I made another pass at searching for my Dobbs ancestors in 19th century newspaper archives at NewspaperArchive.com, specifically David Dobbs, a 3rd great-grandfather and his son, David Judson (D.J.) Dobbs, my great, great-grandfather, both of whom were born and raised in antebellum Georgia. What I found was little bits and pieces of the puzzle…
David Dobbs (1791-1871) was an attorney-at-law and a military leader in Elbert County. During the War of 1812, he served as a young officer in the Georgia militia. Prior to going off to Florida in 1819 to fight in the First Seminole War, he married the eldest daughter of a wealthy rice planter in the Georgia upcountry along the Savannah river. When he returned from the war, he began practicing law in Elberton and as I noted in my book Gathering Leaves, he was for a few years the sheriff of Elbert County. Back then the state capitol of Georgia was the town of Washington in Wilkes County.
In the November 13, 1824 edition of the Washington News there is a page of public notices of sheriff sales in various Georgia counties. One notice states that on the first Tuesday of January there will be a sale of three slaves to satisfy a fifa (writ of indebtedness). The notice is signed by David Dobbs S.E.C. (Sheriff Elbert County).
One that same page is another Sheriff’s sale in Elbert county listed by David Dobbs.
I found two more notices in the 14 December 1824 edition of Washington News.
In the Washington News and Planter’s Gazette (28 Jan 1841) there was a notice of a sale of 250 acres of land to satisfy a writ of indebtedness in favor David Dobbs vs. Burton E. Crawford.
In 1834, David Dobbs and other family members won land in the Georgia Land Lottery and they moved to Cobb County in the north of Georgia, northeast of the future site of Atlanta. David lived in a nice home on Dobbs Street in Marietta and maintained a large cotton plantation in Cobb County.
In the Milledgeville Southern Recorder (12 Apr 1842) there was published Presentments of the March term of the Grand Jury of Cobb county 1842.
David Dobbs is listed as one of the twenty-two members of the jury.
In 1842, the deep south is still feeling the impact of the Panic of 1837 as cotton prices dropped dramatically in the previous six years. It appears that David was not always out to take advantage of his neighbors when they were going through hard times. In the pronouncements from the grand jury of Cobb County they wrote the following:
“We the grand jury of the County of Cobb take this opportunity of expressing our views in relation to the all engrossing subject of the present general embarrassment of the country and the people in their financial affairs. The pressure of the times, the low prices of property and produce, are seen and felt throughout the country. That it requires time, industry and care to give permanent relief to the indebted portion of the community, must be admitted by all.”
They did not propose a remedy other than asking that the state legislature do something about it. This is also true of a number other grievances that the citizens of Cobb county were asking local and state authorities to investigate and respond to. One of the complaints dealt with the number of “tippling house” (bars, taverns) which they describe as nuisances worthy of reprehension and suppression. To deal with this they “respectfully invite the attention of the civil authorities”.
In Gathering Leaves, I repeat a story found in a book described as a “Burlesque reports of cases…before justices of the peace.” This was in “Joseph Gault’s fifth edition of his Reports: entitled A coat of many colors” by John Gault, published by Americus Law Book Co., 1902. The chapter is entitled “A Preacher Collecting Money”. In the story from the 1850s, my ggg-grandfather refused to drink with a drunken preacher named Fowler who had come into Marietta to collect a debt on behalf of one of his mountain-folk kin. In the town square, Fowler offered David a swig from a bottle of moonshine and my ggg-grandfather refused, saying that he was a member of the Baptist Church. When Fowler replied that he was a preacher of the same faith, my ggg-grandfather only response was, “I am sad for you.”
David’s devotion to the temperance movement was seen in the 12 July 1849 edition of The Southern Whig (Athens, Georgia). There is a report about a Temperance Convention held in Marietta the previous month. It was reported that the city hosted one thousand visitors coming via special trains and that so many people had arrived that the hotels were overflowing. The convention met in various churches throughout the town.
“At an early hour, the band struck up Hail Columbia and the procession begin to form. The Cold Water Army of little boys and the daughters all their loveliness rivaling in whiteness the virgin snow, the cadets (composed of boys from 14 to 18) in beautiful regalia, the sons also in there is, composed the most conspicuous part of the procession, under some of the most beautiful banners that ever waved over faithful sons and lovely daughters, preceded by the band which ever, and anon, sent forth a dulcet note from its brazen instruments, the procession after passing through the principle streets of our village, marched to the stand which had been erected in a beautiful grove. The stage was made large enough to afford ample room for all the speakers, the distinguished guests, the committee of arrangements, the band of music, and the choir; and was tastefully ornamented with evergreens, fest tunes of flowers and appropriate mottos. The moving thousands having arrived at the stand, the exercises begin with an ode from the choir. This was composed of a number of young gentlemen and ladies who sung several odes selected and prepared for the occasion, with thrilling effect. We know not how far our auditory organs were affected by the surrounding circumstances and through the medium of our optics; but certain we are that the dulcet strains fell upon our ears as the ne plus ultra of good singing. But we will give the program of exercises and leave our readers to supply by imagination, what time and space for bit us to give.”
