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
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
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
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.