photo by Mary Mettlers
The Cobb family are Nancy's ancestors, her mother's paternal ancestors.
Our story begins with Gideon Cobb and his wife Abigail Dyer, who moved, before 1780, from Connecticut to the new town of Pawlet, now in Vermont, with several of their adult children and their families. Both had ancestors who were early settlers in Plymouth and environs and had been in the forefront of establishing new communities in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Their descendants continued this tradition, if anything, more strongly than their ancestors.
A Family of Entrepreneurs
While the Cobbs seem to have been drawn to the frontier, they were not loners, like the Daniel Boones, who spent long months away from their families hunting and trapping. Nor were they the sort to eke out a substance living on rocky farms (for a glimpse of the lot of that group, scan the mortgages the Cobb brothers received from them in Caldwell and Crittenden Counties). Rather, from their early days in the new world they were mostly entrepreneurs, building communities and business enterprises. They moved their families to towns that existed for the most part only on paper and built homes and businesses in the wilderness.
A number of Gideon and Abigail's descendants carried this spirit forward. They seem to have caught the sense of opportunity that seized the young nation after the Revolution, adventuring to the frontier in New York, Kentucky, and Indiana to make their marks and make comfortable homes for their families. We have hoped to capture some sense of their entrepreneurial energy in their stories here.
The Barnstable Cobbs
There are a number of totally unrelated Cobb families in the United States. This Cobb family descended from Henry "the Elder" Cobb of Barnstable, Massachusetts. We do not provide details for the earlier generations on our site because we have not done research on them, in part because Henry's New England descendants have been well-researched over the years by others. A brief outline of Henry's story and his connection to the Cobbs of Pawlet, is provided in our Cobb Ancestors Chart.
The most recent, and most authoritative, account of Henry's immediate descendants is provided by recognized Mayflower researcher, Susan E. Roser, in her recent book, Early Descendants of Henry Cobb of Barnstable, Massachusetts. A more extensive source, but older and less scholarly, is Philip L. Cobb, A History of the Cobb Family (Cleveland: 1907), which is still available in reprint and online. An online source listing many of Henry's descendants can be found on the Cobb and Cobbs website, but its reliability varies.
For information on other Cobb lines, a good place to start is with the Cobb page on the Guild of One-Name Studies website.
While Henry arrived in Plymouth a few years after the colony was established, our Pawlet branch can claim descent from two Mayflower passengers. Gideon descended, by his paternal grandmother, from John Howland, who is perhaps best known for having fallen overboard during a storm the Mayflower encountered and being recovered. Abigail descended from the well known William Bradford, the second Governor of the Colony.
The Most Interesting Family Members
To read this family's stories you may choose to begin with Gideon Cobb, the patriarch of the Pawlet branch. Several of his sons were active in the Revolutionary War in Stillwater and in Vermont. Or you may prefer to start with those about whom we have the most interesting information. They include:
Gideon's namesake grandson, son of his third son John, Gideon Cobb, who was a pioneer in Rochester, New York
- John's granddaughter Abigail Mayo Cobb, whose very respectable marriage to a prosperous businessman from Michigan ended in a very messy divorce, twice
- John's grandsons Carlos and Oscar Cobb, who made fortunes trading in grain in Buffalo and New York City
- John's grandson James Dyer Cobb, who apparently fathered a daughter by his long-time housekeeper who was raised with the family but triggered ugly battles over his wife's will then his
Gideon's ambitious fourth son Elkanah Cobb, whose sons founded enterprising families in Kentucky and Indiana
- Elkanah's son Gideon Dyer Cobb, one of the earliest settlers in Eddyville, Kentucky, and father of several sons prominent in trade and iron in the area
- Gideon Dyer's son Robert Livingston Cobb, over-achieving entrepreneur, father of R. L. Cobb of Cobb's Battery fame in the Civil War, and grandfather of humorist Irvin S. Cobb
Gideon Dyer's son Dr. Joshua Cobb, Nancy's ancestor, iron-monger and prominent public figure in Clarksville, Tennessee before and after the Civil War
- Dr. Joshua's son, Capt. Robert Linah Cobb, who served briefly in his cousin's "Cobb's Battery" before achieving note as a pontooneer in the Engineering Corps
- Elkanah's son James Dyer Cobb, whose varied career as an educator took him to at least eight states, while he maintained a long-running battle in Congress to restore his military reputation
- Elkanah's grandsons, sons of his son Joshua, John and Oliver Perry Cobb, who founded industies in Indiana
- Gideon's grandson, son of his sixth son Joshua, Simeon Cobb, who decided at age 60 that a trip "west" by covered wagon through Indian country would be good for his health
This chart shows how those named above fit into the family tree, starting with the patriarch Gideon on the left:
You may also enjoy the stories of some of their more distant relatives who played similar parts in building frontier communities:
- Elkanah's father-in-law, Jonathan Willard, principal founder of Pawlet
- The first governor of Vermont, Thomas Chittenden, grandfather of Gideon Dyer Cobb's wife Modena Chittenden Clark
- Matthew Lyon, the firebrand Congressman who won the wrath of President John Adams and the Federalists and was a target of the infamous Sedition Act of 1798. He lead the party that migrated from Vermont to Eddyville. His second wife was Modena's aunt.
Maps and Charts
If you prefer, you can look for specific people in the index on the left, or explore the family in the Cobb Descendants Chart, which offers links to each person's narrative.
A collection of Maps traces the migrations of many of the descendant lines and shows the principal locations where the family lived.
Many members of the Cobb family served in the military in various wars. Those included in this site are listed in the Index of Military Service