Dr. Cobble and the Triplets, 1935
By Deborah Burkett
When I spied an old photograph while visiting with Martis Wilson I was more than intrigued. The image of three babes in the arms of what looked to be a pioneer woman surely had a story to tell. Turned out it did and I included it in my book, Quilts and Their Stories Binding Generations Together, because pioneer women were of special interest to me.
Ole time quilter, Carrie Acker, is seen holding the first triplets born June 3, 1935, in Cherokee County. Martis, Margie and Marvin Blake "arrived" 30 minutes before Dr. Cobble got to the old Perry Place, located between Rusk and Maydelle.
Martis elaborated, "My father walked to Maydelle, called Dr. Cobble who came in his buggy as quick as he could…My grandmother's holding us; she lived nearby, across the mountain..."
It's safe to say, Dr. Cobble spent a lot of time in his buggy. During his career he delivered over 5,000 babies.
Thomas Henderson Cobble, born in 1882 on a farm between Rusk and Reklaw, later moved with his family into town so he could attend Rusk High School and Rusk Jr. College. Thomas registered for medical school in Galveston but the disastrous hurricane of 1900 changed his plans. He attended the University of Louisville, School of Medicine and received his degree in 1904, returned to Rusk and was on the staff at Texas State Penitentiary.
Soon he opened his own practice in Rusk. The town had seven doctors but not too many-- considering without hospitals doctors traveled to patients' homes often through the worst weather. Dr. Cobble kept two teams of horses and two drivers on duty. Many nights he slept in the buggy while making house calls.
He served on the medical staff of Nan Travis Hospital in Jacksonville, was Chief of Staff of Rusk Memorial Hospital when it opened in 1949 and medical examiner for Woodman of the World.
A large man, known for the red carnation he wore in his lapel and for his great kindness. Butch Chapman Holcomb shared, "I was a sick little girl when my mother took me to Dr. Cobble's office, upstairs over Mosley's Drug Store. When it came time to pay, he told her 'keep that money and buy her a dress for Easter'. I still remember, was so proud of my outfit…"
Nettie Hubbard recalls, "My great aunt, Sally Snow, worked for Dr. Cobble at Rusk Memorial…" Many in Cherokee County carry the middle name of Cobble, in honor of the good Doctor who passed away in 1966 and is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery. (Note: Email if you have Cherokee Co. doctor stories for our historical commission archives firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dr. Cobble continued...
Thanks to everyone who responded to my requests. Your recent emails and phone calls have been filled with more stories of the good doctor as well as information about others who practiced medicine in the early days of Cherokee County.
The first email was from Arizona where Robert M "Bob" McClure receives his Cherokeean Herald. He shared, "read your piece on Dr Cobble. It was of particular interest since I was born in Alto on March 29, 1935. Dr. Cobble was the one who delivered me." Bob also sent a photo, "here's the check that paid for my birth." Question: where do we sign up for that health care plan?
Bob McClure added that his paternal grandfather, Marshall Ewing McClure, was also a doctor in East Texas; graduated from Tulane in 1891 and "used a buggy in the early 1900s but had dropped horse drawn vehicles in favor of automobile transportation by 1920."
Next I talked to J. Frank Brunt by phone; he had vivid memories to share, "I don't think I ever saw Dr. Cobble without a suit, tie and vest. He was a real gentleman…And if you could climb up those stairs to his office above Mosley Drug Store, there wasn't much wrong with you!"
J. Frank continued, "We lived half block from Dr. Cobble in Rusk…when his grandson Tommy came to visit, we'd play-rode horses together. Mrs. Cobble was a gracious lady but she definitely kept an eye on us…didn't want us to get into mischief…"
Tom Henderson, currently of Palestine remembered, "I was the third one born at my grandmother's house on Holcomb Road near Salem. My brother Ray was born in 1932, sister in '34 and me in '37-later my younger sister in '39-all delivered by Dr. Cobble at home. Then he delivered my two younger brothers at Nan Travis Hospital in Jacksonville in 1942 and '44.
Mr. Henderson laughed as he continued, "I went to my doctor earlier today and thought about taking your previous article about Dr. Cobble…wanted to show them what doctors used to do…"
Due to space constraints here, a future column will contain stories my readers have shared about other Cherokee County physicians: Dr. Henry Cobb Barnett, b. 1850 d. 1935 practiced in Lone Star/New Salem area. Dr. P.E. Jones, b.1881 d.1964 practiced in Ponta, New Summerfield. Dr. J. T. Greenwood, b. 1872 d. 1967 practiced Lone Star, Jacksonville and New Summerfield. Dr. Edwin Hendrick, b. 1806 d. 1885 practiced in Jones Chapel, Bulah. Dr. W.E. Gabbert practiced in Rusk and Dr. Isaac Kendrick Frazer. (Note: Keep the Cherokee County doctor stories coming!)