"Thomas Cobb was an efficient manager of a plantation for 80-90 years, and wrote his (presumed) last will and testament at the age of five score years and nine...."
-- Lucien Lamar Knight
Wherever you go in Georgia you are likely to encounter a town, county or perhaps a college named for an early resident of Columbia County.
Our own county seat of Appling, for example, was named for William Appling who donated the land where two county courthouses have stood; Appling County is a tribute to William's son, Daniel, a hero in the War of 1812.
Baldwin County and an Agricultural College in Tifton both bear the name of educator and signer of the U.S. Constitution, Abraham Baldwin, while nationally prominent William Crawford is memorialized in Crawford County, and in the towns of Crawford and Crawfordville.
Another family, whose name is intertwined with the county's first courthouse and linked to an early community, raised a son who increased the above list to five. Thomas W. Cobb, grandson and namesake of a former Virginian, Revolutionary War Col. Thomas Cobb, is the reason one of the largest counties in Georgia is named Cobb.
These two Thomas's are the best-known Columbia County Cobbs, although John Cobb, brother of the elder Thomas, settled in nearby Louisville and fathered two more famous Georgians, Thomas R.R. Cobb and Howell Cobb. Quite likely the latter family visited their Columbia County relatives on occasion, which may explain why some records say they were from Columbia County, too.
Further complicating the record, John Cobb later moved to Athens, Georgia, and called his new home "Cobbham," the very name of the community that sprang up around his brother's plantation straddling the current McDuffie-Columbia County line.
The Thomas with the double middle initials became known for drafting the Constitution of the Confederacy and dying in the battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War, while brother Howell served as governor of Georgia shortly before the war began. Thomas R.R. Cobb is also one of the four generals memorialized on the Confederate War Monument on Broad Street in Augusta.
"Grandpa" Thomas was the kind of man of whom legends are born. His was the largest plantation in the county immediately following the Revolution, and it was either the site or in the vicinity of the original 1792 courthouse. Also, since he was between 110 and 115 when he died, he must have been at least 50 years old when the war began and 60 when he arrived in Columbia County. Unless the record has been broken in recent years, he remains the second-oldest man ever recorded in the state.
Historian L.L. Knight provides some insight on Cobb's long life by calling him "an efficient manager of a plantation for 80-90 years," and noting that he wrote his presumed last will and testament in 1831, "at the age of five score years and nine, in full possession of his faculties if debilitated in body." Knight also reveals why this Cobb may have been the oldest and most able "suitor" on anyone's record:
"When the old man was 90 years of age he became possessed of matrimonial intentions. Accordingly he mounted his nag and rode 25 miles... to visit the lady in question. On arrival he was met at the gate by a servant who offered to help him alight, but the old man waived him aside. 'Tut, tut!' said he, 'get away! I've come a-courtin.'"
There's no record that these "matrimonial intentions" resulted in a marriage, only evidence of his prowess should such an event occur.
Thomas Cobb outlived his children and most of his grandchildren, including Thomas W., who died at the age of 46. Despite his short life, the grandson may be better remembered outside Columbia County than the grandfather. Thomas W. Cobb was born in Columbia County in 1784, studied law under William Crawford, and served three terms in Congress. His highest calling, however, appears to have been as a jurist. Following two terms in the House of Representatives and one term in the Senate, Judge Cobb was elected to the Superior Court bench in Georgia where he remained until his death.
The elder Thomas seems to have favored this grandson above all other members of his extensive family, explaining why he left an extra portion of his estate to the children of Judge Thomas W. Cobb.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. This column is from As Long As The Rivers Run, her work in progress on the history of Columbia County. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.