Huston Cobb, Jr.’s mother was Nazareth Carter Cobb; Nazareth attended Courtland Academy which was a black boarding school in Courtland, Alabama. She attended the academy until the eighth grade; the school burned in 1928. The academy was built by a group of black churches organized as the North Alabama Baptist Association.
Huston Cobb told of many schools for black children that were built as part of a project of a Jewish man, Julius Rosenwald (August 12, 1862-January 6, 1932); Rosenwald was part-owner and leader of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Paul J. Sachs, senior partner of Goldman Sachs, introduced Rosenwald to black educator Booker T. Washington, who in 1912 served on the Board of Directors of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Washington asked Rosenwald to help poor black children get an adequate education; initially, Rosenwald provided money to construct six schools in rural Alabama that were opened between 1913 and 1914.
Starting in 1917, the Rosenwald Fund constructed some 5,800 schools and educational facilities for poor children across the South. Huston Cobb, Jr. was familiar with three of the Rosenwald schools that were built for black children in Colbert County, Alabama: one was located at Mount Pleasant on the County Line Road; another located on Ford Road near Wise (previously Reynolds) was called Pond Creek or Mt. Olivia at the south end of Ford Road; and another school was between Barton and Cherokee. Huston was also familiar with a Rosenwald school for white students on Mt. Stanley Road that was called Midway School.
Nazareth Carter was born on November 3, 1902, and died April 24, 1962; her father was Tracy C. Carter who was born in October 1878 and her mother was Fannie Johnson who was born in August 1883. Tracy and Fannie Johnson Carter initially lived on the Johnson farm about one half mile southwest of the mouth of Town Creek. Nazareth Carter Cobb had the following brothers and sisters: Carl A. (Boss), Willie Dee, Caroline, Mary Alice, Mattie Ellen, Annie Lee, Jimmy B., Odessa Carter.
Nazareth Carter’s maternal grandfather was Martin Johnson, Jr.; Nazareth was born on Martin’s home place which was located in the northeast corner of the junction of Second Street and Mt. Stanley Road/River Road. Today, the River Road and the Mt. Stanley Road is actually the same road with both ending or beginning at the same place on Second Street; in other words, the River Road runs north from Second Street and the Mt. Stanley Road runs south from Second Street. The old home site of Martin Johnson, Jr. was on a beautiful hilltop near the road crossing that is visible south of the mouth of Town Creek and the Tennessee River in present-day Colbert County, Alabama. The Martin Johnson Jr. farm was located on part of the original old John Johnson plantation site.
The Johnson plantation home was about a half mile southwest of the mouth of the Kittiakaska Creek and about 200 yards west of Kittiakaska Spring. According to local folklore, a rope and pulley system was used to pull water from the spring to the house on the hilltop. John H. Johnson built the large brick home just west of the present-day junction of the Foster’s Mill Road and the River Road.
On a recent visit to the home, the walls were some three or more layers of brick thick; the house is in the process of decay and disrepair with the west wall fallen and the back of the house seen in the picture below is gone. The site was listed in 1850 as The Green Onion; today, it is still known by that name. Later during prohibition, The Green Onion was the site of a bootlegger’s alcoholic establishment near the mouth of Kittiakaska Creek.
Captain John H. Johnson of Virginia was married three times; his wives were Elizabeth Williams, Nancy, and an unknown wife. Supposedly, on August 3, 1807, Captain John H. Johnson and Nancy leased 1,000 acres from Doublehead in an agreement between John D. Chisholm and the State of Georgia. Johnson’s lease in Doublehead’s Reserve was in the vicinity of the present-day City of Florence; however, on August 9, 1807, Doublehead was assassinated and his leases to white settlers came into question especially with the Chickasaw Indians. The Chickasaw petitioned the United States Government to remove all white settlers from Chickasaw land; in order to comply with the Chickasaw request, the government built Fort Hampton which was established to remove white squatters.
Before 1830, John H. Johnson’s daughter Maredian, who was born in Virginia in 1806, married Cordial Faircloth; in the 1820 Census of Lawrence County, Cordial Faircloth household was listed as having one male over 21, one female over 21, two males under 21, and three black slaves. According to the 1850 slave census, Cordial Faircloth had 38 black slaves; the Faircloth Family lived between the River Road and the Tennessee River north of the John H. Johnson place.
Another daughter of John H. Johnson, Lucinda married Major Lewis Dillahunty; in 1816, Major Dillahunty and Lucinda came into North Alabama. Dillahunty on the request of General Andrew Jackson was sent to this area by the fifth President of the United States James Monroe in 1816 to secure removal of the Indians on the south side of the Tennessee River. He was to survey the Indian lands and secure these lands for the United States. Lewis and Lucinda were the first residents of Courtland, Alabama; in the 1820 census, Lewis Dillahunty household had a male and female over 21, two females under 21, and three black slaves. In 1820, Thomas Dillahunty was listed as having nine black slaves.
On September 16 and 18, 1816, both the Cherokees and Chickasaws signed the Turkey Town Treaty giving up their overlapping claims to the land on the south side of the river; the Chickasaws received $120,000 and the Cherokees were paid $60,000 for the land in which includes the present-day counties of Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, and Morgan.
Since John Johnson was in Alabama just prior to Doublehead’s death, his family was probably familiar with the Shoal Town Creek area; these Indian lands were sold during the federal lands sales starting in September of 1818; according to local folklore, Major Dillahunty selected the area at Kittikaska Spring for his father-in-law Johnson H. Johnson’s Plantation Home. Later, according to the Lauderdale County Court Records, Henry Smith purchased a large tract of land from John Johnson in 1826 near the Smithsonia Community.
The Green Onion farm included the land south of the mouth of Town Creek between the north and south forks of Kittikaski Branch. The Johnson place was north of Second Street and west of the River Road. Originally, all the John Johnson land was part of Lawrence County, Alabama. In 1895, the area of Lawrence County west of Town Creek, north of the Franklin County line, and east of the County Line Road that ran through White Oak, Leighton, and Ford City was annexed into Colbert County.
John H. Johnson had a son John T. Johnson; another John A. Johnson of Colbert County may be a descendant of the Johnson family of The Green Onion. The 1870 census of Colbert County shows a John A. Johnson, age 41, male, white, farm laborer, born in AL; Mary, age 30, female, white, keeping house, born in AL; Isaac, age 12, male, white, farm laborer, born in AL; Thomas, age 10, male, white, at home, born in AL; Newton, age 9, male, white, at home, born in AL; Joshua, age 8, male, white, at home, born in AL; Martha, age 4, female, white, born in AL; Lawranci, age 63, female, white, at home, born in GA; John Johnson is listed as John A., living in Tuscumbia in 1880; Mary is listed as Mary E.; Isaac L. is at home; Robert N., is at home; Joshua W. is at home; and Martha A. is at home.
According to the 1850 slave census, the Johnsons of northeast Colbert County had some 20 black slaves that were the ancestors of many black folks in area including Huston Cobb’s family. Also in 1850, the agent for The Green Onion or the John H. Johnson place was listed as being Thomas Jefferson Foster who at that time had under his control some 95 black slaves. According to their black descendants, Huston’s great, great, Grandfather Martin Johnson, Sr. was a Johnson Family slave; his son Martin Johnson, Jr. who was Huston’s great grandfather was born a slave in 1820.
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: Slavery to Survival.”