By Lou L. Sams


Having personally spent literally thousands of hours researching the Cobb families of Madison County, Alabama, I can verify that it is indeed an intriguing and challenging line. I wish to acknowledge a few of the many individuals that have assisted me over the years. I do not want to leave anyone out, but space prohibits naming all of them. First and foremost, many thanks go out to Betty (B.J.) Atkinson, a brilliant researcher who has listened to my theories, given me advice, brainstormed with me, and spurred me on by asking me difficult questions that invariably led to more sleuthing. Betty and I share a keen desire to find "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!" Most of all many, many thanks to Betty for generously producing the GEDCOM to load the files, and for tolerating my many computer snafus. (Please be advised that Betty makes it a matter of principle not to give out Gedcoms of files because any mistakes such as keying errors, etc. are prone to become graven in stone.)

The employees and volunteers of the Madison County Records Center, which houses the oldest Probate Records for Madison County, Alabama, have been invaluable in answering questions and assisting with finding records. Their dedication and enthusiasm is exceptional, and I wish to thank them here for a job well done -- Ronda Larkin, Archivist; Donna Dunham, Research Assistant; Terry Lee, Volunteer Webmaster; and of course, volunteers Lil, Alice, and Henri. Mr. Roy Maynard, a local genealogist, who helped me tremendously with getting started on my Cobb line years ago, has been a big inspiration. Cobb cousins Milton Smith and Marilyn Cobb in Texas have provided much information on David Cobb's son Stancil and his descendants. Other Cobb descendants that deserve mention for sharing of ideas and information include Wayne Cobb, Shirley Worley Williams, Don Glover, Mary Cobb Morris, Betty Huggins, Janelle Cobb, and Dennis Amos. Phil Proctor, a history professor in Mobile, Alabama, freely shared a paper he had published on W.R.W. Cobb, which illuminated my path to many more discoveries about this famous, complex man. I wish to give credit to John P. Rankin, a local historian that has been instrumental in assisting with the ongoing restoration of the Cobb Cemetery. If not for John's expertise, hard work, and guidance, we would not have made the progress on the cemetery that we have made to date -- thank you, John!

Mike Cobb has provided me much help in the past few years. He is always helpful when I ask for clarification on his Cobb line, which also had some descendants in North Alabama in the early years. Mike has been very kind and generous in many ways, and all Cobb researchers should be appreciative of the time, energy, and intellect that he has devoted to this website!


David Cobb was one of the earliest settlers of Madison County, Alabama, arriving in 1809, before Alabama achieved statehood, and when Madison County was still a wilderness, and considered a part of the Mississippi Territory. One of David's sons, WRW Cobb was a six term United States Congressman, and his Congressional Biography states that his family came to Madison County in the year after 1809. It also states that W.R.W. was born in Rhea County, Tennessee on June 7, 1807, placing this family there a couple of years before they arrived in Madison County. David was called a "planter" of "Cocke County, Tenn." in an Anson County, N.C. deed, dated 1806, and was found in the 1800 census of Anson County, North Carolina. Perhaps David was merely moving around to speculate in the new lands that were just being opened up for purchase, but whatever the reason, he migrated from Martin County, NC to Anson County, NC to Cocke County, Tenn, to Rhea County, Tenn., before finally settling in Madison County, AL where he died June 27, 1839. The first proven record we have of David Cobb in Madison County is when he purchased land there on March 10, 1809. This is just after the squatters' census was taken in Madison County in January 1809. This tract of land, known as Section 32, T4, R2E, was the Cobb homestead until additional purchases were made in 1830, and is the location of the Cobb Cemetery, where David was supposedly buried along with his wife, Martha Bryant, and other family members.

