The John Franklin Cobb House occupies a small shelf of land on a wooded hillside about three hundred feet south of Cobb Creek in Cherokee County, North Carolina. The hillside rises steeply to the south of the house and drops precipitously to the north, down to the alluvial floodplain of Cobb Creek, currently a grassy pasture. Cobb Creek flows east to west, joining the Nottely River less than a one-half mile west of the Cobb House The house site is approximately one mile north of the Georgia line.
Frame additions have extended the Cobb House both east and west of its ca. 1863 log core. Although it presents no composed facades, the building is still entered from the east, as it was originally. A gravel drive two-tenths of ami Ie long provides access from US 19-129 and ends in a gravel turn-around in front of the house. A stone carport was built into the hillside adjacent to the drive about two hundred feet in front of~the house earlier this century. Other structures that share the hillside shelf with the house include a large nineteenth-century log smokehouse sited immediately behind it and a concrete root cellar built into the hillside to the south, reportedly in 1934. Other outbuildings on the property, all twentieth century, include a gable-roofed board and batten chicken house sited on the hillside above the house to the south, a frame wash house beyond the smokehouse and down a gentle slope to the west, and a sheltered spring with monumented stonework dating from 1941. A plaque embedded in the stonework reads: "TY COBB/SENIOR GRANDSON/WORLD'S BASEBALL CHM1PION." Although it clearly displays the ad hoc nature of its evolution, the Cobb House is in basically sound condition and is currently being carefully maintained by owners who are very interested in its historical associations.
The Cobb House was originally a single-room plan log structure built by John Franklin Cobb in 1863. John Cobb's house was a typical mountain cabin: approximately square in plan, one-and-one-half stories tall, with exposed ceiling beams in the downstairs room and a boxed-in stairway providing access to the second floor. The cabin had an exterior end fieldstone chimney that served fireplaces on both floors (a second-floor fireplace is unusual) and which still survives. The original mantel, three broad boards composing the simplest of post and lintel designs, survives in the house with a later board shelf.
The first major addition to the John Cobb house was apparently a frame rear kitchen ell built in the 1870s. This ell was originally sheathed in board and batten inside and out. A porch along its north wall was later enclosed and the room thus created displays the original exterior treatment. Original interior walls are still board and batten. Also surviving are the l870s ells a hand-planed board and batten door and an original mantel that frames the fireplace in plain boards stacked in a three-tiered arrangement crowned. The ell is also served by a mortared fie Ids tone chimney.
Around 1901 a room was added just east of the log cabin, perhaps as a partial enclosure of a porch across the front of the house. In 1920 this 1901 room was incorporated into a major extension of the house to the east that added a bedroom served by yet another fieldstone chimney. It is interesting to note that this 1920 frame addition displays the building's most thoroughly articulated exterior details: a boxed cornice with an unmolded board suggesting a crown mold and boxed returns and a raking cornice with plain frieze board in its gable ends.
In 1932 another small bedroom was added by way of a shed tied to the south wall of the 1920 addition. At the same time, a shed extended the south wall of the l870s ell by eight feet. This latter shed holds the present-day kitchen and a modern bath and connects with a small gable-roofed screened porch that extends the house to its western conclusion. The eastern conclusion comes, finally, in a gabled frame addition built beyond the 1920 room and its fieldstone chimney (attaching at its southeast corner) in the 1940s. A measure of unity is brought to this conglomerate structure by its weatherboard siding and by the repetition of gable roofs over room-deep elements. Even the siding, however, shows inconsistencies in type and application. What the structure well represents in physical terms is the simple addictive nature of the folk building, free from overriding concern about compositional aesthetics. The aesthetic is one of accumulated utilitarian parts--ad hoc and informal.
The John Franklin Cobb House or Cobb Plantation, near the North Carolina-Georgia line in southern Cherokee County was built as a log cabin in 1863. Since the 1880s the logs have been covered with weatherboarding. Numerous rooms have also been added to the cabin since the 1870s in a rather haphazard manner. The house remained in the Cobb family until 1977. John Franklin Cobb (1837-1911) was a farmer and local magistrate, with an estate of 150-200 mostly wooded acres. He married Sarah Waldrop (1837-1921) in 1863, shortly after his discharge from Confederate service. They had six children born between 1863 and 1880. Among their grandchildren was Tyrus Raymond Cobb (1886-1961). As a teenager, Ty Cobb often spent summers with his grandparents who unlike his parents encouraged him to play baseball. Though his parents lived in Georgia and he himself was known as the "Georgia Peach," Ty Cobb gained his earliest baseball experience on the playing fields of Murphy and Andrews in Cherokee County, North Carolina.
The John Franklin Cobb House is located near the Bell Vi~w community of Notla Township in southern Cherokee County about one mile from the North Carolina-Georgia line. Now situated on a tract of about six acres, the house was once the focus of a 200-acre farm. Originally built as a log cabin in 1863 by John Franklin Cobb the building has undergone numerous additions and renovations since that time.
Today the logs of the original cabin are exposed in only two spots. The expansion has followed no logical plan, with rooms ells and siding added at various times between the l870s and 1940s. Besides the present one-and~Qne-half-story house, there are several outbuildings on the property, notably a barn and smokehouse dating to 1885 and a washhouse built ca. 1928.
Aside from its age, the house is lent particular significance through its association with baseball legend Ty Cobb. The young Cobb often spent his summers there with his grandparents, who unlike his parents encouraged him to play baseball.