One of the speaker’s was David’s 14-year-old son, David Judson Dobbs (1835-1877).
In the Milledgeville Southern Recorder of 25 December 1849, in a multicolumn section titled Georgia Legislature, listed all of the resolutions and bills passed recently by the Georgia State Senate and House. A single line item says, “For the relief of David Dobbs of the county of Cobb.”
While it provides no further details, I recognize this as referencing an incident I documented in my book. In the “Acts of the State of Georgia (1849 to 1850)“, there is listed an act titled “An Act for the Relief of David Dobbs of the County of Cobb“. The act was passed by the Georgia Senate for the purpose of compensating my great, great, great-grandfather for one of his slaves who was killed during the time that he was contracted out to the Georgia state-owned Western & Atlantic Railroad. The slave was a man named Tom who had been ordered by one of the conductors on a freight train “on said road, to assist in making up a train on said road, received an injury of which he died”. The act instructed the treasurer of the state to compensate David Dobbs for the loss of his slave at the sum of $800.
In the May 15, 1851 addition of the Augusta Daily Chronicle and Sentinel there appears a for sale notice for a home located in a desirable part of the town of Marietta with nine rooms and a basement. It says for terms apply to Col. David Dobbs.
In the 25 March 1854 edition of the Augusta Daily Chronicle and Sentinel there is a section titled “By Magnetic Telegraph“. In the first item is a report of a fire in Marietta Georgia. The item begins with “we are indebted to the operator of the Augusta, Atlanta and Nashville telegraph line for the following account of a destructive fire in Marietta.” It reports that a number of buildings were destroyed in Marietta. Loss estimated to be $5000. It states “the livery stables of David Dobbs, occupied by White, and the dwelling of Mrs. Gibson, was also consumed. Loss small.“
Col. David Dobbs was one the founders of Georgia Military Institute (GMI). His son, D.J. Dobbs was in the first graduating class of the institute. In the mid-1850s, ads for GMI appeared in newspapers throughout the South. Below is one example of an ad for GMI this one. In the Savannah Daily Georgian on 4 February 1855 where David Dobbs is listed as a member of the Board of Trustees.
The ad states that tuition, board, washing, fuel, lights, music and all other contingent expenses per session of five months was $112.50.
In the 9 November 1858 edition of the Augusta Evening Dispatch, on same page with a dispatch reporting on the filibuster exploits of Col. William Walker down in Nicaragua, there is a report of another fire in Marietta. This time it appears that someone set fire to the stables, crib, etc. of Col. David Dobbs at Marietta. It appears that there were a rash of fires that night set by friends of the man in jail looking for a chance to rescue him.
In the Rome (Georgia) Tri-Weekly Courier (10 May 1860) there is part of a report regarding a meeting of the Polk Slate Quarry railroad company. As I reported in my book, David Dobbs was on the board of the company that was formed to build a railroad that would go from somewhere within the limits of Marietta to the terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. In the report it mentions Col. David Dobbs offering a resolution.
It is believed that the war prevented this endeavor from getting off the ground.
Next up there was an article in the Atlanta Weekly Atlanta Intelligencer edition of November 22, 1865.
In the 22 July 1871 edition of the Macon Telegraph & Messenger there is a list of news item from the town of Marietta and the surrounding environs of Cobb County. One of the items was announcement that “Col David Dobbs, Sr., one of the first settlers of Marietta is dead; aged 80 years”
In that same newspaper, the following year, just below an item complaining about “A Radical N—-r in Office” was an entry announcing the organization of ex-cadets of Georgia Military Institute. Perhaps some one should have told them that it was a “lost cause”.
Finally, in the Savannah Morning News (April 25, 1893), I found another article announcing that my great-grandfather James M Dobbs, grandson of David Dobbs, had been appointed consul to Valparaiso Chile. The article states that Dobbs and his first wife would be leaving for South America on May 20. It tells that he was born 33 years ago, which is correct, he was born in 1859. It says that he is the son of David Dobbs graduated from the first class at GMI but then it says that the father died when he was 16 years old. That is not correct. David Judson Dobbs died in 1877 and James was 18 in that year. It then goes on to describe his early years in South America:
“He shipped aboard a sailing vessel from New York bound for South America. His first trip was not much of a success although he learned to hitch his trousers fore and aft in a very seaman-like way. Three years of a sailor’s life did more to convince the future consul that he did not know it all than anything else could have done, and when he quit his vessel in South America it was for good. For 10 years young Dobbs traveled in different portions of South America but always with an eye to business he was quick to learn the Spanish language and speaks that tongue like a native.“
The article states that James was introduced to Pres. Grover Cleveland by Judge Maddox. This would have been John W Maddox, a former Superior Court judge turned mayor of Rome Georgia who was elected to Congress in 1892. This story differs than the one told in “Where the Hell is Valparaiso, Dobbs?.” Also, I do not know if this Judge Maddox was any relation to Lester Maddox, the Georgia segregationist governor of the 1960s.