By Ed Coleman
The Cogswell family of Kings County has always “ranked among the county’s foremost families,” writes Arthur W. H. Eaton.
Eaton’s Kings County history gives one Hezekiah Cogswell as the founder of the family here. Hezekiah was a Cornwallis grantee; when he arrived here in 1761, writes Eaton, he received a land grant of one and a half shares, the equivalent of about 1,000 acres.
I mention Hezekiah since one of his descendants, as well as being a prominent Kentville citizen, was also a historical writer and researcher. For the most part, Edmond John Cogswell’s historical research and writing has gone unrecognised. Much of his work was printed in the newspapers of the time, in particular the Kentville-based Western Chronicle, but nothing was published in book form except for a genealogy of the Cogswells.*
In addition to numerous newspaper articles on the history of Kings County, Cogswell also wrote a short history of Kentville. The history was published in 1895 in the Western Chronicle. Later, some unknown and enterprising soul copied this history from the newspaper and made several copies of it, at the same time including an invaluable index.
Most of Cogswell’s historical writing can be found at the archives in Halifax. However, a few years ago, Kings County Museum curator Bria Stokesbury visited the archives and photocopied many of Cogswell’s articles. These are on file at the museum; thanks to Stokesbury, I have a number of them and these have been my source, along with the Kentville history, when I quoted Cogswell in this column. At least one of his historical essays is reproduced in a 1930s book, W. C. Milner’s The Basin of Minas and its Early Settlers.
In his Kings County history, Eaton includes a sketch of the Cogswell family line, beginning with Hezekiah Cogswell. But Eaton only follows Hezekiah’s line for a few generations, and I was unable to discover from this work how Edmond J. is descended from him. However, the Cogswell file at the Kings County Museum was helpful. According to the file, Edmond’s father was Gideon; Gideon’s father was Mason, a son of Hezekiah. Mason was around 11 years old when he arrived here in 1761 along with his brothers and sisters.
Edmond John Cogswell was born on May 25, 1838, apparently in Cornwallis, Kings County, since the records indicate his parents resided there. I’ve been unable to find anything on his early years but two sources indicate he obtained a law degree from the University of Halifax (Dalhousie?) and a similar law degree from Harvard. Apparently, he practiced in Kentville where he was a probate court judge from 1887 until the time of his death. Edmond died in 1901 (another source says the year of his death was 1900) and is buried in the Billtown Cemetery.
There appears to be confusion about his marital status. I have a letter from an American relative of Cogswell who writes that a genealogy on the family, compiled in 1998, indicates Edmond was unmarried since no spouse or children are listed. On Google, however, is a Cogswell blog where Edmond’s name comes up. Mentioned there is discovery of a death notice for his widow. Some sources spell Edmond’s name as Edmund, but I believe my usage is the correct one.
* Cogswell’s book, titled The Cogswell Family Genealogical Material, 1881-1882, was published in the early 1880s.