The Cobb House is one of only five or so surviving pre-1865 structures within the present bounds of Cherokee County. Only the Walker Inn in the county seat of Murphy betters it in terms of size and age The county was formed in 1839 from Macon County. Settlement of the area began about the same time, following the removal of the Cherokees and the acquisition of their land by the state. Then as now the county, the westernmost in North Carolina, was exceptionally mountainous and predominantly rural. Today much of the land in the county is given over to the Nantahala National Forest just as much of that across the state line in Georgia is taken up by the Chattahoochee National Forest. Population and development which remained sparse and scattered throughout the nineteenth century, have slowly increased in the twentieth. Most of this growth has been in the towns of Murphy and Andrews, with some in communities such as Bell View and Hanging Dog which grew up near streams or at crossroads.
William Alfred Cobb the father of John Franklin Cobb, was the first family member to settle in the area. Born in Burke County, the elder Cobb moved to Waynesville in Haywood County, where he served as sheriff. Around 1845 he moved to Cherokee County... Along the w~ he married Charlotte Hansen with whom he had eight children. He first settled near the Georgia line but later moved to the Hanging Dog area.l At some point, probably during the l840s, he received a land grant for forty-three acres, land which the state had only lately acquired by treaty from the Chero'kee Indians.2 W. A. Cobb was a Methodist minister and owned many books, some published during the eighteenth century, volumes which have been passed down to his descendants.
When he died in 1886, Cobb's personal property was inventoried by his son. As J. F. Cobb recorded it, his father owned four cows, thirteen hogs, blacksmith tools, a saw, an ax, and "various Books two tedious to mention."3
John Franklin Cobb (1832-1911) was the second eldest son of W. A. Cobb. Described as "short and lean," he stood five feet six inches tall'. As he aged he had back problems which "stamped an expression of pain permanently on his face." Nevertheless, he was always ready for a hunt, and, in his day~ was said to have taken twenty-five bears and over one hundred deer. He had a reputation as a "wise and eloquent soul," and as a Notla Township magistrate, was often called upon to settle disputes.
In 1863 he married Sarah Waldrop (1837-1921), daughter of William and Elizabeth Waldrop of Cherokee County. She was a sturdy, independent pioneer woman, well-versed in the ways of the backwoods and particularly adept at cures calling for roots, herbs, bark, and the like. Many years later Ty Cobb recalled distinctly the effects of two such potions, a disinfectant and a purgative, which she had administered to him. "Any time. Grandma mixed medicine, she got results that made the Castoria and Lydia Pinkham look like bush leagu. ers," he recalled.
John and Sarah Cobb had six children: William Herschel (born in 1863), an educator and politician in North Georgia and father of Cobb; Mary Jane (1865), who married and moved to Missouri where she died at a young age; John Marshall (1868), an educator, who founded nearby Bell View Institute and served in the lower house of the state legislature in 1891; Schuyler Colfax (1874), also a teacher who moved to Missouri; James David (1876), who taught for a while, then became a tax accountant; and Nora (1880), the youngest, a teacher, musician and writer, who in time inherited the house.
Around 1860 John Franklin Cobb went to the Cleveland, Tennessee area to work on the railroad. He is said to have used the money he earned at that work to buy land when he returned to Cherokee County. Unfortunately, deeds for that period have been lost. The only entry for land received by Cobb is a grant for eighty-nine acres recorded in 1883 but almost certainly for property for which he had taken possession earlier.8 By his daughter Nora's account~ J. F. Cobb had finished construction on his new cabin by 1863 when he brought his new bride there to live. Yet a year earlier Cobb apparently was living across the state line in Georgia. That was his indicated place of residence when he volunteered for Confederate service, joining Company C of North Carolina's Thirty-Ninth Regiment on June 20 p 1862.
However, the strength of his convictions about the Confederacy are suspect. His daughter claimed his sentiments were basically Unionist and that he was coerced to join the company. The fact that he was discharged in August 1862, only two months after enlistment, tends to confirm this. There is no record of his having been injured nor was there any reason given for the discharge.
Ty Cobb claimed that his grandfather was always an anti-slavery Republican and was sorely disappointed when all four of his sons returned from college diehard Democrats. Cobb apparently put his energies into farming and raising a family after 1862. He did make other land purchases in the l860s for which records have been lost. In 1867 and 1868 he was taxed on 220 acres valued at $500.
In 1870 he cultivated eighteen of those acres; the remainder was wooded. Half of his plantings were corn and about half wheat. By 1880 he was cultivating thirty-five acres of corn, wheat, some tobacco, and thirty apple trees. He kept some stock,. a few horses~ cows, and thirty-five sheep. His farm remained basically unchanged, although somewhat reduced in size, over the years. An inventory of his property after his death in 1911 showed that he owned 150 acres, a cow, a wagon, a plow, and three sheep. In 1895 Cobb sold one-half of the mineral rights on his tracts to A. Werner Meyer, who had discovered "a good vein of silver., 1Apparently very little came of this find. As the years passed additions were made to the house "until it sprawled over the knoll like a hen covering her brood," in Nora Cobb Spencer's words. The first of these rooms was built to accommodate the children; the later ones brought modern conveniences to the Cobb House. In 1870 the Cobbs had three small children and a white domestic servant living in the log cabin.
It was during the next decade that a dining room, bedroom, and the first kitchen were added. The siding was added to the outside of the building in the l880s. Around 1901 a new room, later used by Nora Spencer as a music studio and for tutoring, was built just east of the living room. In 1920 a bedroom was added east of this room. In 1932 another room was built behind this room; the present kitchen and bathroom were built in the same year. Other rooms were added in the 1940s. The oldest outbuildings on the property, a barn, and smokehouse, were apparently built in the l880s. A washhouse was built in 1928 and a chicken coop in the 1940s
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