George Cogswell by John Crowell, M. D.
George Cogswell was born in the town of Atkinson, N. H., February 5,
1808. He came from that sturdy stock of ancestors whose history is so
closely interwoven with the early life and enterprise of New England. In
1635, John Cogswell, a prosperous Englishman of good estate and
standing, established a settlement in the town of Ipswich, now Essex,
Mass., on a grant of three hundred acres of land, which have remained in
the Cogswell name, in regular line, to the present time. His maternal
ancestor was Giles Badger, who settled in Newbury, Mass., the same year.
These families have been closely allied by marriage, and their
descendants have been prominent in church and state, in medicine and in
The father of the subject of this sketch, Dr. William Cogswell, was a
medical practitioner of wide reputation, noted for his executive and
judicial abilities. He was appointed chief surgeon of the military
hospital at West Point during the Revolutionary war, closing his service
in 1785, when he settled in Atkinson, N. H., practicing his profession
until the close of his life, January 1, 1831. His mother was Judith
Badger, daughter of Gen. Joseph Badger, Sen., of Gilmanton, N. H. She
was a woman of great force of character, of devout piety and strong
faith. When in her ninety-fourth year, after her earthly vision had
become dim, the name of Jesus would light her face with a radiant glow
of loving recognition. This devout woman united with the church in
Atkinson in 1810, on which interesting occasion her husband and their
three oldest children joined her in the act of consecration; and on the
same day their six younger children were baptized by the pastor, Rev.
Stephen Peabody. The youngest of these nine children died in infancy.
All of the remaining eight became professors of religion, and lived to a
good old age, in the enjoyment of the honors and dignities of the high
official trusts committed to them. Of this large family, the subject of
this sketch alone survives (1882), vigorous in his threescore years and
ten, and actively engaged in the discharge of the duties of his several
Dr. George Cogswell received his preliminary education at Atkinson
Academy, where his love for scientific investigation soon became
manifest. He commenced the study of medicine with his father, whose wise
instruction and safe counsel did much to shape the future career of the
aspiring student. In his desire for a wider culture in the line of his
chosen profession, he became a private student to Reuben D. Mussey. M.
D., L.L. D., and for two years enjoyed the instruction of this
distinguished lecturer on anatomy and surgery. Early in 1830, he became
a pupil of John D. Fisher, M. D., of Boston, who, at that time, was the
most noted auscultator in New England. Dr. Fisher showed his confidence
in his ambitious student by giving him the main practical charge of the
House of Industry, at that time located in South Boston. The grateful
pupil held the most intimate relations with his distinguished teachers
during their lives.
In 1830 he was graduated Doctor of Medicine from Dartmouth College, with
the honors of his class, and the same college conferred upon him the
honorary degree of Master of Arts in 1865.
Dr. Cogswell at once commenced the practice of his profession in
Bradford, Mass., in August, 1830, and soon entered into a large and
successful business. He brought to his work the discipline of hard and
intelligent study, and his great desire was to advance the standard of
medical practice in Essex county. He was the first physician in "Essex
North" who made intelligent use of auscultation and percussion in the
diagnosis of disease.
In his desire for a wider knowledge in the range of his profession,
especially in the line of surgery, he visited Europe in the fall of
1841, spending the succeeding winter in visiting the hospitals of Paris,
and in attending the lectures of the distinguished men who at that time
had attained a position in medical science surpassing, in point of
investigation and practical analysis, that of any other city. In the
following spring he visited the principal cities of Italy, and for a
while studied in the hospitals of London. On his return to Bradford he
at once resumed the practice of his profession. He boldly and
successfully attempted capital operations in surgery, and became the
leading surgical operator and consulting physician for a large circuit.
He fitted up a well appointed dissecting-room, and the advantages of his
instruction were sought by many students, who can attest to the
thoroughness of his teaching, especially in the department of surgical
anatomy. His knowledge of technical anatomy was quite remarkable, and
sometimes his students would contrive a plot to "stump" the "old doctor"
by an intricate quizzing upon some obscure nerve or vessel. The attempt
always proved futile; but the cunning students did not enjoy the fire of
questions that followed from their teacher, who all too easily perceived
the "soft impeachment." The term "old doctor" was applied by the
students before their preceptor was thirty years old. In 1844, Dr.
Cogswell was offered a professorship in the medical department of one of
the leading colleges of New England, which he declined.
