Virginia Lobbans narrative

Excerpt from Malcolm Lobban’s book, The Scottish Surname LOBBAN (2008).

Chapter Nine

Lobbans in USA

To begin this chapter, I resort to information gleaned from an America family history (The Garth Family: Descendants of John Garth of Virginia, 1734-1986) written by Rosalie E.R. Davis, and printed by Thomson-Shore, Inc., Dexter, Michigan.

In spite of the surname Garth, this family has a strong Lobban connection reaching back to Aberdeenshire. The story relates to one John Lobban (b.1734) who, at the age of twelve, is said to have run away from his home somewhere in Longside parish in that county. We are told his decision to flee arose from bad feelings between him and his stepmother.

He seems to have made his way to a seaport (possibly nearby Peterhead) where he was allegedly kidnapped, and later sold as an indentured servant (slave ?) to a Scot of the surname Harvey, thus:

[Sic] “…in the Northern Neck of Virginia, whence he removed to Culpeper before young Lobban’s term of service expired.”

The circumstances of John Lobban’s abduction are extremely vague, and while it is known that many unattached young men often found themselves shanghaied by ships’ captains, there are other probabilities that might equally be considered.

John would be twelve years of age in 1746, and this was a very troubled period, following the fateful Jacobite conflict at Culloden. During that year, the northern parishes of Scotland were at the receiving end of harsh treatment from a vengeful Honoverian government, with the Duke of Cumberland’s troops scouring much of the countryside in search of Jacobite fugitives. Now it is known that Aberdeenshire held a great number of landowning families (the Gordons, for instance) who either openly supported the old Stuart monarchy or were at least sympathetic to the cause.

Those ‘rebels’ captured and not killed on the spot, were jailed and later transported to one or other of the colonies, including Virginia. It should therefore be feasible that our young hero could have fallen foul of such an intrigue? However, it should also be remembered that Scots from the poorer classes, seeking passage to America, sometimes entered willingly into contracts of servitude with a wealthier sponsors.

Whatever the reason, it appears that John Lobban was in Albermarle County, Virginia, in August 1759, at which time he witnessed a deed concerning land. In February 1764, he married Mary Ann Garth, and by 1780 the couple had settled in the adjoining county of Amherst. Here, he is on record as having served 61 days (15 June to 7 September) as a private in the 4th Regiment, Amherst County Militia. This type of military conscription seems to have been obligatory at that time in the American colonies.

In the 1782 census, twelve white people and two Negro slaves lived in John Lobban’s home. No names are given, but it is assumed this referred to John, his wife and ten children: the two slaves appear to have been under sixteen years of age.

In 1784, John Lobban bought 99 acres of land in Amherst County for the princely sum of £10, located at Rockfish Creek, near Pilate Mountain (which later became part of Nelson County, due to boundary changes).

His wife, Mary Ann, died in January 1785, and the census of that year shows John Lobban plus eleven white souls living in his home; which tends to prove that he had ten children. Other references in the Garth family history relate to buying and selling Negro slaves. Names mentioned are Daniel (sold for £66); Sukey, a girl (sold for £11.5s); and Gilbert, a boy (sold for £27.5s).

Part of the Garth family history was written down in 1900 by an unnamed member aged sixteen years. Although taken from oral tradition, it contains names of John and Mary Ann Lobban’s children, namely: Peggy, Nancy, Betsy and Jesse (twins), Bill, Mary, Patsy, John and James (not in order of birth): a daughter, Sarah, is not mentioned here. This, then, accounts for the ten children noted in the aforementioned census records, although their respective birth dates are not given.

Following the death of his wife, John Lobban took for his second spouse Elizabeth Copeland, and their marriage took place in June 1789 in Albemarle County, Virginia. From this union came, at least, another six children, namely: Mildred (b.c.1794, died 1860, Nelson Co., unmarried); Susanna S. (b.c.1794, alive in 1870, unmarried); Alexander H. (b.c.1798, alive in 1878, unmarried); Rhoda J. (b.c.1802, alive in 1870, unmarried); Mary Jane (b.? dead by 1850); Lucinda (married 1824 to Robert C.Henderson, with issue). There may have been one other daughter who died before reaching adulthood. It is told that the sisters Rhoda and Susanna failed to give their correct age to the census recorder! So, what else is new, where ladies are concerned?

From the available information, it would appear that John Lobban was a hardy specimen and a good provider for his numerous children. He did, however, get into debt on a few occasions, but nevertheless lived to a ripe old age.

In 1815, he wrote his will, in which he left each of his sons and sons-in-law, the sum of $1.00. After the death of his second wife, Elizabeth, their children stood to inherit equally the bulk of his estate. John Lobban died in July 1822, and the will was proved on the 22 August that same year.

