A Blupete Biography Page

Sylvanus Cobb

Sylvanus Cobb was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He first comes into historical focus in 1745. It was at that time, like so many adventurous New Englanders, that he was to raise a company of men1 and to join up with William Pepperrell in the First Siege of Louisbourg. After the capitulation of Louisbourg, Cobb was to stay on as part of its garrison, at least until the early part of 1746.

During the year, 1746, Cobb is seen to be working out of Annapolis Royal under the command of Mascarene. By 1748, Cobb is a master of a sailing vessel and was running despatches between Boston and Annapolis Royal.2; and, it was during 1748 that Cobb was to ferry Charles Morris about when he carried out his surveys of the Fundy. (See one of the resultant maps, Minas.)

With the coming of Cornwallis, in 1749, Cobb is seen to be working out of Halifax. Cobb, being the enterprising man he was, bought or had built (maybe he had partners) an armed sloop, the York; he was to hire her out to the British government of Nova Scotia.3 It was at this time that Cornwallis was to describe Cobb as a man who "knows every Harbour and every creek in the Bay [of Fundy], a man fit for any bold enterprise." From the DCB we further learn that for a decade, 1749-59, "Cobb's vessel was employed in taking troops and supplies" to the various forts which during these years were constructed in Nova Scotia, including: Fort Anne (Annapolis Royal), Fort Edward (Piziquid), and Fort Lawrence4 (near Beaubassin) -- see map.

In 1753, Cobb played a role in The Settlement of Lunenburg, in that he helped in the transportation and initial protection of some 1,500 settlers that had sailed down the coast from Halifax to found the new "English" community.

In 1755, Cobb was to earn himself a bit of money with the opening of a new war with France, The Seven Years War. In April of 1755: Cobb was cruising off Cape Sable and captured and took into tow an illegal trading vessel, the Wolfe, out of Plymouth. The Wolfe was brought into Halifax where it was condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court. From this process he was to receive in excess of £16, a sizable sum in those days. A much larger catch was to be made later in the month. On April 26th, 1755, Cobb, having returned to the Cape Sable area, caught a French vessel out of Louisbourg with war stores likely destined for Chignecto. The French vessel, Marguritte, had been holed and had put into Port LaTour for repairs. Cobb, after going for help (H.M. Vulture, Captain Kensy) captured her and, putting a prize crew aboard, brought the Marguritte into Halifax. Cobb was not happy with the court's disposition and thought that Captain Kensy was cut in for a greater share than he deserved. Each were to receive in excess of 104£.5

Later, in 1755, it would appear Cobb was to be at Chignecto, seeing, likely, that there was an opportunity to swing a deal or two.6 Monckton had arrived there at the first of June with an English force of about 2,500 up from Boston to Attack Fort Beausejour. We see where one of the officers (Jedediah Preble) who was sent out from the English camp at the western end of the isthmus to burn out the French at the eastern end (Bay Verte), was to run across Cobb. Preble was to acquaint his friend, John Winslow, with his impressions:

"Capt. Cobb lives there at the Fountaine head. He had a drove of cattle, a flock of sheep and a herd of swine among which are a swarm of suckling piggs & many old sows pregnant. So that he will be able to furnish the spit with a fine pig every day for six months ... For drink: he has three or four hundred gallons of fine claret of which I took a hardy supply and wish with all my soul you had a cask of it."7
Colonel Robert Monckton, who was in charge of the English army in the area, was not much impressed, however, with Cobb's activities. His men at Fort Gaspereau were becoming sick, and, he blamed Cobb.
"At Gaspereau they have lost several and many ill. ... They attribute it to the [recent] storm & the badness of the water. But by the accounts I have, I am afraid owning to Capt. Cobb, who, I am informed, has been dealing in rum which he got from the French houses besides many other things, some of which I hear he has sent off ..."8
In 1758, Cobb was to again be at Louisbourg during The Second Siege. Wolfe, who generally did not have too many good things to say about the colonials, was much impressed with Cobb's seamanship and bravery. In 1759, Cobb was to stick to Nova Scotia working the southeastern coasts and calling in on Lunenburg and Liverpool. Indeed, he was to settle in Liverpool and had made plans to set up an extensive land base there for himself which would have included wharfs and a store. He did, in fact, build a home there, the frame and parts of which he had brought up from New England.9

