Jane Phillips: The Washington Family Dynasty of Kinston, NC - Part 2

Jane Phillips: The Washington Family Dynasty of Kinston, NC - Part 2

Part 2 - John Cobb Washington (1801 -1889)

John Cobb Washington born in 1801 was the first child of John and Elizabeth Herritage Cobb Washington. His birthplace, Kinston, was a small village with a little over 100 people in the 1800 census. Many of those listed were related to John’s mother, Elizabeth. It is recorded in many places that the Kinston Washington family was related to President George Washington.  Little is known about his childhood or education. However, he did well for himself as he later became a successful business man and planter.

After John Cobb’s parents took up residence in New Bern in 1826, he stayed in Kinston and ran the farming operation and store. The plantation thrived, and his financial means grew.

It was on February 28, 1827 John Cobb married Mary Ann Bond from Raleigh and the daughter of Southey Bond and Ann Cannon Bond. They raised their two children at their home on Vernon Hill. (Today that site is now where the Bentley Bed and Breakfast is located.) It was to become the home place that his sibling would return to from time to time to visit.

The name Vernon Hill makes one wonder whether or not the Kinston Washington Family selected the name Vernon Hill to be similar the name of a distant relative’s home - Mt. Vernon. In later years the neighborhood became known as Vernon Heights and the street at the edge of the front of Vernon Hill became known as Vernon Avenue. It still bears that name today.

They had two children. Daughter Eliza Clark Washington was married at Vernon Hill to attorney John Lewis Peyton of the Peyton gentry of Virginia. In 1861, John Lewis Peyton was appointed by the Governor of North Carolina to go to England as an agent of the State of North Carolina to gain support for the Confederate cause and break up the northern blockade of southern ports during the Civil War. 

In 1876, after spending the Civil War years in England and living on Guernsey in the Channel Islands for many years, John Lewis Peyton returned to Staunton, Virginia with his wife and young son. He died in 1896 and his wife, Eliza Clark Washington Peyton, died in 1907.

The other child was Mary A. Bond Washington and she was born on January 11, 1828. She married William Augustus Blount of Beaufort County and son of General William Augustus Blount and Nancy Hawkins Haywood at Vernon Hill on May 11, 1847 in Lenoir County, North Carolina.

As his father before him John Cobb was a Kinston postmaster.

John Cobb was a man of politics and became a member of the Whig Party once it formed in opposition to the Jacksonian Democrats. He was a delegate and attended the first national convention of the Whig party that was to determine their presidential candidate. It opened in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on December 4, 1839.  There were about 150 delegates present at the convention. Some of the most famous men of that day were candidates for nominee of the party. They were Daniel Webster who dropped out of the race, then the three leading candidates were General William Henry Harrison, a war hero, and Senator Henry Clay, the Whigs' congressional leader, former Speaker of the House and United States Secretary of State. There was an ugly ruckus between Sen. Henry Clay and Gen William Henry Harrison that almost ended in a dual but that’s another story. During this time John Cobb got to meet with these men. He probably got to see some of them again when his brother-in-law became a senator from North Carolina some years later. He remained a Whig over the next 20 years.

By 1850 Lenoir County’s population was over 7000 people. This included Kinston’s population of 455 people. This decade began to bring more industry to the community. John Cobb operated a tannery somewhere near the river off Herritage Street. It supplied leather to the Washington Shoe Factory.

John Cobb was a major investor in the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad which started running in 1858 from Goldsboro to Beaufort via Kinston and New Bern. John Cobb held the $340,000 contract that constructed the Kinston to Goldsboro segment of the railroad. By 1860 Kinston was a bustling community, whose location on a railroad line was rapidly opening new horizons for the town's development. The town's population had grown to 1,333, an increase of nearly 200 per cent from 1850. It was one of only 11 towns in the state with an 1860 population of more than 1,000 people.

John’s wife Elizabeth died before the Civil War. It was the connection through John Cobb’s son-in-law John Lewis Peyton that led to his other marriages, first to Susan Smith Madison Peyton in 1862, the widow of Joseph H. White of Philadelphia and daughter of William Madison Peyton of Roanoke Virginia. The marriage was short lived as Susan died in the summer of 1864. He then married Julia Amanda Peyton who may have been the sister to first wife Susan. However, some say that Julia was the daughter of Gen. Bernard and Julia Greene Peyton of Richmond Virginia.   

Gen. Peyton was a veteran of the War of 1814. In 1824 he was appointed adjutant general of Virginia. He later served as the postmaster of Richmond. The Peyton’s of Virginia were an old and distinguished family. (Further research to be done on this connection to the Washington family).

John Cobb Washington was made a delegate from Lenoir County to the North Carolina Convention on Succession. Being a member of the Whig party, he was against succession. As it turned out North Carolina voted for succession and was the last southern state to enter the war.

Kinston’s location on the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad made it one of several sites in the state used for the stockpiling of supplies for the confederacy and after the fall of New Bern it became the Eastern Front for the Confederacy in North Carolina. Kinston was a target for Union Forces during the war. Skirmishes occurred often, and two major battles took place near Kinston. Confederate troops were stationed here throughout the war. Being a man of affluence John Cobb entertained soldiers at his home from time to time.

John Cobb had a contract with the Confederate Army to make “hardtack” at his bakery. Hardtack is a simple type of biscuit or cracker, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Hardtack was inexpensive and long-lasting. It was used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly used during military campaigns. Soldiers could be seen in the bakery with pants legs rolled up standing in large troughs working the hardtack mixture with a hoe.

John Cobb Washington along with his brother George had a contract with the Confederacy to make shoes for the army in their shoe factory. Washington built a small group of houses to provide lodging for the shoemakers he imported from New England to work at the shoe factory. The area became known as “Yankee Row”.

The Washington’s owned an iron foundry and in the early years of the war furnished iron to the Confederacy. The family also had a steam powered lumber mill and factory that made various wood products.

The Civil War years took a toll on the life of John Cobb Washington. During those dark days of war several members of his family died, the malady of arthritis had begun to afflict his body, and his businesses and farm were suffering financial losses. His home was also invaded by a man that severely beat him.

Reconstruction found the remainder of the fortune he had accumulated slipping away and the times were not easy. However, John Cobb was a benevolent man and despite his losses he extended credit to those who could not pay and never did. It has been said he gave land for an African American church in Kinston. In 1882 he served as president of the Kinston College Stock Company but soon resigned because of failing health.

John Cobb had mortgaged “Vernon Hill” to his sister Eliza Knox. There was some discontent among some members of the family and it dragged out for years in the courts. As his funds depleted, he moved to Black Mountain near Asheville where he owned property. He lived out his old age there. In 1889 he died leaving behind his widow Julia.

For those who knew him he would not be forgotten. As generations pass, for the most part, we lose the stories of so many people who in their time made a difference in the lives of others as did John Cobb Washington.

Threshold of Freedom by Cliff Tyndall
Annals of Progress by William S. Powell
Find- a- Grave
NC Census Records
North Carolina Marriage Bonds 1741-1868
Marriages and Death Notices in Raleigh Register and North Carolina State
Register of Historic Places
Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia
PEYTON, of England and Virginia
Kinston Free Press, 1897 Industrial Edition By Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden
Justice of Atrocity by Gerard A. Patterson.

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