Friday, August 29, 2008

A Day in 1791

The year was 1791.

We stopped to visit the William Cobb family in Rocky Mount in the Southwest Territory. Governor William Blount, appointed Territorial Governor by George Washington, was staying with the Cobb family. Since the Governor was living and working here, Rocky Mount became the first Capitol of the Southwest Territory.

When we were met at the door, I mentioned that I was from Philadelphia and was working for The Pennsylvania Gazette. I asked to take some photographs to accompany an article about Governor Blount. Neither the Cobb family nor Governor Blount was available, so Mrs. Cobb’s sister was unable to grant permission for photographs. Even after dropping Ben Franklin’s name, I was unable to obtain photographs of the Governor’s office.

(I had used Ben’s name because the area now known as the Southwest Territory had, from 1784-1789, been known as the State of Franklin, in honor of Ben Franklin, when it had seceded from North Carolina because the members of the Watauga Association did not believe their taxes paid to North Carolina were benefitting them. In the Battle of Franklin, North Carolina regained the area and then ceded it to the federal government to pay for its portion of the War costs. The Territory would later become part of the state of Tennessee. But I digress.)

The Cobbs were a relatively wealthy family, with a two-story home and a large barn as the main buildings.

I am not sure whether Mr. Cobb would acknowledge the strain that the presence of the Governor and his frequent visitors had on the financial and personal life of the family, but I am sure these factors weighed heavily on Mrs. Cobb and the children.

The kitchen, shown in the photograph above (rear view)and to the right (front door), seemed to be constant use during the Governor's presence. The Cobbs received no governmnet allowance or personal funds from Mr. Blount to pay for his food and supplies.

The Cobbs were able to have a separate building (foreground in the photo on the left) for spinning wool and weaving articles of clothing. The slaves' quarters are in the building in the background.

It was a nice visit, but I didn't get my indoor photographs.

[Rocky Mount, located in Piney Flats, TN, is the oldest original territorial capitol still standing in the United States.]

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