Cobb, at only 52 years of age and yet vibrant and looking to serve his king, signed up to assist in an assault upon the Spanish in Cuba (England at this point was at war with Spain as well as France). In June of 1762, a British force laid siege to Havana; and, it eventually fell and proved to be a valuable chip in the negotiations which were soon started up to end the war. Though there are no details, Cobb died during this 1762 expedition against Havana.10


[1] Cobb came to Louisbourg in 1745, likely as one of Gorham's Rangers. (NSHQ#3:4, p. 333.)

[2] DCB.

[3] NSHQ#3:4, p. 333. In addition to the armed sloop, the York, Cobb, in time was to also have the Halifax (80 tons). (DCB.)

[4] It was not far from Fort Lawrence that Cobb was to have built a home for himself, his wife (Lydia Rider) and his daughter (his only child). His daughter was to marry William Freeman, whom I suspect was to settle in Liverpool and was the progenitor of the famous privateering family. (See DesBrisay, History of the County of Lunenburg (1870), p. 28.) Now, since writing this note, I have heard from one of the Cobb family, as follows: "I have a correction for your excellent biography of Sylvanus Cobb, which you have posted ... Capt. Sylvanus Cobb's wife was Elizabeth Rider, not Lydia Rider. Lydia Rider (or Ryder) was his mother, not his wife. My sources are: Crowell, Fred E. "New Englanders in Nova Scotia", a long series of newspaper articles in the Yarmouth Herald published during the 1920s and 1930s, on microfilm in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. Crowell has one entire article on the families of Captains Sylvanus and Jabez Cobb, brothers, who were among the original settlers of Liverpool (the article appeared 8 July 1930) [and] Cobb, Philip L. (1907) "A History of the Cobb Family, Part I", p. 60. Philip Cobb's account is of the Barnstable (Cape Cod) branch of the Cobb family. He knew that Sylvanus was born and married in Plymouth, but did not have any record of his death -- because Sylvanus had moved with his brother and their two families to Liverpool, NS. Some details from Philip Cobb's book: Sylvanus Cobb was born 18 March 1709, married Elizabeth Rider (born 1714, daughter of John and Mary Rider). They had one daughter, Elizabeth, born 1 May 1736. (Crowell gives the daughter's name as Mary. They agree that he had only one child.) Sylvanus and Jabez Cobb's parents were Elisha Cobb (born 3 April 1679 at Plymouth) and Lydia Rider (daughter of Samuel Rider and Lydia Rider, born 11 Oct 1686). Hope this helps!" it sure does, -- Thanks.

[5] See NSHQ#3:4, pp. 334-5; and see, DCB.

[6] In a letter dated at Chignecto on September 24th (NSHS#3, p. 152) addressed to John Winslow who was then at Grand Pre gathering up Acadians for their deportation out of the province, we see where Cobb was to compliment Winslow for "securing so many of the buggers." He hoped that Winslow would corral a couple of pair of bullocks for which, he claimed, he had paid certain Acadians (he had forgotten their names?) and which he had yet to take delivery. Oh, yes! Cobb enclosed a little money for "your mess account."

[7] NSHS#3, p. 151.

[8] Monckton to Winslow, dated at Fort Cumberland, October 7th, 1755; NSHS#3, p. 178.

[9] Cobb's Liverpool home was for many years the oldest home in Liverpool; it, unfortunately, was to burn down during the 1940s.

[10] DCB; NSHQ#3:4, p. 333; DesBrisay, p. 28.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)