By Ed Coleman
Readers of this paper who follow my column will recall the name of Keith Barry of Edmonton, whom I’ve mentioned numerous times; especially Barry’s connection with the noted Canard horticulturist and historical writer, the late Ernest L. Eaton.
Barry created and maintains a website on Eaton with many of the latter’s historical sketches on Kings County.
Recently, Barry emailed me about the column on Edmond J. Cogswell, sending along information that gives us a better picture of this little-known historical writer.
“I read with interest your article and have a few items to mention,” Barry wrote, pointing out Cogswell is mentioned several times in Arthur W. H. Eaton’s Kings County history.
On page 31, for example, Eaton quotes from Cogswell’s research on the Acadian settlement in New Minas. Readers interested in the early day in New Minas and haven’t seen this quote will find it interesting (one of my future projects will be to locate the complete paper from which Eaton quoted).
Getting back to Barry’s letter, he writes that Cogswell graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Law degree with the Class of 1868-1869; while he’s not mentioned in the Nova Scotia Census of 1861, the 1871 Census found him at age 32 living in Centreville with Gideon and Ruth Reid. In the 1881 Census, he is living with his mother and a housekeeper in Centreville. The 1891 Census finds him in the same situation. In this Census, his first name is incorrectly given as Edward. As for his religion, Edmond is listed as a Baptist in both 1881 and 1891.
I mentioned in the earlier column that there was confusion about Edmond’s marital status. An extract from the Berwick Register, dated April 3, 1913, clears this up: “Cogswell, Mrs. Bessie Randall, d/o Charles D. Randall, wid/o Edmund J. Cogswell, died at Wolfville, 23 March 1913.”
Barry writes that he can find no other record of her death or marriage. A challenge as well, Barry says, is determining when Cogswell married Bessie.
“There are several options. He married early, between 1869 and 1871. Between any one of the Censuses. Late in life between 1891 and 1901. (His mother died 31 March 1894, so possibly after that?)
“In any event,” Barry concludes, “it would have been a brief marriage.”
What is even more puzzling about Cogswell is his lack of recognition as a historical writer. From what I’ve read of his work, he apparently delved deeply into the Acadian settlement in New Minas and did a lot of research. He had an interest as well into the early road and trails of Kings County and published an article or two on them in the Kentville newspaper that preceded the Advertiser.