We are currently in the process of restoring this historic old cemetery. As of this writing, we are uncertain as to the names of exactly everyone that is buried within this approximately 1/3 acre cemetery (it was originally set aside as a 1/3 acre cemetery, as stated by Bryant Cobb in his will), and while there are remnants of approximately 9 rock cairns, and evidence of at least 18 other graves within the cemetery, only three inscribed stones have been located. The additional graves were marked by local fieldstones. Either additional inscribed stones never existed, or they have possibly been stolen. The three identifiable inscribed stones are those of David's sons, Bryant Cobb and W.R.W. Cobb, and Catherine Allison Cobb, W.R.W.'s wife.

David Cobb must have been a man of some importance, because the Governor of the Mississippi Territory appointed him as one of the first constables in the county, this appointment being made in May of 1810. David served on various juries and grand juries in the earliest days of Madison County, and was considered one of the "good and lawful men" that were selected for such juries. Family history states that David Cobb was also a Justice of the Peace, and he very well may have been, as he was definitely literate, and was known as David Cobb, Esquire, though this writer has not seen direct evidence of any document that involved David Cobb as a Justice of the Peace. David was also known as Captain David Cobb, and more than likely he was a Captain in the local militia, as no evidence of any service records has yet to be discovered. However, this also remains unproven. David would have been old enough to serve in the Revolutionary War, and it is a mystery as to his whereabouts during that period.

David Cobb, considered by historians and his contemporaries as a prominent and prosperous man, was a land speculator, a planter, a constable, and an entrepreneur. The Alabama Legislature, on December 20, 1820, passed an act, which allowed for the formation of the Flint River Navigation Company, an enterprise in which David Cobb was one of the founding partners. Section one of the Act, which follows, shows some of the other prominent men with whom David Cobb was closely associated:

"An act to incorporate the Flint River Navigation Company

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Alabama in General Assembly convened, That Fleming Jordon, George Taylor, James McCartney, John Sprowl, Stephen Pond, John P. Brown, John Grayson, Dial Perry, David Walker, Ebenezer Byram, Stephen McBroom, William Derrick and David Cobb, and such persons as shall be associated with them, are hereby constituted and declared a body corporate, under the name and style of the Flint River Navigation Company, who shall be authorized to receive subscriptions, and donations, and apply the same, in such manner as they shall direct to the improvement of the navigation of Flint River in Madison county from Capt. Scott's Mills, to the Tennessee River."

[Approved Dec. 20, 1820.] (Taken from ALISON Alabama Legislative Services Online, website).

Unfortunately, this entrepreneurial effort was doomed to failure. Some of the men decided that one of the best ways to clear the Flint River to open it up for navigation would be to fell the trees and saplings that lined the banks, and allow them to fall into the river. Their thinking was that the currents would sweep the trees away, downstream into the larger Tennessee River. However, the trees merely got caught on the stumps in the river, and rather than washing downstream, they stuck there, where they deteriorated and caused additional silt to build up in the river forming large sand bars, making navigation more, rather than less, difficult.

Around 1830, the U.S. Government opened additional lands in the Big Cove and surrounding areas for purchase. David Cobb purchased more land next to his son-in-law, the Irish immigrant, John Allison, in the area toward Gurley now known as Horse Cove. Two of David's sons by his wife, Martha Bryant, Bryant Cobb and his brother, W.R.W. Cobb also bought lands at this time, as did several other Cobb men and one Cobb woman: Nancy Cobb. Nancy purchased 2 separate tracts across the Big Cove in what is now known as Owens Cross Roads. Nancy Cobb had eight known children, as proven by deed records in Madison County, AL. Those children were, according to the deeds, named: Azariah, Dickson, John, Eleazer, Theophilus T., Thomas, Hessey, and Lidy.

