William Cogswell by Rev. E. O. Jameson

William Cogswell, the oldest of the four Cogswell brothers whose distinguished lives are briefly sketched in this volume, was born June 5, 1787, in Atkinson, N. H. His ancestors were among the earliest settlers of Massachusetts, and persons of quality, piety, and distinction.

His descent is from John Cogswell, who settled in Ipswich, Mass., in 1635, and Giles Badger, who settled in Newbury, Mass., the same year.

His parents were Dr. William and Judith (Badger) Cogswell, of Atkinson.

His grandparents were Nathaniel and Judith (Badger) Cogswell, of Haverhill, Mass., and Gen. Joseph and Hannah (Pearson) Badger, of Gilmanton.

His grandfather, Nathaniel Cogswell, was the son of Lieut. John and Hannah (Goodhue) Cogswell, of Chebacco Parish, Ipswich, Mass. Lieut. John Cogswell was the son of William and Susannah Cogswell of the same place, and William Cogswell was the son of John and Elizabeth (Thompson) Cogswell, who emigrated from Westbury, Wilts county, England, in 1635, and settled in Ipswich, Mass.

His grandfather, Gen. Joseph Badger, was the son of Joseph and Hannah (Peaslee) Badger, of Haverhill, Mass. Joseph Badger was the son of John, Jr., and Rebecca (Browne) Badger, of Newbury, Mass. John Badger, Jr., was the son of John and Elizabeth Badger of the same place; and John Badger was the only son of Giles and Elizabeth (Greenleaf) Badger, immigrants to Newbury, Mass., in 1635.

It may be said of his ancestry, in general, that they were a religious, intelligent, liberty-loving, and an enterprising people. By reason of ability, integrity, piety, and attainments, many of them have been called to positions of municipal, military, political, and ecclesiastical duty and eminence, and have excelled in the learned professions, in the halls of legislature, on the field of battle, and in the Christian pulpit.

From such choice Puritan stock, having in his veins the blood of the Thompsons, the Greenleafs, the Brownes, the Goodhues, the Peaslees, and the Pearsons, as well as of the Cogswells and the Badgers, it is not strange that he and his no less eminent brothers should be found among the distinguished men whose portraits adorn and whose biographies fill the pages of this volume.

William Cogswell was born only a few years after the victory of our great struggle for national existence and independence. His rural home was far up the side of one of New Hampshire's grand old hills, sloping southward and crowned with a New England meeting-house. He was born where he could breathe to heart's content the pure air of heaven, look off upon scenery of landscape wide, varied, and grand. His early life was beneath the shadow of the best religious and educational institutions, which his father had been the prime mover in establishing. In full sight of his early boyhoood's home was the academy which said to country boys of those days. The door is open to you here to enter a college course and find your way into the learned professions. The lad heard the invitation, seized the opportunity, and eagerly pursued his preparatory studies at Atkinson Academy, then under the charge of John Vose, Esq. He entered the sophomore class of Dartmouth College in 1808, maintained a high rank of scholarship during his course, and was honorably graduated in the class of 1811.

Before entering college, William Cogswell received deep and abiding religious impressions which ripened into a personal religious experience, and during the vacation of his junior year, September 23, 1810, he made a public confession of faith and united with the Congregational church of his native town. After graduation from college he taught in the academy of his own town, in Essex, Mass., and was one year principal of the Hampton Academy. While teaching in Essex, Mass., he had, for a pupil in the classics, a lad some ten years of age, whose name was Rufus Choate. This Rufus Choate was heard of in later years.

Meanwhile, occupied with teaching, Mr. Cogswell pursued somewhat his theological studies, having his eye on the Christian ministry. At the end of two years, he found that his labors in school and studies out of school had told seriously upon his health. Acting upon the advice of his physician and of his minister, he procured a good saddle-horse and a license to preach the gospel in destitute parts, and galloped off toward the northern wilderness of his native state, in eager pursuit of health and men's souls. In both these objects he was successful. He regained his health, and under his earnest presentation of the gospel a large number of persons were hopefully converted to Christ, and Christian institutions planted in the then spiritual wastes, which have since blossomed as the rose and borne fruit to the glory of God. Upon his return, Mr. Cogswell completed his professional studies under the instruction of Rev. Daniel Dana, D. D., of Newburyport, and Rev. Samuel Worcester, D. D., of Salem, Mass. After preaching a few Sabbaths, he received a unanimous call to become the pastor of the South church in Dedham (now Norwood), Mass., which he accepted, and was ordained and installed over that church, April 26, 1815.

