In July 1876 Carter Humphries was murdered at Gum Springs after an argument with a religious group known locally as “Cobbites.” > Several were arrested but none was ever convicted of the crime. The Cobbite incident remains one of the most bizarre stories in the history of White County. Details may be found in the 1966 edition of White County Heritage. The following Letter to the Editor mentions a chance meeting with a Cobbite.
The Record, Searcy, December 16, 1876
Early after dinner last Tuesday I put off to take another ride away up in the north part of the county, that is north of Searcy. At night I was made welcome at the home of J.P. Welch, a thrifty granger living away out in the north part of Kentucky township. I had not been seated long before the looming fire ere little Dora brought me a pan full of fine, mellow apples, and I soon proved myself adept in the art of masticating the palatable fruit. Apples are a scarce article of luxury this fall. Mr. Alphus W. gave me an interesting account of a deer chase his dogs had had only a few days before. They ran it through their yard; back and forth through the garden and lot several times, finally caught it in one of the stables. To see a deer now-a-days is a cheerful rarity.
Next morning I bid a kind goodbye to all and struck out for the piney wilderness across the lower regions of Van Buren County. I had not ridden far before my road became narrowed down to a wild trail along which I could now and then discern a faint horse track made there no doubt several months before. Sometimes I would be riding along the edge of a mountain bluff down whose rugged sides I would delightfully precipitate a huge rock that I might break the monotonous silence that reigns supreme over those sublime mountain heights. I passed through several belts of pine timber, the finest I ever saw in the State.
About noon I came to a friendly settlement near Lee’s mill away up near the head of Big Creek, where I was told that at the foot of the second big mountain I crossed, I would find a Dr. D. [David] Pangburn’s vicinity. Luckily I came up with a young Mr. Norton who was going my way for a few miles and with his obliging instructions I succeeded in arriving at Dr. P’s safely. I had certainly never traveled over so much wild and rugged country before, nor had my eyes beheld so many out-spread landscapes as I came up with so often that day first to the right and left, and then all around, presenting picturesque scenery of the most gorgeous and showy magnitude.
Dr. Pangburn resides sixteen miles north of Searcy on the road leading from that place to Shilo. He gave me a warm reception and after an hour’s rest he proposed that we ride over to Hiram a mile and a quarter distant. I gladly assented to the proposition. There I met Mr. Will Watkins and Dr. P’s son, Mr. Pangburn. They are both engaged in a store, the only one at the place. They seemed to be doing a pretty lively trade, as there were a number of customers in and I saw quite a number of cotton bales lying out in their solitary wagon yard. The Doctor had several Centennial curiosities to show me. He brought his therapeutic battery out and made a number of experiments on me that night.
Next day at noon the Doctor and I started out for the County Grange. We went by way of Howell’s church to the Owl shoals on Little Red River, where we forded that stream easily. We passed over some right good country and the farms we saw looked to be in excellent state of cultivation. The Doctor, like myself, feels interested in a Woolen Factory, hence he had something to say on that subject to everybody we met. After we crossed Little Red River we both entered strange territory and before we traveled far we were lost. The Doctor likes the idea of making inquiry at every house if only a quarter of a mile apart. I am about to think it a good idea myself.
About dusk we arrived over in Coldwell township. There I met grangers from near every portion of the county. Mr. Robinson of Beebe Grange, Mr. John Hackler of New Hope Grange, “Uncle Joe” Taylor and Mr. Gibson of Gum Springs Grange, Mr. Isaac Chrisman of Syloam Grange, Mr. Lum Roberts of Lebanon Grange, Mr. J.H. Clayburn of Section Grange, Mr. Jim Valentine of West Point Grange, Colonel Hall and Mr. Killough of Centre Hill Grange, and Major J.D. McKay of Rose Bud Grange with most of the members of Fredonia Grange – were all out there. The Rev. Mr. Shives of Centre Hill Grange was elected Master of White County as successor to Colonel Hall, who is preparing to leave the county soon. The Fredonia grangers had the most tasteful decorated hall I have ever seen. Doctor Heffington is Master of that Grange, and with him I lodged that night. Doctor H. is a successful practicing physician. Next morning Squire Ford and Brown came in from Bald Knob Grange and Doctor Daniels of Kensett Grange. At the close of the Grange that evening Mr. Shive and myself accepted Squire Ford’s polite invitation to go on and spend the night with him. Squire F. has one of the most practically arranged farms I have seen in the county. I couldn’t see much room for improvement.
