Dr. Needham Bryan Cobb
Pastor FBC Hillsborough, 1896 – 1899
On April 26, 1896, “Rev. N B Cobb was called to be pastor of this church and preached first time for us Thursday April 26, 1896.” He remained in Hillsborough until May 1899.1
The following profile is extracted from several biographies.2,3
Needham Bryan Cobb was born in Jones County, North Carolina, February 1, 1836. His parents were William Donnell Cobb and Anne Spicer Collier. He came from an aristocratic family who provided him a solid preparatory education. He was eighteen years old when he received his BA degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1854. He continued his studies there in law and received a Master's degree in 1856; the first advance degree of this type granted by the University. He taught a couple of years and then read law with Chief Justice Richmond Mumford Pearson (1805-1878) in Yadkin County. He was admitted to the bar, practiced first in Goldsboro and then moved to Greenville, Pitt County, NC to partner with General G.E.B. Singletary.
He had a conversion experience at a Methodist meeting that led him to closely investigate the Bible and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for his life. He eventually left the Episcopal Church to become a Baptist. He was baptized in Greenville by Rev. Henry Petty on October 30, 1859 and at 23 years of age was licensed to preach. Two months later he married Martha Louisa Cobb of Pitt County on December the 27th, 1859. She was also a Baptist and became an inspiration to him during their years together. She bore him twelve children. Their earthly bond was broken when she died on March 28, 1888. About two years later, on September 3, 1891, he married Ann DeLisle (Ellen) Fennell of Sampson County. She was a devoted wife and the mother of three more of his children for a total of fifteen in all.
As a missionary for the Pamlico Baptist Association, he traveled across eastern North Carolina preaching and starting churches. On May 6, 1860, he met with Baptist in Wilson, NC to organize a church which in turn ordained him that evening. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he became Chaplain of the 14th North Carolina Regiment that was organized in June 1861 at Garysburg, NC. Cobb served as Chaplain in Lee’s Army and was in charge of colportage work among Carolina Troops. He was acting chaplain of the Second Regiment at Gettysburg and throughout the Pennsylvania Campaign. From 1863 he was also General Superintendent of army colportage. In this position, Cobb attended the Tar River Baptist Association meeting in August 1863, preached a sermon and drew such a picture of the needs of the soldiers that the people wept freely, and contributed liberally to the Army Colportage fund.
After the close of the war Cobb and Dr. Hufham edited the Daily Record of Raleigh for six months, and then he became Corresponding Secretary of the Sunday School Board. He served as president of the NC Baptist State Convention for three years (1879-1881) and as one of its recording secretaries for nine sessions. He was editor of the NC Baptist Almanac (1865-1893), became a life-time member of the NC Baptist Historical Society (1893), and was appointed as the State Convention’s Statistician (1895-1896). As an editor, newspaper correspondent and historian, he rendered eminent service, but his best work was as preacher and pastor. For four years he was pastor and secretary of the Board of Missions of the North Carolina State Convention. He worked tirelessly in mission fields and in destitute regions of the State. Judson College, Marion, Alabama conferred on him the honorary degree of D. D. in 1889.
Over time, he served as pastor in Goldsboro, Elizabeth City, Second Church, Portsmouth, VA and upon 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. In addition to his pastoral work, he taught and was president of Wayne Institute and Normal College; professor of Latin and Greek in Goldsboro Female College, and was also principal of Lilesville High School.
Cobb died on May 31, 1905. Dr. Hufham said of him, “No minister in North Carolina has served better the Baptist churches and the people of this State in his day and generation than Needham Cobb, and no man was ever less of a self-seeker. Coming to our denomination from a home of culture, and with the best intellectual equipment that our State or the South afforded in that day, he was peculiarly fitted for the organization of the Baptist churches in our towns, just when the wealth and intelligence of the country was moving into the county seat, and the Lord sent us Needham Cobb for this purpose.”
Cobb and his wife, Martha Louisa and three of their children are buried at the Cedar Creek Meeting House Cemetery in Lilesville, Anson County, NC. The inscription on his tombstone reads, “Devoted minister of the gospel, teacher of youth, warm and faithful friend, and to every duty of life, responsive and true.” His wife’s tombstone is inscribed, “Prov. XXXI: 10-31 describes her character.” Verse ten begins, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”4
1. Minutes of First Baptist Church Hillsborough, NC from November 19, 1853 to December 2, 1953
2. Taylor, Thomas, J. D.D., A History of the Tar River Baptist Association, 1830-1921. Prepared and Published by order of the Association, 1923 (?). Accessed on March 30, 2011 at: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/historyfiction/fullview.aspx?id=tah
3. Rumburgh, H. Rondel. Chaplain Needham B. Cobb (1836-1905): Fourteenth North Carolina Volunteers. Accessed on March 30, 2011 at: http://southronthunder.blog.com/2010/11/07/chaplains%E2%80%99-corps-chronicles-anno-domini-2010-november-issue/
4. Find a Grave Database: Dr Needham Bryan Cobb. Accessed on March 30, 2011 at: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=46622080
Compiled by Reginald Carter, Historian, FBC Hillsborough
Last Updated: March 30, 2011