COGSWELLS AND BIGELOWS – LETTERS FROM READERS (October 11/02)

I’ve mentioned Kentville magistrate Edmund J. Cogswell numerous times in this column, quoting from an essay he wrote on Kentville as it was through the 19th century. I’m indebted to Rev. Malcolm Cogswell, Quebec, who wrote recently with biographical information on Edmund John Cogswell and with a correction on his age.

“My cousin’s wife… sent me your recent article, Is There A Missing New Minas History?,” Mr. Cogswell writes. “I can shed no light on the history but I can give you a little information on Edmund John Cogswell. He was the son of Gideon and Lucilla S. (Perkins) Cogswell and according to information found in The Cogswells of North America (1884) by E. O. Jamieson, he was born 25 May 1838. He was a barrister at Law in Kentville. He received the degree LL.B from (Dalhousie) and the same degree from Harvard University. Jamieson indicates he is much indebted to (Edmund) Cogswell for facts which he gathered and communicated.

“The entry (copied in Descendants of John Cogswell, 1998, compiled by Donald J. Cogswell) contains nothing more – no indication of marriage or children, while Edmond John Cogswell’s two brothers and two sisters all have their (spouses) listed, and three have their children listed. To me that suggests Edmund John Cogswell was unmarried.

“I note one discrepancy: The footnote you found indicated that he died in 1900 at age 75. However, the date of birth given by Jamieson (which I believe he got from Edmond John) is May 25 1838, so by 1900 he would have been only 62.”

Halifax physician Frederick Matthews writes to mention the raiding expeditions of Colonel Benjamin Church into Kings County in 1704. Dr. Matthews suggests that Benjamin’s expedition has perhaps been ignored by historians.

“Your recent article on the Acadian dykes made me think of a recent talk, given in the form of a seminar at the Bigelow reunion… by the local dyke-marshland historian James E. Borden.

“An interesting historical aspect of the Acadian dykes (that) has been forgotten was mentioned by Rev. Eaton in his history of Kings County. (This was) the important early history of the work by the New Englander, Col. Benjamin Church (1639-1717).”

Matthew writes that Church was authorised to conduct raids on the Acadians in this region. “Church’s expedition reached Les Mines (Grand Pre) where he summoned the inhabitants to surrender. Church then burnt the town, broke the dykes and cut the crops. On June 22 he captured Piziquid (Windsor) and on June 23 Cobequid.”

Matthews added that Church through his mother has a connection with the Bigelows of this area.

In his Kings County history, Eaton devotes over a page to the Church raids and frankly, speaks unkindly of them. Church, Eaton said, had the “deserved reputation of being a harsh and unpitying man,” a reputation he lived up to on his raid in the Minas area of Kings County.

When he raided Kings County, Eaton said that Church followed instructions from his superiors to “burn and destroy the homes of the French, cut their dykes, injure their crops, and take what spoils he could,” Church “made huge openings in several of the dykes, so that destructive salt tides swept over the marshes, and then did whatever damage he could to the Minas farmers’ possession.”

Perhaps Church’s senseless depredations may explain why historians ignore him when writing about the Acadians.

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