John Lobban Jnr. (b.c. 1765, d. 1844) of Nelson County, Virginia, appears as the first son in his father’s will. He was around 45 years of age at the time of the 1819 census. He lived in Amherst County until 1808, then removed to Albemarle County.

Like his father, he married twice. In December 1792, he married Jean McKnight, by whom he had at least four children. However, Jean died some time prior to the 1810 census. John’s second wife was Hannah Wallace (m. Albemarle Co., 1811), by whom he may have had a daughter who died young.

The descendants of old John Lobban soon expanded across Virginia and into other areas of the United States, and possibly Canada. To keep track of the various generations, as laid out in The Garth Family, is quite difficult. To this end, I have prepared basic lineage charts (see end of chapter) which might serve as a better guide around the collateral branches of the clan. Meanwhile, one or two of John Lobban’s descendants are worthy of special mention.

* * * *

Captain John Gilmer Lobban (b. 1834, Nelson Co., Virginia) was a great-grandson of the original John. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, he raised an infantry company from his own county, in which he served as captain in the Confederate army of North Virginia, finally being captured at the battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864.

Shortly after the war, he settled in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, and spent much of his life as a travelling salesman. He married Sallie Ann Alderson, by whom he had eight children (three died in childhood). Although raised as a staunch Presbyterian, he became a Baptist when he and his wife were baptised in the Greenbrier River. His interest in public affairs brought him to the State Senate, where he served from 1880 to 1884 as a Democrat.

Captain John’s surviving children were Floyd Gilmer (b.1869); Clara (b.1872); Lena (1875-1908, m. John W. Ensign); John Newman (1877-1953); and Carrington Lee (1887-1951). He died on 21 July 1909, aged 75 years. His obituary in The Greenbrier Baptist (vol.9, August 1909) says of him:

[Sic] “He was a man of distinguished appearance, erect and graceful in carriage, and dignified in bearing. He was faultless in integrity, and his high sense of honour won the confidence of all who knew him.”

Errett Lobban Cord (1894-1974) was a g-g-g-grandson of old John Lobban and Mary Ann Garth. His mother was Ida Lewis Lobban (1864-1955) who was born in Warrenburg, Johnson County, Missouri, and who married Charles W. Cord. Young Errett was something of a ‘go-getter’ in the truest sense; full of drive and initiative.

In early life he became involved in the automobile industry, first as a salesman then mechanic. In 1924, he took over the, by then faltering, Auburn Automobile factory in Indiana, and by sheer determination and aggressive business acumen he turned it into one of the leading car companies in America. His Auburn, Cord and Duesenburg models sold well during the 1920s and early ’30s. At one time the company was selling more cars than Packard, Cadillac, LaSelle and DeSoto. Diversity seemed to be the keyword under Errett L. Cord’s manufacturing strategy. Moreover, the company was one of the few that seemed to weather the effects of the early Depression years.

The Cord Corporation became a holding company with sixty separate subsidiaries, including Century Airlines, Stinson Aircraft Corporation, Lycoming Manufacturing Company and many other businesses connected to automobiles, aviation, taxi-cab and shipbuilding interests. Needless to say Errett became a multi-millionaire.

Cord sold his empire in 1937, eventually moving to Nevada where he developed a second career in broadcasting ownership, real estate, ranching, mining and politics. He married Helen Frische (d 1930) by whom he had two sons. His second wife was Virginia Tharpe, by who he had three daughters. During the 1950s he was a Democrat senator for the State of Nevada, where he lived on his ranch until his death in 1974.

Floyd Gilmer Lobban (1869-1937) represents another branch of the family which I think deserves special mention. Floyd, a son of the aforementioned Captain John Gilmer Lobban, was a graduate of the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. He set up a funeral business in Alderson West Virginia, where he was also the town mayor at one time. He married Isabella Taylor Lewis (a descendant of Francis Lewis, one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence), by whom he had four sons.

Floyd’s third son, Charles Lewis Lobban (1907-1972) continued the family business, having also trained as a mortician. He married (1931) Vivian Nutter and they had three daughters and a son, Charles Lewis Lobban Jnr. (b. 1940), who succeeded his father in the funeral business. As far as I am aware, the ‘Lobban Funeral Home’ still functions in Alderson.

Old John Lobban, the runaway lad from Aberdeenshire, certainly left his mark in the USA. Most of his descendants flourished, becoming people of note in their respective communities. And it seems, even today, the generations continue to expand outwards from West Virginia, across the wide expanse of that great country. Long may the American Lobbans prosper ~ who knows, we may yet see a Lobban in the White House some day.

The following genealogy charts concerning old John Lobban’s many descendants are based solely on the information provided in the Garth family history, to which I respectfully acknowledge grateful appreciation to the author, Rosalie Edith Rogers Davis, and other members of the Lobban family who obviously contributed to the work.


Copyright 2008: Malcolm Lobban. Posted 27 Feb. 2020.