William Cobb brought his family from North Carolina and built his two-story log structure 1770-1772. During the Revolution, Cobb helped to supply the Overmountain men with gunpowder, horses, blankets and food on their way to the Battle of King's Mountain. He and two of his sons joined the march to North Carolina where the American Forces won a great victory.
In 1790 the land that Cobb had settled became known as the Southwest Territory. The Territory was formed from land that was originally a westward extension of North Carolina. The people of the area wanted to split away and become independent. They attempted to form their own state, called it the State of Franklin, for Benjamin Franklin, and elected John Sevier Governor of the state. The Lost State of Franklin was never recognized by the Federal government and was dissolved. Cobb mostly kept himself above local politics, which seemed to make his home an ideal spot to house the Governor of the Southwest Territory William Blount. Blount was appointed governor by George Washington and lived with the Cobb family from 1790 until 1792, making Rocky Mount the first Territorial Capital of the Southwest Territory, which became the State of Tennessee in 1796.
William Cobb and his wife, Barsheba, moved to what is now Knoxville in 1795. (At that time it was the Grainger County Area.) They left Rocky Mount to their daughter, Penelope, who had married Hal Massengill. Rocky Mount stayed in the family, passed down through the generations until 1958.
The log house has been modernized at several times. The logs were covered with clapboard siding, and the roof was tinned over the original shingles. However, there was still no indoor plumbing and the original structure was mostly intact beneath the exterior changes.
Pauline DeFriece, cousin of the owner of Rocky Mount, John Massengill, believed that the building should be preserved by the state and be opened to the public as a shrine to the memory of the early settlers of the region. She set in motion the chain of events that lead to the purchase of Rocky Mount by the state of Tennessee. She also established the Rocky Mount Historical Association, the organization that maintains and operates the site to this day.
Rocky Mount opened to the public with few visitor services on April 1, 1962. A small Visitor Center was built with space for a receptionist, 5000 square feet of gallery space and a caretakers apartment was added in the mid 1960s. A separate home for a caretaker was built in 1975 and the visitor center expanded to include a museum store in 1979. In 1990 a 175 seat auditorium with video output, library, and 5 classrooms were added.
The historic site was also expanded to include a kitchen, springhouse and slave cabin, barn, orchard and gardens in an effort to enhance the living history atmosphere of the Cobb farm.
Visitors with connections to the Cobb or the Massengill/Masengale families might wish to browse in our museum library. Staff will also be happy to provide leads on genealogical research and publications that pertain to these families. Our museum library is open to the public during regular business hours for anyone interested in the history of our region.