Early next morning after bidding all “au revoir”, I started across the country for Mt. Pisgah alone. I recrossed the river at the Owl shoals and I must declare that Little Red is without doubt, the most romantic stream in Arkansas at this season. After passing on a mile or two this side of the river I drew up to a house to get a “warm.” It was right cold, and the unfriendly were spitting snow in a hurry. I was kindly invited to take a seat before the warm fire’s grateful blaze, by the gentleman to whom the quiet little domain appeared to belong. I enquired for the news. He said he had none, except that from what he could hear “they keep putting one in jail every now and then.”
Pretty soon he began to take a general survey of “these wicked times” and finally after recounting the terrible events of the past one after another in quick succession, he put to me the puzzle interrogatory. “Don’t you believe the people would rise up and kill a man who could perform the miracles that Christ did?” By this time my tongue had become sufficiently limbered from the comfortable influences of the fire to enable me to say, “I don’t know.” Said he, “The better and wiser a man is in the esteem of his God the more he is hated.” My drowsy and dumbed senses were now aroused to the height of the occasion, and I could conjecture my friendly stranger to be a preacher. “I know,” continued he, “that what I say is true, because I and my friends have been the most bitterly persecuted people ever known since the days of Paul, and for the sake of our religious opinions, for worshipping God in what we believe to be the right way.” “Pretty hard,” I said. “They even threatened to kill me,” he exclaimed with emphasis.
I put on a look of wild astonishment, and really wondered if I had by some inscrutable power been transmitted back to the dark ages of the Spanish Inquisition. “I have not aught against any man, and pray continually for my enemies,” he said, “but they don’t know what they do when they try to kill me, hence I love them because it is God’s will they do.” I began to debate with myself seriously as to whether I belonged to the nineteenth century or not. “Oh,” said I, “they dare not hurt a hair on your head.” “I don’t talk much,” said he, “because I know that it is impossible almost for them to understand the marvelous truth when they have it.” I nodded. “We are the church of Christ,” said he, “they have nicknamed us Cobbites,” and at that he laughed. “Maybe you have heard something of them,” said he. I confessed that I had heard the sect mentioned a few times. “I believe they have six of them in jail at Searcy,” said I. “Yes,” he replied, “two women and four men. That’s right,” continued he, “that’s all right. They may have done wrong; I can’t say; I was not there. David cut off Goliath’s head; it seemed necessary that he should do so.” From that remark I inferred that it was my friend’s belief that his brethren did only what was necessary in killing a man at Gum Springs, Mr. Humphries. He was careful to not commit himself.
I then told him that I had been warned to “look out” for the Cobbites. He laughed at that and said, “You could not find a more safe spot on earth than this.” I told him that I felt exactly that way and that in all my travels over White county I had never one time apprehended any danger at their hands. However, you have made a great many people think that White county is a den of barbarians. “No man need fear us,” said he. “I know,” continued he, “that we are regarded with fear by the ladies, but we have not aught against anyone.” I then thanked him for kindnesses and was requested in turn to call again when passing and spend a night with him.
I devote this much space to the Cobbites, Mr. Editor, with a view that the facts contained herein may serve to quiet the fears of those of yor readers who apprehend danger from that source while riding out. That night I was most agreeably entertained by Mr. Cater Sowell, of Mt. Pisgah.
Home, sweet home
(This letter has been attributed to Sam J. Crabtree, who was Publisher of the Arkansas Hub at Rose Bud.)