Oral family history states that Nancy's first husband, and father of the aforementioned children, was a John Cobb, of North Carolina. Tradition has it that he died in Madison County, AL circa 1825, and was buried in Byrd Cemetery. However, one must be warned that NO PROOF exists as to these claims. There was indeed more than one David Cobb, and more than one John Cobb, that passed through Madison County, AL during the earliest days, including one David Cobb that ended up in Lauderdale County, AL, and a John B. Cobb, who ended up in Limestone County, AL area. There exist no estate records in Madison County, AL, for Nancy's husband. Perhaps they were amongst the multitude of squatters that came and squatted on land until it became available for sale. If so, they may have squatted for a long time, since the earliest record is of Nancy and John's son, Azariah, marrying his cousin, Jerusha, on May 4, 1818, and yet Nancy did not purchase land until August 1, 1830, when she acquired two tracts, one being 79.9 acres, and the second being 147.2 acres. This information can be verified through the United States Bureau of Land Management Records. Nancy's husband was certainly not in the picture when Nancy purchased her property in 1830, supposedly at a "widow's sale", where widows had an opportunity to purchase lands at a reduced price. Another possibility is that John Cobb may have settled near present day Woodville, AL, which was at one point a part of the defunct Decatur County, AL. This is not to be confused with the city of Decatur, AL, which is in Morgan County, AL. Decatur County was only in existence for a few short years. Its capitol was Woodville, a town of which Nancy's son, Thomas, was considered to be a Founding Father. Unfortunately, all records of Decatur County have been lost -- some say they were burned during the Civil War. It is indeed likely that Nancy and her husband John might have lived and settled in that area prior to Nancy buying the property at the sale of 1830. John may even have died and even recorded a will there, and it would be amongst the missing or burned records of that lost county.

For many years, Nancy's maiden name has been unknown, but circumstantial evidence supports that her maiden name may have been Coburn. However, the reader is advised to be aware that no concrete proof has been found. There lived, in 1790, in Martin County, North Carolina, David Cobb, John Cobb, and several members of the Coburn family, including a Francis Coburn. (Please note that the name Coburn has numerous variations, including the original Cockburne, Cockburn, Cobern, Coburne, and Cogburn.) These same Coburns are also found in the 1800 Anson Co., NC census alongside John and David Cobb. In Francis Coburn's will, dated 1813 in Anson Co., he references his daughter, Nancy Cobb. The Nancy Cobb who ended up in Madison County, AL, and her husband, unknown/John Cobb had children whose names match up with names in Nancy Coburn's family, including Azariah, Eleazor, Theophilus and Lydia. Additionally, land changed hands between Francis Coburn and John Cobb, which might be indicative of a close relationship.

DNA testing has definitively proven that there exists a common ancestor between Nancy's Cobb husband, and David Cobb. It is very possible, and even likely that David was Nancy's brother-in-law, and that Nancy's husband, whether his name was John or some other name, was David's brother. David's son Bryant filed two claims with the Southern Claims Commission seeking reparations for damages and supplies, after the Civil War. One claim was on his own behalf, and the other was on behalf of his deceased brother, Williamson Robert Winfield (also known as WRW) Cobb. In one of his depositions, Bryant Cobb stated that, as administrator of his late brother's estate, he had appointed Azariah Cobb (Nancy's son) to oversee WRW's plantation. He referred to Azariah as "a cousin of mine". Moreover, this writer's grandmother stated that she was a fourth cousin to one of Nancy's descendants, and counting back, that would also mean that David Cobb and Nancy's husband would have been brothers, and that they shared the same father. However, lack of concrete evidence leads serious genealogists to note only that this is a possibility, and that we have yet to ascertain exactly which common ancestor that David and Nancy's husband did, in fact share.

Countless hours and years of research by numerous researchers has gone into determining the father of David Cobb. Family tradition states that he was born in 1760 in Dobbs County, North Carolina, to William Cobb and Sarah Stancil (Stansel). Census records serve to support his year of birth, yet one record showing David's son Bryant Cobb suggests that David may have been born in Virginia. Keep in mind that the border between Virginia and North Carolina was still being refined during this period. There were several William Cobbs in North Carolina during this period, and unfortunately, frequent changes in the county lines in that area of North Carolina, and many missing/destroyed records have made proving exactly which William is the correct father of David a daunting task. The closest thing we have been able to find by way of proving this parentage is a D.A.R. record submitted by David's great-granddaughter. One might assume that she would have known the names of her great-grandparents. Yet, because these records are not infallible, and because no other proof has been uncovered, there exists another distinct possibility, and that being that David's father may have been of another name.

