52 Ancestors: #6 Murder of John Franklin Cobb (1859-1915)

My father told me that both of his grandfathers were murdered and he never knew either of them.  His father’s father was the first ancestor I wrote about for Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors Challenge”.  He was killed in a shoot-out in 1899 at the young age of 37 years.  His mother’s father, John Cobb, was stabbed to death in 1915 at the age of 56 and this is his story.

John Cobb and Uncle Dixie_cropped

Left, John Cobb; Right, Uncle Dixie

John Franklin Cobb was born in Franklin County, Mississippi on 25 September 1859, to Jesse and Sarah (McCaa) Cobb.  The Cobb family migrated to Nacogdoches County, Texas in the years between 1870 and 1880.  Like so many during the 19th century, John was a farmer, until the lumber industry brought many sawmills and employment to the heavily wooded areas of East Texas.  In the 1910 Federal Census John’s occupation was as a laborer in a lumber mill in a small community called Wildhurst in Cherokee County, Texas.  He met his future wife, Susan Jane McCullough, in Rusk, Texas and they were married on 5 December 1893 in Cherokee County.  According to the 1910 census this was John’s second marriage but I have not yet been able to find any information on his first marriage.

Murder of John F. Cobb - newspaper article (1915)

The Lufkin News, December 23, 1915

John’s death was tragic and left his wife of 22 years with seven children at home.  The oldest child at the time of his death was my grandmother, Velma, who was twenty years old and the youngest was their son, Alvie, who was only a year old.  My grandmother told my father the story of her father’s untimely death and apparently didn’t try to cover up the events which lead to his demise.  Daddy related to me that John was killed by a neighbor as he was riding his horse home after “messing around” with the man’s wife!  My grandmother went looking for him and found him on the side of the road, stabbed and dying.  I don’t know what kind of father that he had been but she must have been pretty angry at him for what he did and the hardship it put on her mother.  Mama Cobb (my great grandmother), had her hands full and depended on the oldest children to help work the farm and care for the younger ones.  In the 1920 census, five years after their father’s death, all of the children were still living at home.  The three oldest children were girls, Velma, age 25, Annie, age 23, and Jessie, age 21, and the next four were boys, John, age 19, Acie, age 17, Earnest, age 9, and Alvie, age 5.  It was unusual for girls in their twenties to still be single and living at home in the early 1900s.      Velma, and her sister, Annie, stayed at home to help keep house and work on the farm while the other daughter, Jessie, worked as a nurse.   Both of the older boys worked for the lumber mill so it seems that the family was taken care of financially.

John Cobb’s funeral expenses were $53.25 according to the funeral records of Gipson Funeral Home; $45.00 for casket, $7.50 for burial robe, and $0.75 for death notice in newspaper.  It listed his cause of death as gunshot wound but the newspaper article about the incident said he was killed with a knife and the family corroborates same.  Angelina County, Texas criminal court records show that John Cobb’s murderer was found guilty and sentenced to 18 years in the penitentiary.

Gipson Funeral Home Record

Gipson Funeral Home Record

The State of Texas vs. George Waldrip, No. 3289

The State of Texas vs. George Waldrip, No. 3289

This is all I know about John Cobb, and unfortunately, I know more about his death than his life.






Note:  I still don’t know who Uncle Dixie (in the picture with John Cobb) is except that he must be his brother and Dixie is probably a nickname because John didn’t have any brothers with that name.

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52 Ancestors: #5 Perry Tunnell (1787-1826)

Perry Tunnell, son of Rev. Stephen and Kezia Money Tunnell, was born in 1787, probably in Virginia since his parents lived in Virginia until 1788.  Like his father and four of his brothers, Perry was a Methodist minister.  He married Catherine Self, daughter of Presley Self and Amelia (Amy) Gunter,  about 1807 in Alabama.  They had eleven children, seven boys and four girls, and all of them were born in Alabama, and all except the eldest moved to Texas.

Little is known about my 4th great grandfather, except that he and his wife were charter members of Cedar Mountain Methodist Church which was organized in 1819 and located about twenty miles north-east of what is now the city of Birmingham, Alabama.  Catherine’s brother, Francis Self, and his wife Lydia, were also charter members of this church.  The church became known as Shiloh Methodist Church in 1826.

Rev. Perry Tunnell died in the summer of 1826 at the age of thirty-nine.  He had preached a morning sermon at a camp meeting in Alabama and died before he reached home which was only a few miles away.  His wife was left with ten children at home, the eldest only eighteen years old, and expecting their eleventh child.  Elizabeth Jane Tunnell, the last of Rev. Tunnell’s children, was born on the 27th of November.  It is unknown where Perry Tunnell is buried but there is an old cemetery at the site of where the Cedar Mountain Methodist Church was located in Jefferson County, Alabama.  Some of the stones are broken or unreadable but seems we will never know Rev. Tunnell’s earthly resting place.


Armstrong, Z. (1926).  Notable Southern Families, In Six Volumes, Volume III.  Chattanooga, Tennessee:  Clearfield Publishing Co., Inc.