He early manifested his interest in the elevation of the standard of
medical practice, by suggesting to his professional brethren the
importance of a local organization, and through his efforts the Essex
North Medical Association was formed, composed of the leading physicians
in the northern portion of the county. This society has had a vigorous
growth, and is now merged into the Massachusetts Medical Society, under
the title of the "Essex North District Medical Society." Although
retired from active practice, he retains his membership in this society,
and regularly attends the quarterly meetings, participating in the
scientific and practical discussions, and manifesting a lively interest
in the success of the younger members.
Dr. Cogswell has been called upon to fill many positions of
responsibility and trust; and since he retired from the active duties of
professional life his whole time has been absorbed in the transaction of
business of a public and private nature. He was elected president of the
Union Bank in Haverhill, Mass., at its organization, in 1849, and was
elected to the same office when that institution became the First
National Bank, in 1864, which position he still retains. For many years
he has been vice-president of the Haverhill Savings Bank, and was for a
time a successful railroad president.
He was an active member of the Chapman-Hall meeting in Boston, which
organized the Republican party in Massachusetts, with which party he has
ever been in full accord. In 1852 he was a member of the electoral
college of Massachusetts, which gave the vote of the state for Gen.
Winfield Scott; and also a member of the college of 1864, which gave the
vote of the state for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. He was a delegate from the
sixth district of Massachusetts to the Chicago convention which
nominated Abraham Lincoln for president in 1860. In 1858 and 1859, he
was a member of the executive council of Massachusetts, with Nathaniel
P. Banks as governor. In 1862 he was appointed, by President Lincoln,
collector of internal revenue for the sixth district of Massachusetts.
After holding this office for four years, he was removed by President
Johnson, without cause; but was again appointed to the same office by
President Grant, in 1870, which position he held until 1875, when this
district was consolidated with two other districts. This was one of the
largest and most important paying districts in the country, and under
the administration of Dr. Cogswell its affairs were conducted with
marked efficiency, and with absolute correctness.
Dr. Cogswell has always taken a deep interest in educational matters,
and he has given some of his best service to the management of important
schools. He has been, for a long time, a trustee of Atkinson Academy,
and is also a trustee of the Peabody Academy of Science, in Salem, Mass.
But the crowning work of his life in the department of education has
been in connection with Bradford Academy. For nearly fifty years he has
been a trustee of this famous school, and during most of this time has
had the entire management of its financial affairs. His efficiency in
this work is best illustrated by the success of the school in all its
departments. The splendid appointments of this academy for the higher
education of young ladies, the ample grounds, the perfection of the
school edifice, the excellence of the teachers, and the scope of its
curriculum, give it a prominence and a power not excelled by any similar
institution in the land. It may be safely estimated that Dr. Cogswell,
by his long connection with this, the oldest school for young ladies in
the country, has had a wider personal experience in matters of internal
management, in consultation with teachers, and in advising with
reference to pupils, than any man connected with an institution of this
character; and he has the pleasure, with his associate trustees, of
seeing this school, by the generosity and interest of its many friends,
placed upon an enduring foundation. He was elected, in 1869, a member of
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is also a
member of the New England Historic-Genealogical Society.
In the great reforms that have occurred during the last half-century,
Dr. Cogswell has given his influence by judicious advice and consistent
example. He commenced active life with the temperance movement, and by
precept and example has ever advanced the cause. He was also an ardent
supporter of the anti-slavery movement from the beginning of that great
Dr. Cogswell is evangelical in his religious convictions, and has never
departed from the traditions of his ancestors. In 1831 he became, by
profession, a member of the First Parish Congregational church in
Bradford, and has always been identified with its growth and prosperity.
In 1860 he assisted in forming the "Haverhill Monday Evening Club," a
private organization limited to twenty-five members. This club is
composed of gentlemen of literary tastes, residing in Haverhill and
Bradford, and the meetings afford delightful recreation in the
discussion of literary, scientific, and social topics. This is one of
the oldest and most successful clubs in Massachusetts, and its unique
character has suggested similar organizations in many neighboring
In 1831 he married Abigail Parker, daughter of Peter Parker, Esq., of
East Bradford, now Groveland. Her ancestors were noted for intellectual
ability and force of character. She was born September 6, 1808, and died
July 23, 1845. The children of this marriage are as follows:—
Abby Parker, born September 25, 1832; graduated at Bradford Academy;
married Hon. George F. Choate, judge of probate and insolvency of the
county of Essex, Mass., October 20, 1869.
