1. Good British Stock

Alice Cogswell Bemis came from a long line of good British stock. She was in the eighth generation from John Cogswell, who was born at Westbury Leigh, Wiltshire, in 1592. He was a man of standing and of considerable inherited property. Among the latter were "The Mylls," called "Ripond," situated in the parish of Fromen, Selwood, together with the homestead and certain personal property. He married Elizabeth Thompson, a daughter of the Vicar of Westbury parish. After twenty years of married life, during which they had lived in the family homestead and he had carried on his father's prosperous business, he decided to emigrate to America, and on May 23, 1625, leaving one married daughter in England, they embarked with their eight other children on the famous ship, The Angel Gabriel. We find no mention of a special reason for their leaving England, but it was probably the same that led many others of their type to begin life afresh in the new world; here the possibilities of the country to be developed were limitless, and doubtless these offered a better outlook for their children, whose welfare must have been uppermost in their thoughts and plans.

The voyage of The Angel Gabriel and its wreck off Pemaquid, on the coast of Maine, in the frightful gale of August 15, 1625, are told in the graphic story of the Rev. Richard Mather, who was a passenger on the ship James, which sailed from England on the same day. The James lay at anchor off the Isles of Shoals while The Angel Gabriel was off Pemaquid. She was torn from her anchors and obliged to put to sea, but after two days' terrible battling with storm and wave, reached Boston harbor with "her sails rent in sunder, and split in pieces, as if they had been rotten rags." Of The Angel Gabriel, he says: "It was burst in pieces and cast away." Strong winds from the northeast and great tidal waves made it a total wreck. John Cogswell and all his family were washed ashore from the broken decks of their ship, but several others lost their lives. Some of the many valuable possessions they had brought with them never came to shore, but among the articles saved was a tent which gave good service at once; this Mr. Cogswell pitched for a temporary abiding place. As soon as possible he took passage for Boston, where he made a contract with the captain of a small bark to sail for Pemaquid and transport his family to Ipswich, Massachusetts, then a newly settled town.

The settlers of Ipswich at once appreciated these newcomers, and the municipal records show that liberal grants of land were made to John Cogswell. Among them was one spoken of as "Three hundred acres of land at the further Chebokoe," which later was incorporated as a part of Essex. Here in 1636 their permanent home was built, and here, covering a period of over two hundred and fifty years, their descendants cultivated the land. The Cogswells had brought with them several farm and household servants, as well as valuable furniture, farming implements, and considerable money. A log house was soon built, but the boxes containing their many valuables were unopened until it was practicable for Mr. Cogswell to build a frame house. A description of this remains, in which we are told that it stood back from the highway, and was approached through shrubbery and flowers. It is further said, that among the treasures which were taken into the new home from the boxes were several pieces of carved furniture, embroidered curtains, damask table linen, and much silver plate; that there was a Turkish carpet, an unusual treasure for those days, is well attested. Their descendants still treasure relics of their ancestors, such as articles of personal adornment, a quaint mirror, and an old clock.

John Cogswell was the third original settler in that part of Ipswich which is now Essex. His piety, his intelligence, and his comparative wealth gave him a leading position in the town and the church. His name is often seen in the records of Ipswich and always with the prefix "Mr.," which, in those days, was a title of honor given to only a few who were gentlemen of distinction. He died November 29, 1669, aged seventy-seven years. His funeral procession traversed a distance of five miles to the old North graveyard of the First Church, under an escort of armed men as a protection against a possible attack of Indians. Three years later the body of Mrs. Cogswell was laid beside her husband's. The record that remains of her is: "She was a woman of sterling qualities and dearly loved by all who knew her." Their son, William Cogswell, seems to have had many of his father's traits and was one of the most influential citizens of that period. To him was due the establishment of the parish and church and the building of the meeting-house; and when, according to the quaint custom of those days, the seats in the meeting-house were assigned, his wife was given the place by the minister's wife, a mark of greatest distinction. Two of his grandsons were men of note. Colonel Nathaniel Wade was an officer in the Revolutionary army and a personal friend of Washington and Lafayette. Another, the Rev. Abiel Holmes, father of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, was a graduate of Yale, and received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Edinburgh. He was settled for many years over the First Church of Cambridge.

Cogswell House, Ipswich, Mass.

One of the deeds of land made to their children was to their son William "on the south side of Chebacco River." The variation in the spelling of this proper name is one of the many we find in early New England records. At the same time a dwelling at Chebacco Falls was given to Deacon Cornelius Waldo, who had married their daughter Hannah. In direct line of descent from these two, and in the sixth generation from the first Cogswell in America, was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Mrs. Bemis was in the eighth generation, through the son William, and from him also was descended Oliver Wendell Holmes, in the fifth generation. We cannot well follow here the descendants of the other children of John and Elizabeth Cogswell, but certain it is that in each of the generations to the present day we find many well-educated men and women of character, with a strong sense of their obligations as citizens, all doing good work for the world in various lines of activity. They have verified what one has written concerning John Cogswell and his family: "They were the first of the name to reach these shores; the lapse of two hundred and fifty years has given to them a numerous posterity, some of whom in each generation have lived in eventful periods, have risen to eminence, and fulfilled distinguished service in the history of the country."