Thomas Cogswell

The town of Gilmanton has always been distinguished for its strong and able men, who have exercised a powerful influence in the affairs of their town and state. It has furnished men to fill nearly every position of trust and honor within the gift of the people of our state, and it has ever been proud of her illustrious sons. Among the very strong men of this old town stood Hon. Thomas Cogswell, who in the year 1820, at the age of twenty-one, moved hither from Atkinson, N. H., where he was born December 7, 1798. He was one of a family of nine children of William and Judith (Badger) Cogswell, eight of whom lived to years of maturity. He settled on the farm formerly occupied by his grandfather, the Hon. Joseph Badger, and with strong hands and indomitable courage commenced gaining a livelihood for himself and young wife, Mary Noyes, whom he married just prior to moving here. He soon attracted the attention of the older settlers, and in a short time became one of the leading men in the town; and ever afterwards took an active part in all its local affairs, and for the whole period of his life was honored and respected by his neighbors and townsmen, and received at their hands every office within their gift.

There is no position that more truly shows the strength and power of a man than that of moderator of a New Hampshire town-meeting; but for many successive years he was chosen to preside over the deliberations of the annual and other meetings in this, then, large town, and always did so with great dignity, and to the perfect satisfaction of all. He was also chosen one of the board of selectmen, and represented the town in the legislature, and while a member of that body introduced and supported a bill to repeal the law authorizing imprisonment for debt. For ten years he was a deputy-sheriff for the county of Strafford, before its division, and during all this time was actively engaged in the duties of the office. He was also treasurer of the county for three years. In 1841 he was appointed one of the judges of the court of common pleas for the new county of Belknap, and held that position until the year 1855, when the judiciary system of the state was changed. In 1856 he was elected a member of the governor's council from district number three. He was a justice of the peace and quorum for over forty years. He was an officer in the New Hampshire militia, and attained the rank of captain. He was of Revolutionary stock, his father and seven uncles having served in that war, and performed, in the aggregate, thirty-eight years of service.

For seven years in succession he taught the winter term of school in his district, at the same time performing all the work incident to his farm, and during his whole life was interested in and a promoter of education. Gilmanton Academy, an institution established by the efforts of his grandfather, Gen. Joseph Badger, and his uncle, the Hon. Thomas Cogswell, with the assistance of many other strong and good men, early received his aid and co-operation, and he was one of its board of trustees up to within a few years of his death. In early life he became a member of the Congregational church at Gilmanton Iron-Works, and was deacon of the same for many years; and always gave freely of his means for the advancement of the cause of the Christian religion.

Notwithstanding the many and various duties imposed on Mr. Cogswell by his almost continuous service in some public position, he was a large and successful farmer, and by his own exertions added year by year to his original farm, so that at his death he owned in one tract nearly one thousand acres of valuable land. He was a great lover of the soil and was always interested in the cause of agriculture, and was in every respect a well informed and successful farmer.

He possessed, to an uncommon degree, strong natural powers of mind, and was capable of grasping difficult questions and giving a good legal opinion. His mind was essentially judicial, and, had he devoted himself to the study and practice of law, would undoubtedly have been a leading mind in that profession. For many years he was consulted by his neighbors and townsmen upon the troubles that frequently arose between them, and to his credit, by his clear and practical judgment, saved, frequently, long and expensive litigation. He was true to every trust committed to him, and was scrupulously honest and exact in all his dealings.

In politics, Thomas Cogswell was a Democrat to the end of his life. During the war of the rebellion, he was a strong supporter of the government, and a friend and well-wisher of every soldier in the field. He saw clearly and plain that his duty as an American citizen was to render all the aid in his power to help carry on and bring to a successful close the terrible struggle then going on. He was a lover of his country and delighted in its free institutions; and, although strong in his political faith, was not a partisan.

Mr. Cogswell was noted for his energy and force of character; and, when he had once made up his mind as to a certain course to pursue, he never changed it until he was thoroughly satisfied that he was wrong. He was a natural leader among men, and possessed the characteristics of a great general. He was a ready and fluent public speaker, and few men could better entertain an audience. He excelled in strong common sense, and could state exactly his position on any subject that interested him. He was always well informed, particularly on the history of his country and its many political changes. He was of commanding appearance, and was a noticeable person in any assembly. He was of an affectionate disposition, and sympathized with the afflictions of others. He died August 8, 1868, and was buried in the old historic burying-ground in Gilmanton near the dust of his illustrious ancestors; and in his death the town lost a wise counselor, the poor a generous friend, and the community at large an honest and upright man.

There are four children now living,—Mary C. Burgess, wife of the late Dr. Burgess, now living in Boston, Mass.; Martha B. Batchelder, wife of the late Dr. Batchelder, also residing in Boston; James W. Cogswell, sheriff of Belknap county; and Thomas Cogswell, a lawyer, residing on the old homestead at Gilmanton.