George Badger, born September 15, 1834; fitted for college under the
tuition of Benjamin Greenleaf, and at Gilmanton Academy; entered
Dartmouth College in 1851; followed the sea before the mast from 1853 to
1855, sailing up the Mediterranean, and around the world. In the winter
of 1855-56 he attended Harvard Medical School, and graduated as M. D.
from Dartmouth College in 1857; from 1857 to 1859, was resident
physician in charge of the state almshouse at Bridgewater, Mass. He
settled in North Easton in 1860, where he now resides, enjoying a large
and successful practice; was surgeon of the Twenty-Ninth Massachusetts
regiment during the war; was on the staff of Gen. Wilcox as acting
medical inspector of the ninth army corps, and for two months was
incarcerated in Libby prison; medical director of Massachusetts
Department, G. A. R., in 1874 and 1875. He received the honorary degree
of A. M. from Dartmouth College in 1880. He married Catherine Babson
Brown, of Bradford, February 18, 1858.
William Wilberforce, born January 22, 1837; died August 5, 1837.
William, born August 23, 1838. He fitted for college at Phillips
(Andover) and Kimball Union academies; entered Dartmouth College in
1856; made a voyage around the world, before the mast, in 1856 and 1857,
doubling Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope; graduated at Harvard Law
School in 1860, and admitted to the practice of law the same year;
entered the United States military service in 1861, as captain of
volunteers; promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1862, to colonel in 1863,
and brevet brigadier-general in 1864; discharged from service July 28,
1865; commander of the post at Atlanta during its occupation by Gen.
Sherman's army; was under Banks in Shenandoah valley, Pope in Virginia,
McClellan at Antietam, Hooker at Chancellorsville, Sherman at
Chattanooga, Atlanta, Savannah, Raleigh, and at the final surrender;
commander Massachusetts Department, G. A. R., 1870; senior
vice-commander United States military order, Loyal Legion, of
Massachusetts, 1870; was four times wounded, once severely. He now
resides in Salem, Mass., and was mayor of that city from 1867 to 1869,
and from 1872 to 1873, inclusive; member of the house of representatives
in 1871 and 1872, and in 1881 and 1882. He married, June 20, 1865, Emma
Thorndike Proctor, who died April 1, 1877. He was again married December
12, 1881, to Eva M. Davis, of Salem. Dartmouth College conferred on him
the honorary degree of A. M. in 1878.
Sarah Parker, born March 23, 1843; graduated at Bradford Academy. In
1871 she made an extended tour in Europe, in company with her
brother-in-law, Judge Choate.
In 1846, Dr. Cogswell married Elisabeth Doane, youngest daughter of Hon.
Elisha Doane, of Yarmouth. Judge Doane was a man distinguished for
wisdom and exactness, belonging to one of the most respected and
cultivated families on Cape Cod. The following are the children of this
Elisha Doane and Susan Doane, born September 22, 1847. Susan died
November 29, 1847; Elisha died April 6, 1850.
Doane, born April 29, 1851; graduated at Phillips Academy, Andover, and
at Dartmouth College in the class, of 1874; studied medicine two years
at Harvard Medical School; is now extensively engaged in agriculture, on
one of the largest farms in Essex County.
Caroline Doane, born August 2, 1852; graduated at Bradford Academy; and
in 1878 visited the most interesting portions of England, Scotland, and
the continent of Europe.
In 1878. Dr. Cogswell made his second visit to Europe, and was at the
World's Fair, in Paris, during that year. He included in his travels the
mountains and lakes of Switzerland, and portions of Germany, Belgium,
and Holland. He also visited the rural districts of England, Scotland,
and Ireland, giving much attention to the agricultural capabilities and
resources of the countries through which he passed, and manifesting, at
the age of seventy, the same enthusiasm in all objects of interest that
characterized his former visit, thirty-six years before.
Amid his multiplied cares and duties, Dr. Cogswell has found time to
devote no little attention to agriculture; and his broad acres, on the
sunny slope of "Riverside," give evidence of successful labor. There,
amid the rural retirement of his country home, he passes the summer
months of his green old age, with his delightful family, receiving his
friends with the easy, cordial grace of old-time hospitality. His
interest in all that relates to the welfare of the people among whom he
has lived for half a century remains unabated. The public schools, the
intellectual and social life of the town, improvements in agriculture,
and the dignity and proprieties of local management,—all claim his
attention and enlist his co-operation; and to him belongs the noble
prestige of the honored and beloved fellow-citizen.
"His prosperous labor fills
The lips of men with honest praise;
And, sun by sun, the happy days
Descend below the golden hills."