Several theories exist as to who David's father really was; one of the most widely published is that he was William Cobb, owner of Rocky Mount (Tennessee). However, many hours of diligent research by multiple researchers have failed to confirm this. Rather much evidence does exist to the contrary. DNA testing by a proven descendant of William Cobb of Rocky Mount, TN show that there is no genetic connection between these two families. Another popular opinion is that David's father was William Cobb, son of Joseph Cobb and Catherine Whitehead. This cannot be true since descendants of Joseph does not match the Madison Co. AL line. See below. Other researchers claim that David's father was a James Cobb, or a Nicholas Cobb, or even an Edward Cobb. However, please be strongly cautioned that, to set forth a claim that any of these men was the undisputed father of David and/or John Cobb without additional proof is a grave miscarriage of the preservation of our family history. Anyone with proof to offer is asked to kindly share it, so that the many unproven yet widely circulated theories can be disputed once and for all. This goes likewise for anyone with more substantive proof as to the true connection between David and Nancy's husband -- further proof is needed before any claims that they were brothers, cousins, etc. can be stated as a fact. One frequent misstatement claims that Nancy's husband was named Stephen John Cobb. Having watched this grow from an innocent theory by one researcher who was simply trying to see if there was a basis in fact for a connection to William of Rocky Mount, into a "fact" posted on numerous family trees has been a source for much frustration, because there is absolutely nothing at all to support his name being Stephen, and Stephen was not used in William's line. All genetic evidence points to a Nicholas of Isle of Wight, VA connection.

It is hoped that sharing of accurate information as supported by facts will alleviate much of the inaccurate information being broadcast. Publishing and broadcasting misinformation as facts without specific, documenting evidence to support it, is a gross disservice to the many researchers that have contributed their valuable time and resources to further these efforts. Additionally, it is hoped that any researcher on these lines that is reaping the fruits of another researcher's labors will have the integrity to give full credit where it is due.

Male Cobb descendants are encouraged to participate in the DNA studies, which have thus far proven to be invaluable in helping sort out the many Cobb lines. To date various matches have been found that point strongly to a Nicholas Cobb of Isle of Wight connection. Two males who can document their lineage back to Nicholas match the descendants to David Cobb of Madison Co, AL; the descendants of Nancy moved to Madison Co, AL and whose son Azariah named a son Semer (Seymour?);to Semer Cobb who married Esther Lewis and moved to IN; to Curtis Cobb who moved from NC to GA: to Bryant Cobb moved from NC to GA; to Wiley Howell Cobb of Pitt Co, NC. Semer Cobb of Indiana married into a Quaker family, and it will be interesting to discover how far back this line of Cobbs connects to Quaker ties. Until documentation can be come by that shows exactly what the connection is between David Cobb and Nancy Cobb's husband, they will have individual databases posted here. Much more detailed information is available regarding descendants of David Cobb as well as the descendants of Nancy Cobb, and more will be made available under individual's names in upcoming months. As this is a new addition to the Cobb and Cobbs website, comments and proven corrections are welcomed. Together we will hopefully be able to ascertain exactly where the Cobb families of Madison County, Alabama fit with the other Cobb lines. Correctly preserving our heritage will enable generations to come a better understanding of some of the things that transpired before them that helped to shape them and their families.

Go to the family of David Cobb: Index of Individuals or Index of Surnames

Report on the restoration of WRW Cobb cemetery headstone

Go to the family of John Cobb: Index of Individuals or Index of Surnames

Go to the family of Semer Cobb: Index of Individuals or Index of Surnames

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