West, A.  (1893).  A History of Methodism in Alabama.  Nashville, Tennessee:  Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South.

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52 Ancestors: #4 Frances Ann Rushing (1857-1931)


A little known fact about my great great grandmother – this is the record in an old 1921 court case which originated in Van Zandt County, Texas.  Statement of Facts, Cause No. 7698, The State of Texas vs. F. M. Richardson, 86th Judicial District Court of Texas, April Term, A. D., 1921.

Grandma Fannie was subpoenaed to appear as a state’s witness in a local trial.  The charge was murder.  The defendant resided in the Owlet Green community and Fannie was well-acquainted with the family.  She received a subpoena from the court by virtue of having encountered and observed the defendant, Frank Richardson, late in the afternoon on the day of the alleged offense.  This observation was quite by accident.

The case concerned the family of one of Grandma Fannie’s neighbors, the Richardsons.  One brother allegedly shot and killed his own brother at their mother’s residence, in her presence, and in the presence of the deceased’s daughter.  The brothers’ disagreement stemmed from ownership of the homestead.

The trial was held during the April 1921 Term of the 86th Judicial District Court of Texas in Van Zandt County at Canton.  One of Grandma Fannie’s sons and a grandson-in-law were also called to testify.  When the docket was called and the trial began, the State’s “lead-off” witness was her son, John Morgan Martin; she was the second witness.

Here is our opportunity to hear Grandma speak!  Indeed, to hear her own words, her own language, spoken in response to questioning by the Honorable D. M. Maynor, State’s attorney as follows:

My name is Mrs. Fannie Martin.  I live in the Watts Community, three miles beyond Owlet Green on the Tyler and Canton road.  That road passes my house.  I remember the night Jones Richardson was killed.  I saw Frank Richardson pass my house that afternoon.  I really don’t know exactly what time it was, but it was nearly night; the sun may be been three-quarters or maybe not so high, or may a little higher; I did not notice particularly.

There were two or three wagons in the party.  I can’t say for sure, but I know there were two; I don’t remember whether there were any saddled horses or not.  I saw Frank Richardson in the party and spoke to him.  They were going mighty fast; the team was mighty worried.  They looked like they were being mighty worried.

Yes, it seems to me that I saw Frank Richardson making gestures with his hands as he was talking to the men; they were talking this way (indicating gestures with hands).  They were making suggestions, but I didn’t hear anything; they were very interestedly talking.  They were going at good speed in the direction of the old Richardson homestead.  I did not hear of the killing until the next morning.  (Emphasis by court reporter.)

They call it three miles from my house to where the killing occurred, and it was right on the hill on the other side of my house that I met them.  I was going to my daughter’s.  I said the team was trotting mighty fast – as fast as they could trot; it seemed that they were mighty worried; they were going straight toward the old Richardson homestead.

(Mr. Maynor passed the witness and Grandma Fannie was then cross-examined by the Honorable N. A. Gentry, defendant’s attorney.)

Her testimony continues:

Mrs. Martin;  Of course they were going toward Owlet Green – I did not see them make the turn.  They passed up that road a half or three-quarters of an hour before sundown and were talking.  To tell you the truth I cannot see good, and I couldn’t see who was driving the other wagon, and I don’t know who it was; it was ________(name withheld) sitting in the wagon with Frank, I think; I took him to be _______(name withheld).  That is all I know of the matter.

I never did tell anybody that Frank Richardson was making threats; I was as innocent as could be and never thought of anything.  J. M. Martin is my son; he and John Goode are brothers-in-law.  No, I can’t see well and I did not particularly notice the hindmost wagon to see who was in it.  I particularly noticed the gestures – I knew they were mighty interested, it seemed like; I don’t know what they were talking about, as I didn’t understand anything.  My daughter was with me and we gave them the road.

(Upon trial of the case the defendant was found guilty of the offense of murder, and punishment was assessed by verdict of the jury at twenty-five years in the state penitentiary.  The defendant appealed the case; the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the District Court’s judgment, and the defendant was committed to the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville for a period of twenty-five years.)

We can only imagine how uncomfortable and out of her element Fannie must have felt in this situation.  One thing we do know from this testimony – she certainly liked to use the word “mighty”.  The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, allowing women the right to vote, had only been ratified in August 1920.  Women were not usually involved in public actions and their primary activities were limited to caring for children and maintaining a home.  However, just looking at her picture, I can only imagine that she knew how to stand her ground!

Frances Ann “Fannie” Rushing was born 31 December 1857 in Rusk County, Texas and was the second child of Allen Rushing, a Methodist minister, and his second wife, Caroline Cevers.  Fannie and John Thomas “Tom” Martin married 20 June 1874 in Rusk County and moved shortly after that to Van Zandt County, Texas where their first child, Joseph Allen Martin was born on 5 July 1875, followed by ten other children.   Their fifth child, Wade, died at age 4 and their sixth child, Ollie, died in infancy.  They lived and raised their large family in a modest farm home in the Owlet Green and Watts community.  Tom was a farmer and a peddler and Fannie was a housewife.  In those days, a peddler sold wares (kitchen items, yard goods, etc.) door-to-door during the season when the weather hampered farm labor.  Fannie was a member of the Methodist Church which was just a short distance down the road from their house and she was known throughout the community as a “shouting Christian”.  I’m still not sure exactly what that means – more research needed!

