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Monday, February 17, 2014

52 Ancestor Challenge #2: John Marshall Cookson

     The next ancestor I want to write about is my father's mother's father, my Great Great Grandfather, John Marshall Cookson. My grandmother and her sisters lived near him when they grew up and often talked about him.  My father lived with him for a summer as a young boy, also. He and his opinions are mentioned in letters written by his wife's uncle. So my impression  is of a man who made an impact on people. He was one of the first ancestors I wanted to research.

     John Marshall Cookson was born in Linneus, Aroostook, Maine on 2 Feb 1847 or 1848. Most of the records say 1847 but he is listed as 2 in the 1850 Census, it was taken in August so if he was 2 he would've been born in 1848. You'll see one reason for the uncertainty of the year as we go. When his granddaughter, Mabel, told about his life she said, "His father went hunting one day and didn't return." In the 1850 Census we find John, his brother, Wilbert, and his mother, Mary, living with Gardner Cookson and family.  I later found out that Gardner was John's uncle.  His sister, Georgianna, is living a few doors down, listed as a pauper. His mother died not long after this leaving the children as orphans.  They were put in an orphanage. The custom at the time was to loan the children out to work. He told his granddaughters that he got in trouble with a farmer by leaving a gate open and let the farmer's favorite horse get loose. He was sent to New York and worked on the Erie Canal as a canal boy leading horses. In 1863, he lied about his age and joined the Union Army in New York. He would've been 15 or 16 so pretty impressive that he pulled this off. When I got his military records from the National Archives I found it noted that he went from 5'2" to 5'6" in about a 6 month period (growing boy!). He was a private in Co I of the 13th NY Calvary.  They did patrol duty in the rear of the Army of the Potomoc during Gettysburg and fought Moseby in Virginia. At the end of the war his regiment was stationed outside of Washington D.C. He recalled Lincoln visiting the camp with his son, Todd. Todd seemed interested but Lincoln looked weary and sad, he told his granddaughters. John and his regiment were on guard duty when Lincoln was assassinated. He said the whole town seemed to be in mourning.

     After the war he located his brother (who had also been a soldier in the war in a different regiment) and sister (who had married). He found his father who had remarried and was living with his wife and four children in Vienna, East Elgin, Ontario, Canada. He didn't waste much time at it either, he was married there in 1867 and his brother in 1868. I think it is remarkable that he could put his family back together with no internet or even telephones. By 1870 he had moved to Augres, in Saginaw Bay, Michigan.  His father and stepmother and their children and his sister and her husband and family moved there, too. Only his brother stayed in Canada. His wife's family also moved to the Saginaw Bay area. Lumber was booming in the region, his father was a lumber dealer in Canada.  John worked as a lumberjack, he also owned one of the rare sewing machines. Family legend has it that he sewed  sheets and his wife sold them door to door. They had four children two of whom died young.

     About 1885 he moved his family to northwestern Arkansas, near Fayetteville. His daughter, Agnes married Ben Hudson and they lived nearby. John had a farm and worked as a carpenter.  The house he built was still standing in the 1970's when my father photographed it. His wife died in 1916.  He remarried in 1917.  She died in 1930. In 1932 there was some sort of trouble with a married woman and he moved to Bentonville, Arkansas, where he died in 1936. He was a spirited old man! My father was named after him, my son was named after my father so he is also named after him.  He left my father a very large old Flag from the Spanish American War period and his Civil War Cavalry sabre.  I used to take the Flag to school for show and tell.  Unfortunately, my father gave it and the sword to a museum. Only years later I realized that we never even took photos of them! I do have his pocket watch, you can see where he scratched his initials on the inside of the case. I would have loved to have met him. If you read between the lines of his life

story you can feel his spirit and determination.

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