White County Courthouse in 1903

ONCE UPON A TIME around 1876, a reverend by the name of Cobb from Tennessee showed up in White Co., Arkansas. Calling himself the "walking preacher", he set up a two week long revival to save the sinners & bring in converts. Now, seeing how it just so happened to be a bad drought year & things were tough all over, old Reverend Cobb didn't have too hard of a time convincing many of the local farmers that the end of the world was at hand. Farmers left their fields & housewives abandoned their chores to join up with his rapidly growing group of converts. Many referred to his as Jesus Christ & word spread quickly by word of mouth & people from surrounding counties swarmed in to see him as well.

Now Reverend Cobb wasn't just your run-of-the-mill type of fire & brimstone southern preacher. Oh no. He gave the word fanatical a whole new meaning. He was big on faith & having people PROVE their faith, not only to God, but to him (as the son of God). One way they could prove their faith was to climb on top of a house, all the way to the peak, & then walk, toe to heel, from one end to the other without falling off the other end. Sounds easy, huh! But they had to perform this little stunt with their eyes closed, stopping within just inches of the far end. This was performed on a two-story home, by the way. In addition, the married couples in the group had to show their faith by being "sanctified". This was relatively easy to do, but it had to be done by Cobb, personally. He had to "sanctify" the woman first. Then, once "sanctified", she could in turn then "sanctify" her husband. (Note how terms have changed over the years!) Once everyone had "sanctified" each other, they were then free from sin & would remain free of sin in the future. This would also protect them from physical harm until the time that the world ended. Not wanting to leave the single men out of the "sanctification" process, it was decided that they must first find a maiden willing to be "sanctified" by Cobb for them & then in turn, "sanctify" the unmarried man. A very diplomatic solution to their way of thinking.

It starts getting really interesting at about this point! A few miles south of Searcy, in what's now the Gum Springs Community but back then was known as the old Patterson place, there lived another preacher by the name of Dover. He lived in a large two story log cabin with part of his grown sons & married daughters. They had converted to Cobbitism & were as fanatical, if not more so, than the rest. To prove their devotion, in addition to the above mentioned ways, they stripped the furniture out of their house & piled it in the middle of the front yard. Adding the sheets, blankets & pillows to the pile as tender, they then proceeded to have them a big bonfire. They slept on bare floors & the roof afterwards. As if this weren't enough, they then set a date & when it arrived, killed their dogs & cats & tore part of the fences surrounding the farm down to allow the livestock to roam around at will.

Once all this had been accomplished, the Cobbites positioned themselves out by the road & proceeded to yank any unfortunate passersby out of their wagons or buggies & force them to go inside & pray with them. Needless to say, folks around there got mighty curious about the goings on in their little community & crowds of people started flocking out to the farm to gawk.

Two of the people who came out to see the spectacle were Carter Humphries & Rufus Blake, two tough guys from Searcy who already had quite a reputation. They had decided to end the nonsense once and for all. Sure enough, as they came driving up, they were pulled from the buggy they were riding in, just like the rest had been to go inside to pray. Knowing of the men's reputation, some of the womenfolk starting screaming to "kill them" & to "chop off their heads". Keeping with the spirit of the increasing furor, Reverend Cobb yelled at his wife to "bring an ax" which she promptly did. At this point Humphries realized he was in serious trouble & started begging for his life. Ignoring him, some of the women in the group grabbed him by the hair & with the men holding his body tight, drug him over to an exposed mulberry tree root & stretched his neck across it. Reverend Cobb grabbed the reportedly very dull ax & after several clumsy attempts, finally managed to sever the head from poor Humphrie's body. Someone claimed part of the neck was still attached so the reverand was then forced to remove the last part of the neck from the body, also. The other Cobbites had meanwhile begun kicking the dismembered head around in the dirt & once satisfied that the entire neck had been removed, they then picked up the head & ceremoniously carried it to the front porch & stuck it on a fence pickett facing the road so everyone could see what had happened to the "imp of Satan".

Now Blake, who had accompanied the unfortunate Humphries, was truly in a state of pure terror. He managed to break away (probably because so much adrenaline was coursing through his body) & made a run for it. Somehow, he made it back to the buggy & headed lickety-split back to Searcy to tell his tale.

Folks in White Co. are generally pretty easygoing & will even put up with a bit of eccentric behavior, but the beheading of one of their favorite bartenders was not to be overlooked. An angry posse, lead by an even angrier brother of Humphries immediately formed & headed out to Rev. Dover's place in record time. The Cobbites, as usual, ran out to the road to greet them. Seeing the drawn guns of the posse & believing they could not be physically harmed, the Cobbites started screaming at the posse, daring them to shoot, claiming God would protect them & the guns wouldn't go off.

Well, the guns did go off & Reverend Dover was killed instantly, along with one of his son-in-laws by the name of Gaynor. Others were wounded & they were all taken in to the Searcy jail. The other known Cobbites from the area were then rounded up & also stuffed into the small jail. Because of the cramped accommodations, many became sick & old lady Dover died, along with several others.

Reverend Cobb disappeared (although he had not been actively involved in the beheading) & was never seen or heard from again. Any Cobbs or Dovers in YOUR family?!!