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From Proceedings, Page 1873-239:

REV. WILLIAM COGSWELL, D.D., DEDHAM, Congregationalist, 1821, 1822.

WILLIAM COGSWELL was born in Atkinson, N.H., June 5, 1787. His father, Dr. William Cogswell, was distinguished as a physician and a magistrate, and held the office of surgeon in the army during the war that gave us our independence. His mother was a daughter of the Hon. Joseph Badger, of Gilmanton, a gentleman of great respectability, and for a long time in public life. Under the influence of good parental instruction, his mind was early formed to a deep sense of the importance of religion; but it was not till he was fitting for college at Atkinson that he received those particular religious impressions which he considered as marking the commencement of his Christian life. He did not make a public profession of religion until the close of his Junior year, September, 1810; at that time he, with both his parents and all his brothers and sisters, eight in number, received baptism, and were admitted to the church on the same day, in his native place, by the Rev. Stephen Peabody.

He became a member of Dartmouth College in 1807. Having maintained a highly respectable standing in a class that has since numbered an unusual proportion of distinguished men, he graduated in 1811. For two years after leaving college, he was occupied in teaching in the Atkinson and Hampton Academies. But, during this time, having resolved to enter the ministry, he commenced the study of theology under the direction of the Rev. Mr. Webster, of Hampton; and subsequently continued it under Dr. Dana, of Newburyport, and Dr. Worcester, of Salem, chiefly the latter.

Having received license to preach from the Piscataqua Association, September 29, 1813, he performed a tour of missionary service in New Hampshire, and at the close of December, 1814, returned to Massachusetts, and accepted an invitation^ to preach as a candidate for settlement in the south parish in Dedham. After laboring there a few weeks, he received a unanimous call, which, in due time, he accepted; and on the 20th of April, 1815, he was duly set apart to the pastoral office. Here he continued laboriously and usefully employed about fourteen years; during which time the church under his care was doubled in numbers, and enjoyed a high degree of spiritual prosperity.

In June, 1829, he was appointed General Agent of the American Education Society; and he accordingly resigned his pastoral charge with a view to an acceptance of the place. He entered upon the duties of his new office in August following; and so acceptable were his services, and so well adapted was he found to be to such a field of labor, that in January, 1832, he was elected Secretary and Director of the society. His duties now became exceedingly arduous, and his situation one of vast responsibility. In addition to all the other labors incident to his situation, he held an important agency in conducting the Quarterly Journal and Register of the American Education Society, a work that required great research, and that has preserved much for the benefit of posterity, which would otherwise have been irrecoverably lost. In 1833, he was honored with the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Williams College.

It became manifest, after a few years, that Dr. Cogswell's physical constitution was gradually yielding to the immense pressure to which it was subjected. He accordingly signified to the Board of Directors of the Education Society his intention to resign his office as Secretary, as soon as a successor could be found. He was induced, however, by their urgent solicitation to withold his resignation for a short time; though in April, 1841, his purpose was carried out, and his resignation accepted. The Board with which he had been connected, rendered, on his taking leave of them, the most honorable testimony to the ability and fidelity with which he had discharged the duties of his office.

On the same month that he determined on resigning his place in the Education Society, he was appointed by the Trustees of Dartmouth College, Professor of History and National Education. Here again his labors were very oppressive; as he was obliged not only to prepare a course of lectures on a subject comparatively new, but to perform much other service, especially in the way of collecting funds to endow his professorship. He was chiefly instrumental at this time in establishing the Northern Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of gathering for it a library of about two thousand volumes.

But while he was thus actively and usefully engaged, he was invited to the Presidency of the Theological Seminary at Giltnanton, in connection also with the Professorship of Theology, and a general agency in collecting funds. There were many circumstances that led him to think favorably of the proposal, and finally to accept it. He accordingly removed his family to Gilmanton in January, 1844. His expectations in this last field of labor seem scarcely to have been realized. The removal of one of the professors to another institution devolved upon him an amount of labor which he had not anticipated; and he found it impossible to attend to the business of instruction, and at the same time to be abroad among the churches, soliciting pecuniary aid. At length, finding that the public mind was greatly divided as to the expediency of making any further efforts to sustain the institution, he recommended that its operations should, for the time being, be suspended; though he considered it as only a suspension, and confidently believed that it had yet an important work to perform. He held himself ready after this to give private instruction in theology, whenever it was desired.

In 1848, Dr. Cogswell suffered a severe domestic affliction in the death of his only son, a young man of rare promise, at the age of 20. This seemed to give a shook to his constitution from which he never afterwards fully recovered. He acted as a stated supply to the First Church in Gilmanton until the early part of January, 1850, when he was suddenly overtaken with a disease of the heart that eventually terminated his life. He preached on the succeeding Sabbath (January 13th), but it was for the last time. He performed some literary labor after this, and read the concluding proof-sheet of a work that he was carrying through the press, for the New Hampshire Historical Society. When he found that death was approaching, though at first he seemed to wish to live that he might carry out some of his plans of usefulness not yet accomplished, he soon became perfectly reconciled to the prospect of his departure. He died in serene triumph, connecting all his hopes of salvation with the truths he had preached, in April, 1850. His funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Daniel Lancaster, of Gilmanton, and was published.

Dr. Cogswell was a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, of the American Antiquarian Society, and of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. He was also an Honorary member of the Historical Societies of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, and a Corresponding member of the National Institution for the promotion of science at Washington.

The following is a list of Dr. Cogswell's publications: —

  • A Sermon on the Nature and Extent of the Atonement, 1816
  • A Sermon containing the History of the South Parish, Dedham, 1816
  • A Sermon on the Suppression of Intemperance, 1818
  • A Catechism on the Doctrines and Duties of Religion, 1818
  • A Sermon on the Nature and Evidences of the Inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures, 1819
  • A Sermon before the Auxiliary Education Society of Norfolk County, 1826
  • Assistant to Family Religion, 1826
  • A Sermon on Religious Liberty, 1828
  • A Valedictory Discourse to the South Parish, Dedham, 1829
  • Theological Class-book, 1831
  • Harbinger of the Millenium, 1833
  • Letters to Young Men Preparing for the Ministry, 1837

In addition to the above, Dr. Cogswell wrote the reports of the American Education Society, for eight years, from 1833 to 1840; and two reports of the Northern Academy. He was the principal editor of the American Quarterly Register for several years; was editor also of the New Hampshire Repository, published at Gilmanton, N. H.; of the first volume of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register; of a paper in Georgetown, Mass., called the Massachusetts Observer, for a short time; and of the sixth volume of the New Hampshire Historical Collections.

Dr. Cogswell was married on the 11th of November, 1818, to Joanna, daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Strong, D.D., of Randolph, Mass. They had three children, one son and two daughters.
— Annals of American Pulpits, vol. II., p. 605.

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