Dr. Needham Bryan Cobb 1836-1905
Needham Bryan Cobb was born in Jones County, NC, February 1, 1836, the
son of William Donnell Cobb and Anne Spicer Collier. After graduating
at Hughes Academy, he entered the University of North Carolina,
graduating in three years in 1854. His M.A. degree from that institution
in 1856 was the first earned Master's Degree granted by the University,
and his picture and diploma hang in the University's Graduate Office in
He taught school in Wayne and Cabarrus counties and was the first teacher
of shorthand in the state. While he maintained an interest in education
throughout life, making an outstanding contribution in that field, he
turned early to the study of law, being admitted to the bar at Greenville,
NC where he practiced for a while.
He made a further change in profession and religious belief, leaving the
Episcopal Church to become a Baptist minister. In 1889 Judson College
conferred upon him a Doctorate of Divinity degree.
He did a great deal of missionary work throughout the state and served
as pastor for many Baptist churches, including that in Goldsboro.
He held positions of State Superintendant of the Baptist Sunday School
Board and as Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary and President
of the Baptist State Convention at times.
During the Civil War, Doctor Cobb served as Chaplain in Lee's Army and
was in charge of colportage work among Carolina Troops until the end of
the war. He and Doctor J.D. Hufham published "The Daily Record," the first
daily paper printed in Raleigh after the war, with the permission of the
Northern officer in charge of the city.
Doctor Cobb was known as a historian of his state and his denomination.
He was author of a small book of verse, "A Poetical Geography of North
Carolina" containing a tribute to President Jefferson Davis at the time
of his death and "A Reply To Gray's Elegy."
In 1859 Doctor Cobb married Martha Louisa Cobb, a distant relative, from
Falkland, NC, the mother of twelve of his children and an inspiration
to him throughout his life. She died in 1888 and he married in 1891 Ellen
DeLisle Fennell of Sampson County, a devoted wife and the mother of three
of his other children.
Doctor Cobb died in 1905 in Sampson County, his grave being in the
cemetery next to the old Baptist Church where he served as pastor at one
[Both of Dr. Cobb's parents, William Donnell Cobb and Anne Spicer
Collier, are buried in Willowdale Cemetery, Goldsboro, NC, very near the
Confederate Monument. Dr. Cobb's grandparents were John Cobb and Ann Nancy
Whitfield. She was the daughter of Brig. Gen. Bryan Whitfield of Whitehall,
(Seven Springs) - Charles Norwood]
[Copy of a newspaper article]
Sixty creeks west of the Blue Ridge were named and then Dr. Cobb skipped
to the north-central part of the state and his musical lines started the
creeks singing their way toward Roanoke River:
Wolf Island and Marrows
Towns, Hogan and Show
And Big, Mill and Moon
these names are no jokes
From Rockingham, Caswell
and Person and Stokes
And Bearskin and Nutbush
from Granville and Vance
Big Grassy, Big Island
and Jonathan's prance
With Sassafras, Gardener's
and long County Line
and Old Sandy Run.
The mountains, bay and sounds were treated in a similar way but Dr. Cobb
knew how to teach so he gave them sufficient variations of meter and rhyme
scheme to avoid monotony. The North Carolina sounds were treated thusly:
Just eleven shallow sounds
Slumber on our shore
Albemarle and Pamlico
Topsail, Stump, and Core
Currituck and Croatan
Where the wild geese soar
Bogue, Roanoke-and no more.
In the preface of his text, Dr. Cobb informs us that the pupils were required
to repeat the rhymes in concert. After the rhymes were memorized they were
used as recitations when the parents came to visit the school on Friday.
Dr. Needham Bryan Cobb, great preacher and teacher, was born in the Old North
State in 1836. He lived a long life and died in his native state in 1905.
During his long ministry in the Baptist church he served as pastor in Hickory,
Fayetteville, Lilesville, Ansonville, Shelby, Waynesville and several other
North Carolina Communities.