At this time, Mr. Cogswell was twenty-seven years of age, a man of fine personal bearing and manners; his warm christian spirit and deep religious experience spoke in the very lineaments and expression of his open, intelligent, and winning countenance. His qualities of mind were the best, his education thorough, his grasp of truth vigorous, his views scriptural and discriminating, and his faith in God and Revelation implicit.

His ministry in South Dedham lasted fourteen years, and was of unmeasured benefit to that church, at once stimulating to its religious life, educating to its members in scriptural doctrine, and successful in bringing men to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

Mr. Cogswell was a preacher whose clear-cut statements, whose logical order, conclusiveness of argument, and persuasiveness of appeal made him a power in the Christian pulpit. Quite a number of his sermons were requested for publication by his congregation; and in those days when the printing of a sermon meant that it was something of rare merit. He had been settled in South Dedham some three years, when he married, Nov. 11, 1818, Miss Joanna Strong, the youngest daughter of the then late Rev. Jonathan Strong, D. D., of Randolph, Mass.

In 1829, being urgently called to important services in connection with the American Education Society, to the regret of his people and with personal reluctance, he resigned his pastorate to enter upon these new duties; and, accordingly, was dismissed December 15, 1829, and removed to Boston, where he resided for some years. So important were his labors and so successful in this new field of effort, that January 25, 1832, he was chosen, with great enthusiasm, to succeed Dr. Cornelius to the secretaryship of the society, which office he filled with fidelity and acceptance until he resigned in 1841 to accept a professorship in Dartmouth College. In 1833, Mr. Cogswell received from Williams College the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and in 1837 was chosen one of the trustees of Andover Theological Seminary. He removed to Hanover, N. H., and entered upon his duties as professor of National Education and History in Dartmouth College. This position he resigned in 1844 to accept the presidency and professorship of Christian Theology in the Gilmanton Theological Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Cogswell for many years had been engaged in editorial work, and was much interested in historical and genealogical researches. In 1846 he retired from his connection with the seminary, about to be discontinued, and gave himself exclusively to literary pursuits, except that he usually preached on the Sabbath. In the few remaining years of his life he performed a vast amount of literary labor, and became known very widely, and was honored with a membership in nearly all the historical societies in this country and in Europe.

Rev. Dr. Cogswell published several works, viz.: a Catechism on the Doctrines and Duties of Religion; a Manual of Theology and Devotions; the Theological Class Book; the Christian Philanthropist; and Letters to Young Men Preparing for the Christian Ministry. All these works passed through several editions. His published editorial works were: Four vols. of the American Quarterly Register, 1837-1841; New Hampshire Repository, 2 vols.; the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. I.; New Hampshire Historical Collections, vol. VI. He published, also, various miscellaneous writings.

Rev. Dr. William and Joanna (Strong) Cogswell had four children.

The eldest, a daughter, died in infancy.

William Strong Cogswell was born in South Dedham, April 11, 1828, and died April 6, 1848, at the age of twenty years. He was a young man of rare ability and brilliant promise. At the time of his death he was a member of the senior class in Dartmouth College.

Mary Joanna Cogswell was born June 6, 1832, in Boston, Mass. She graduated at Gilmanton Academy in 1851; married, September 20, 1858, Rev. E. O. Jameson, who is now (1882) pastor of the First Church of Christ, in Medway, Mass.

Caroline Strong Cogswell, the youngest child of Rev. Dr. Cogswell, was born June 3, 1840, in Boston, Mass. She was educated at Gilmanton Academy and Holyoke Female Seminary, and has been a successful teacher in the public schools.

Rev. Dr. Cogswell, at length, under the taxing pressure of a busy editorial service, and crushed by the great loss of his only and very promising son, found his health giving way, his usual vigor forsaking him, and it became only too evident that the end of his earthly life was approaching. He continued, however to accomplish more or less literary work, even up to the last few days before his death, which occurred April 18, 1850. The funeral service was on the following Sabbath, conducted by Rev. Daniel Lancaster, who preached a memorial discourse which was subsequently published.

Rev. Dr. Cogswell's life was eminently busy, laborious, self-sacrificing, and honored. His earthly work was faithfully and nobly done; his death triumphant, and heavenly reward sure.