. 10 miles north of Ft. Gibson - the Steadman place with a spring as the main attraction, 10 A+ of land in cultivation, a log cabin for a kitchen and bed and living room: another log cabin chicken house, a log spring house and the hull or frame of a new cabin with roof extending over for a porch and kitchen (we made them).
We hung up quilts and blankets and father laid a floor of rough planks to make a room in which to welcome a newcomer - a baby sister who came the 9th of Sept. What a place for Mother at such a time. And no doctor nearer than Ft. Gibson.
A neighbor (Mrs. Wash Mayes) who lived on the bank of the river (Grand) came after urgent asking and helped but the post doctor from Ft. Gibson had to be called before Mother was up again. It makes me shudder now to think what that brave uncomplaining mother went thro' at that time. And other times when chill and fever among the children, border on warfare with the Creek Negroes when our brother Billy was killed by them and Alex Cowan (a cousin) wounded in summer of 1880.
Some men had gathered and attempted to Lynch Law for stealing of cattle. This, of course, enraged the negroes and the battle ensued near Gibson Sta. and W.D. Clinger's [Clingan] place.
Transcribed by Danny Williams - a descendant of the Norman family related to the Cobbs.
This information may not be used for profit.
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