[Excerpts from a page of "Tar River History" included in file]
In October 1869, he left the Episcopal Church, in which he had been a
vestryman, and was baptized in Greenville by Rev. Henry Petty. In 1860 he
was ordained in Wilson, the ordaining presbytery was composed of Revs. Levi
Thorne, J.B. Solomon, Henry Petty, G.W. Keene, W.C. Lacy and J.G. Barclay.
During his long and successful career as a minister of the gospel he served
various churches as pastor, notably Goldsboro, Elizabeth City, Second Church,
Portsmouth, Virginia; returning to North Carolina he served as pastor in
Shelby, Lincolnton, Lilesville, Rockingham, Fayetteville, Chapel Hill,
Waynesville, Morganton, Hickory, Hillsboro and later Gardners and Sharon, in
the Tar River Association.
During this protracted period of pastoral work he frequently engaged in
teaching and was president of Wayne Institute and Normal College; professor
of Latin and Greek at Goldsboro Female College, and was also principal of
Lilesville High School.
Geography Was Poetry In Teacher's Textbook
June 23, 1963, by Calvin Jarrett
Dr. Needham B. Cobb was a very versatile teacher and he wrote a textbook
that was unique. Many of the early schoolmasters in this country were ministers
as well as teachers. Dr. Cobb was Baptist minister of note as well as a great
Dr. Cobb received both his A.B. and M.A. degrees from the University of North
Carolina. Judson College conferred an honorary D.D. later.
The University of North Carolina opened the first summer school held in this
country in 1877 and Dr. Cobb gave the first instruction in shorthand ever
given to a class in this state.
While teaching geography in the schools of North Carolina, Dr. Cobb wrote his
own textbook. The title of the book was "Poetical Geography of North Carolina."
The rhymes were written to aid his own pupils in learning the geography of
the Old North State and in 1887 the Riverside Press, Cambridge, published the
book for use in other North Carolina schools.
The students in our schools learned the musical names of our mountain rivers
in this order back in the gay nineties:
Wild Watauga, Hiawasse
Valley, Elk, Oconalufta
New and Toe and Pigeon flow
From the Skyland
through the mountains
To the Gulf of Mexico.
A footnote to the quoted lines explained that "Tahkeosta" is the Indian
name for the French Broad. After this rhyme of the 14 westward-flowing rivers,
the 59 other North Carolina rivers were accounted for in similar poetic style.
The rivers east of the Blue Ridge were grouped as tributaries of the Catawba,
Yadkin, Cape Fear, Neuse, Pamlico and the Albemarle for convenience in memorizing.
The smallest group, the Pamplico rivers, were given as follows:
Little, Flat and small Eno
Trent and Neuse and Pamlico
Pungo, Tar and Pantego
Bay and Long-Shoal slowly flow
To the Sound of Pamlico.
The "Poetical Geography of North Carolina" had the students memorizing all the
mountains, bays, sounds, principal creeks. It also had a "Key to the Ninety-
six Counties" that the Tar Heel state was comprised of at that time (1887).
Dr. Cobb undertook and accomplished the task of cataloging all 394 principal
creeks in rhyme. The names of some of these Tar Heel creeks reveal an insight
into early pioneer North Carolina. There is a story in these names: Hardscrabble,
Troublesome, Panther, Wolf Island, Searing Gunpowder, Meat Camp, and Sandy Mush
The "Poetical Geography" reveals that most of our 394 creeks in North Carolina
have Indian names. Some of the mountain streams were rhymed thusly:
Stekoah, Tuskegee, Balds three and Cowee
Catalooche and Jonathan's Cove and Crabtree
Two Ivys and Laurel and Piney and Pines
Beaver and Beaverdam, Sugarton, Fines
Hurricane, Hominy, Richland and Scotts
Sandy Mush, Gash's Mud, Cove and Plott's
Brushy and Beech, Jack's, Grassy and Rheams
(queer little streams)
Licklog and Shooting, Barker's, Alarka,
and tumbling Cat Stair
Red Marble and Briartown
high up in the air.
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