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HISTORY MYSTERY: Who was Destin’s Cobb Point named after?

H. C. “Hank” Klein

A 1916 nautical chart of East Pass shows that the landmass we know as Destin is actually Moreno Point. Also, the eastern tip of Santa Rosa Island is known as Norriego Point. You will also notice that Cobb Point is also clearly labeled on this chart.

This is the 1916 nautical chart of East Pass and Moreno Point.

Moreno Point as named after a very prominent man in Pensacola, Francisco Moreno. He was considered the “King of Pensacola” throughout the 1800s. He was Pensacola’s first banker, opened the first hotel in Pensacola, and bought and sold real estate, including part of what is today the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Norriego Point as named after Jose Noriega, who was also a prominent man in Pensacola in the early 1800s. Jose Noriega was on the Florida Territorial Council and was an Alderman in Pensacola from 1825 to 1827. You will notice in the 1916 map that Norriego Point was at the eastern end of Santa Rosa Island. Today Norriego Point is no longer the easternmost tip of Santa Rosa Island, but is the westernmost tip of Holiday Isle. The point hasn’t moved, but the new East Pass that was cut through Norriego Point in 1929 changed Santa Rosa Island over the years, but that is another story.

I have never written a History Mystery about Cobb Point, but a reader of The Destin Log and resident of Cobb Point recently asked me how his subdivision got its name. He also wanted to know who the one street in that subdivision, Bambi Drive, is named after. Our History Mystery this month will answer this reader’s questions.

Hank Klein

A year ago, Oct. 30, 2019, The Destin Log had a History Mystery column about New Englanders who started the fishing industry on the Gulf Coast. One of those New Englanders was a man named Sewell C. Cobb. I did not realize at the time that his tie to Destin was greater than the fish house he owned in Pensacola. A point of land at Destin was named after him in the early 1900s.

Sewell C. Cobb was born in Warren, Knox County, Maine in 1828. He and his wife lived in Boston, Massachusetts and he worked as a ship’s carpenter at the Charlestown Naval Shipyard. Sewell and his wife spent their winters in Pensacola before the Civil War. When winter came to New England, he would cut ice and pack it into his vessel’s hold. He would then sail to Pensacola and sell some of the ice and pack fish that he purchased from local fishermen, like Leonard Destin, into his vessel. He would then sail homeward. Along the way, he would stop at Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, and sell the fish. Then he would return to his home in Boston.

In 1869, Sewell Cobb moved to Pensacola permanently and founded the Pensacola Fish Company, which was the first fish company in Pensacola. Within 30 years his firm operated 30 fishing vessels out of Pensacola in the Gulf and employed nearly 800 men. He shipped fish to northern markets, mostly by rail.

Cobb was not only a businessman in Pensacola; he also involved himself in politics. He was at one point the vice president of the Pensacola Electric Light and Power Company and vice president of the local chamber of commerce. He also was elected mayor of Pensacola and served on the state legislature.

In 1902, Captain Cobb left his home in Pensacola on Easter morning for a pleasure and fishing trip on one of his many vessels, the schooner Weiskittle. The vessel had just left Tampa and was heading back to Pensacola. The schooner Weiskittle was 90 miles off Egmont Key when his death occurred. Captain Cobb came on deck about 4 a.m. on Monday, April 7, 1902, and spoke to the crew in his usual jolly way and stated that “he never felt better in his life and wished the cook would hurry with the coffee.” He then went down to his cabin and fell into an everlasting sleep. The crew stated that he was sitting up in his cabin when he died. His death is supposed to have been caused by apoplexy.

He is laid to rest in the Newton Cemetery in Newton, Massachusetts, near where his daughter lived. That point of land in Destin named Cobb Point was named after Captain Sewell C. Cobb, a prominent business and political leader in Pensacola.

The 30-acre point of land that is considered Cobb Point was first sold on Aug. 19, 1937, for $400. In 1974 when the first owner died those 30 acres were sold for $140,000 to Doodle Harris. Doodle Harris was well known in Okaloosa and Walton counties for developing raw land into planned subdivisions. Doodle Harris divided the 30 acres at Cobb Point into 23 one-acre plus lots. Today Cobb Point is a private gated community.

But what about Bambi Drive, that one street that starts where Bayou Drive ends and connects all of the lots developed at Cobb Point by Doodle Harris? Bambi Harris is Doodle Harris’ oldest daughter. That’s right, Doodle Harris named that street after his daughter, Bambi. Mystery solved.

H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian, author, and speaker on local history. He visits often and lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife (the former Muriel Marler of Destin). Klein recently published two Destin history books — DESTIN’S Founding Father ... The Untold Story of Leonard Destin and DESTIN Pioneer Settlers ... A Land History of Destin, Florida from 1819-1940. Both can be obtained from Amazon.com, The Destin History & Fishing Museum in Destin, Henderson Beach Resort in Destin, The Indian Temple Mound in Fort Walton Beach, and Sundog Books in Seaside.  Klein can be contacted directly at klein@aristotle.net.