Huston Cobb Story
On January 4, 2013, I had the good fortune to meet a delightful eighty seven year old black gentleman by the name of Huston Cobb, Jr. After a two hour interview of getting into the world of Huston Cobb, we took a tour of his stomping grounds in the northeastern corner of Colbert County, Alabama; we made stops at The Oaks Plantation Home, LaGrange Mountain Cemetery, Jarman Plantation House, John Johnson Plantation House, Shaw Plantation Home, Old Brick, and the old Cherokee village of Shoal Town at the mouth of Town Creek.
Huston Cobb, Jr. was born to Houston Cobb, Sr. and Nazareth Carter Cobb on March 10, 1925. Huston Cobb was delivered for $14.00; he was born at home only one and a half miles from where he lives today. Huston Cobb describes his home of today as an exotic house with lots of glass and a garden in the middle; his home is on Second Street or present-day Highway 184. Doctor Stanley delivered Huston Cobb, Jr.; he lived on Mt. Stanley Road between Second Street and Sixth Street. In 1860, the Stanley Family owned 42 black slaves. Houston Cobb, Sr. and Nazareth Carter Cobb had the following children: Tracien, Huston, Leo M., Earnest, Carl, Mattie Cleazell, and Willie I. Cobb.
Huston Cobb’s sister, Tracien Cobb Oats, was born on October 22, 1923, on Hog Island in the mouth of Town Creek prior to the flooding of the area by Wilson Dam. Houston and Nazareth Carter Cobb along with other black families lived and farmed on Hog Island before the rising flood waters inundated the island when Wilson Dam was closed. Prior to the creation of the reservoir, the Cobb Family moved just a mile south near Second Street where Huston Cobb, Jr. was born.
Hog Island probably got its name from the Hogg Family found in the area during the 1870 census; traditionally, many of the islands in the Tennessee River were named for the white settler families that owned or lived on the islands after the Indians were removed. Prior to removal, the area around Hog Island was in the Cherokee village called Shoal Town. Today, the island is presently covered with some two to three feet of shallow backwaters of Wilson Lake. The island is located about two miles west of present-day Wheeler Dam near the middle of Big Muscle Shoals. Hog Island is located adjacent to the south edge of the main channel of the Tennessee River in the mouth of Town Creek; the island was about a mile north of Kittiakaska Creek.
Originally, the area of Shoal Town was a large prehistoric Indian settlement with several large mounds dating back to the Archaic Period. The historic Shoal Town was in the area of Hog Island, Blue Water Creek, Shoal Town Creek, and Big Nance Creek on the Big Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River. Shoal Town was the largest Cherokee town in the area and was the home of Kattygisky, Doublehead, and Tahluntuskee (Talohuskee) Benge. In 1809, Tahluntuskee led his Cherokee people from their home at Shoal Town to west of the Mississippi River and became known as the “Cherokees West” or “Old Settlers.”
Kittiakaska Creek runs into Town Creek about a half mile south of the Tennessee River and west of present-day Doublehead’s Resort; the present-day River Road in Colbert County crosses the creek in sight of the resort. Chickamauga Cherokee Chiefs Kattygisky and his friend Doublehead lived at Shoal Town which included Hog Island. The area near the mouth of Kittiakaska Creek was earlier the home the Cherokee Kattygisky; the small creek was named after him.
During the time of Huston Cobb, Kittiakaska Creek was used as the baptizing hole for the Bethel Colbert Baptist Church; Huston and Lorene Rutland was baptized in the creek in 1935, by Reverend Willie A. Ashford, who was the preacher at the church. Reverend Ashford would ride a train from Courtland to Town Creek; when Huston Cobb turned 16 years old, he would pick up Ashford at the railroad station in the Town of Town Creek and bring him to the Cobb home on Saturday.
Ashford would preach on Sunday at Bethel Colbert which was on the south fork of Kittiakaska Creek and Second Street. After the noon service, he would be carried back to the railroad station at Town Creek to catch a trail back to Courtland. Teachers that taught at the one room Bethel School would also board with the Cobb family during the week and would go home on the weekend. Most of the teachers would come from Sheffield or Tuscumbia to teach at the one room school that was for the nearby black children.
The baptizing hole was located in the center of Section 26 of Township 3 South and Range 9 West. The baptizing hole was about three to four feet deep; the blue hole was up the creek about a half of mile from the baptizing hole. Later, the church started baptizing people at old Foster’s Bridge.
According to a 1908 map of Colbert County, Foster’s Mill was located near the junction of Kittiakaska Creek and Town Creek. It was at this location that Mary C. Foster was shown as owning land on both sides of the road. The grist mill was owned by Thomas Jefferson Foster; according to the 1860 Lawrence County Census of slaves, Thomas Jefferson Foster owned 129 black slaves. Many of the black folks at Red Bank and other places along the river are probably descendants of Foster’s slaves. Fosters Mill was the original name of the bridge crossing Town Creek at Doublehead’s Resort; however, today the bridge is now called Joe Patterson Bridge. The road that crosses Town Creek and runs past Doublehead’s Resort is still called Foster’s Mill Road.
Not all black slaves were brought into North Alabama by white settlers; many were already in the area and owned by the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians. Doublehead, a Lower Cherokee of the Chickamauga Confederacy, and his sister Ocuma and her husband John Melton owned some 100 black slaves. Some 60 of the black slaves of Doublehead’s family were purchased by General Andrew Jackson and remained in North Alabama. In addition, Doublehead’s double son-in-law Chickasaw Chief George Colbert owned some 150 slaves, but many of those were moved west with Colbert in November, 1837.
This story will also be CONTINUED; stay in touch with my blog on the black, Indian, and plantation history in our area as it unfolds in my new book and on my blogs. Mr. Houston Cobb, Jr.’s story will be included in my new book which will be called “Black Folk Tales of Appalachia.”