Brothers Cobe

I am going to deviate a little bit and talk about a couple of our ancestor’s brothers.

The Black Sheep

Emmett Cobe had a younger brother, John. John was 15 when their mother, Margaret Russell died. Several years later he started down a bad road.  By the time he turned 20 (1894) he had become a rough and tough canal boatman and started his life of crime with a simple charge of obscene and licentious language. He chose to skip out on his $10 fine and court costs. The law caught up with him and he served time in the Toledo Work House.

He didn’t learn his lesson.  In 1897 he stole horse harnesses from a farmer and was arrested. He involved his brother Joe (Joseph Archles Cobe), but Joe turned state’s evidence and help send him to prison on a two-year sentence. Joseph stayed clean, got married, moved to Michigan, and raised his family. John…not so much.

By 1900 he had committed another robbery in Michigan, landing him a ten-year sentence at the Michigan State Penitentiary.  He attempted to escape but was caught before he could carry out his plans. He was more successful in 1904 and managed to escape with three other convicts.  His three comrades were all capture, but Cobe remained at large. His prison card ends with “escaped.”

Somewhere in the middle of all his criminal activity and incarceration, he managed to get married and separated.  I have not yet found any evidence of his marriage, just what is recorded on his inmate card below.

Transcripts and images of newspapers articles can be found here.

John Cobe’s inmate card on file with the Michigan State Penitentiary.  Provides a detailed description of him and names his father as Richard Cobe.  Also ties him to Defiance, Ohio and Harbor Springs, Michigan, places our Cobes lived.  It ends with his escape date but does not indicate he was ever captured.  Says of his parents, they were “Pious Catholics.”

Chipping Away a Brick Wall

Emmett’s father, Richard Cobe, had an older brother, Frederick. His paper trail is what finally broke the brick wall that was their mother’s maiden name.  I have attempted to trace all of the Cobe “cousins” in an effort to find out a little bit more about the Cobe immigrant ancestors, Richard and Eliza.  I know they come from Ireland, but not when, from where, or what Eliza’s maiden name was. My final to-do item for Frederick was to order his military pension records, though this rarely provide parents names, it’s a hit and miss in pension files.  Which is why I procrastinated.

Let me back up.  Fredrick has been a serendipitous ancestor for me.  After I left the military (Fort Riley, Kansas) I landed in Ohio where I finally had time to get more serious about our genealogy. I was tracking and tracing the Cobes and found out that Frederick had lived in and died near Junction City, Kansas – the town just outside of Fort Riley.  I kicked myself. Three and half years in Kansas and there were Cobe clues right down the road.  I came to a dead end with Frederick online.  He married but they didn’t seem to have had any children and I was not inclined to return to Fort Riley for research.  Been there, done that, literally have a t-shirt.

Fast forward to just last year. One day, I noticed a new entry for Richard and Eliza on Find-A-Grave.  This entry named Eliza as “Smith”. I was floored.  I reached out to the person who posted this profile and asked what source he had that identified her as Smith. He lives in Fairfield, California – of all places (for those who have forgotten, I enlisted in the Army in Fairfield, California.) He had gone to school in Kansas and one of his teachers was a niece of Frederick’s. His family eventually bought her house and in the attic, they found a box that contained military papers of Frederick.

This wonderful man is not even related to the Cobes, but he is a genealogist and understood the value of Frederick’s box. So he saved it in the hopes of one day finding a descendant of the Cobe family. These papers are now in my private collection.

Frederick was a member of an obscure fraternal order of veterans (a group I had never heard of anyway), The Soldiers and Sailors Historical and Benevolent Society. Using information presumably furnished by Frederick himself, they presented him with a certificate that included his unit’s service history and his mother’s maiden name! Jackpot.

Images of his headstone and other papers can be found at Find-a-Grave.