After Tom’s death in October 1914, Fannie stayed in their home and spent much of her time visiting with her children and grandchildren.  After her youngest child Luther married in 1920, he and his wife, Evelyn “Elvie” McGraw, moved in with Fannie to help her take care of the farm.  In 1924, Luther was killed in an accident and Fannie moved to the home of her daughter, Beulah Corley.

On 27 September 1928, Fannie married J. F. Alexander, a retired Methodist minister whom she met through her sister, Victoria Rushing, known as Aunt Vick.  Fannie and Mr. Alexander moved to Tyler,  where he operated a retail grocery establishment.  Though their marriage was not a long one she seemed happy and was visited often by family.

Fannie died on 27 July 1931 and was buried beside Tom Martin in Marvin’s Chapel Cemetery in Van Zandt County.  She was survived by Mr. Alexander, three daughters, five sons, and a number of grandchildren.  The burial site was at her request.  It is stated in her obituary that she was born in Smith County but I believe this was an error because deed records indicate that her father Allen Rushing owned hundreds of acres of land in Rusk County and no deed record found in Smith County until 1862.  Also, Fannie was three years old in the 1860 census and the family was living in Rusk County

ObituaryFrances (Fannie) Rushing Martin AlexanderTyler Daily Courier-TimesJuly 28, 1931, Page 3
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Owlet Green Community, Van Zandt County, Texas

Owlet Green, also known as Marvin Chapel, was a rural community in southwest Van Zandt county thirteen miles southwest of Canton at the headwaters of the Neches River on Farm Road 1995 and Farm Road 314.  It was founded by immigrants from southern states about 1852 and named for the small green owls that populated the river bottom.  The community was first known as Marvin Chapel and had a post office as early as 1878 and continuously from 1897 to 1905.  In the 1890s the community was a shipping and supply point for area farmers and had a population of 300, two blacksmith shops, several gristmills and gins, general stores, a school, a church, a sawmill, a syrup manufacturer, and a saloon.  The local school reached an enrollment of thirty in 1905 and was consolidated with the Van Zandt Independent School District in 1848.  In the 1930s, the town had a population of twenty-five, a church, a school, a seasonal industry and scattered dwellings.

The first comers settled open, untilled, rich, fertile land and many of them were extended headright grants by the State of Texas for settling it.  A man could obtain 300 acres of good, rich land for $30.00 and three years in which to pay for it.  He usually paid off the mortgage after harvesting one crop.

Owlet Green was also the first religious community in the area, pre-dating Colfax, which later became the site of the famous mass-attended camp meetings, and ultimately the religious center for that part of the county.  Other churches were subsequently established, after the Civil War, when thousands of people left the southern United States and migrated westward.  One of these was Marvin’s Chapel Methodist Church, the cemetery of which contains many of those who settled in or near Owlet Green.

Information relating to Owlet Green had been hearsay, handed down by old timers, until 1962 when Truman Tunnell, of Van, Texas, uncovered an old ledger in a trunk at the home of his aunt, Mrs. Sam Wilson, nee Birdie Tunnell, that it became possible to establish factually and accurately the scope of activity in the community of Owlet Green.  The ledger was kept by the various Justices of the Peace and Notaries Public as the official record of the community.

By 1884, about 32 years after being settled, the community was fairly well developed.  And it did not go out of existence overnight.  First, a few families pulled away, and so did a business.  Business continued falling off until the last one closed up his shop and moved away in the 1940s.  Today, all that remains of Owlet Green is the ruins of a concrete foundation in the corner of a pasture.  The ledger contains, in original hands of the various Justices of the Peace, the affidavits, estrays deeds, oaths, marriages, and mortgages executed in this community.  The ledger is an excellent source for the original inhabitants of Owlet Green.  It is rich in genealogical information.

A lot of mighty good people made up this community which was the flourishing center of trade in the last years of the 19th century.  Most are gone now, but are not forgotten.

My sister, Jean and I, visited the area where our Martin ancestors lived and raised families in the Owlet Green community during the late 1800s and early 1900s.   We had a map of the area marking the locations of all the Martins homesteads.  The map was provided by Nell Everett, whose husband, Billy J. Everett, was a Martin descendant.  She had done years of research on the Martin family and Van Zandt county.  Below is a picture I took of the ruins of a concrete foundation in the corner of a pasture on property that was our great great grandfather’s homestead and believed to be the remains of Owlet Green.


Van Zandt County History Book Committee, History of Van Zandt County (Dallas, 1984).

The Colfax Homecoming Committee, Colfax, Edited by Jack Geddie (Henry L. Geddie, Pub., 1963).

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