Thomas W. Cogswell, a lawyer known and honored in Pittsburg and throughout Crawford county, where for a number of years he has enjoyed a high-class abiding practice among the leading corporate and financial interests, is an old-time Kansan of thirty-five years' standing, and has been a resident of Pittsburg for the past fifteen years. He has been connected with much of the whirl and eddying political, social and professional activity of this state, and his career throughout has been without blemish, his errors, if any, having been of the head, not of the heart. He was noted as one of the most astute and successful criminal lawyers at the bar during the middle period of his practice, and one of the highest compliments that can be paid to his ability is that many citizens of Pittsburg and Crawford, when in need of legal talent, would consult none other than their well known and respected friend, Mr. Cogswell. He has labored devotedly and zealously through all his sixty-five years of life without apparent diminution of energy or will power, and his later years are crowned with a due meed of honor for high and strenuous endeavor in the good fight of life.
Mr. Cogswell was born in Nova Scotia in 1838, being a son of Benjamin B. and Sarah (Jackson) Cogswell, both natives of Nova Scotia, and the ancestry of the one being Scotch and English and of the other American. His great-grandfather on his paternal side was a soldier in the British army during the war of the Revolution, and in the same war his maternal great-grandfather fought in the ranks of the continentals. Mrs. Sarah Cogswell died in Nova Scotia when Thomas was about ten years old, and the latter's father then brought his family to Illinois and settled on a farm in Will county, not far from Joliet. Later in life Benjamin Cogswell moved to Pierce City, Missouri, where he died at the age of eighty-four years.
Mr. T. W. Cogswell grew up on the farm in Will county, Illinois, in the meantime received a good mental equipment in the district school, in the graded and in the high schools of Joliet, and after graduation from the latter took an extensive classical course in a college in Chicago. He had also been carrying on his law studies, and when his education at Chicago was finished he entered the office of E. C. Fellows, one of the most noted criminal lawyers of the day, and after completing his studies with him was also engaged in practice with such an eminent partner. His admission to the bar was in Peoria in 1861. He enlisted twice in the army, but was rejected on account of organic heart trouble, with which he has always been afflicted. In the case of one enlistment he helped raise and organize Company A, One Hundredth Illinois Infantry, in Florence township of Will county. In 1865 his poor health led him to go west to California, and he was located at Auburn, in the Sacramento valley, until 1869.
In the latter year be came to eastern Kansas and opened his office in Osage Mission, now St. Paul, where he practiced law for twenty years, having gained a large clientele and made an enduring circle of friends. He was elected county attorney of Neosho County, and also to several other offices of lesser importance. He is perhaps best remembered within the boundaries of that county for the prominent part he took in the memorable county-seat contest of 1869-70, which furnishes an exciting chapter of county history, not without its amusing episodes, although at that time filled with complications that were truly serious. Osage Mission and Erie were the two rival towns. On one cold, dark night Mr. Cogswell went alone to the court house at Erie, took the records of the county and district court, and carried them in a gunnysack back to Osage Mission, which the county officers at that time made the seat of government. The county seat remained for two years at Osage Mission, during which time a loaded cannon was kept on top of the court house, ready to be touched off should any have the temerity to come in force and remove the records, Subsequently, when Mr. Cogswell made the race for county attorney, this act, instead of militating against him in the case of the people of Erie, really won him votes from that precinct, since they admired the courage of a man who would come alone at the risk of his life, when the Erie people were armed and ready to resist any removal of the precious documents.
In 1888 Mr. Cogswell came to Pittsburg and opened his office, having made this his residence ever since. He has always maintained a high reputation in criminal cases, but in Pittsburg has devoted his talents mainly as adviser for some of the leading business firms, financial institutions and corporate interests of this city and vicinity. In 1900 his health failed, and he turned his practice over, temporarily, to his son-in-law, William J. Gregg, and retired to his farm four miles east of Pittsburg, where he soon recuperated and resumed his legal duties. At the present time he is vice-president and attorney of the Pittsburg Water Supply Company. One of the pleasurable incidents of his long practice is the fact that he has had as students in his office and has been preceptor to a number of young men who have since distinguished themselves, notably, Congressman Phil Campbell and brother, John Campbell, and also his above mentioned son-in-law, William J. Gregg, who is now a successful corporation lawyer in Kansas City. Mr. Cogswell cast his first presidential vote for Stephen A. Douglas, but his second was for Lincoln, and he has ever since been a Republican.
Mr. Cogswell was married at Elgin, Illinois, in November, 1870, to Miss Martha Wardlow. They have only one son living, Samuel Cogswell. Miss Carrie Cogswell, now Mrs. W. J. Gregg, is their daughter by adoption. Mr. and Mrs. Cogswell have always taken a kind-hearted interest in young people, and several times they have taken a child into their home and given it all the advantages that their own children received.Pages 331-334 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Joshua Gooding, student at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, in April, 2003.
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