My father was named for his great grandfather, John Marshall Cookson, my son now is too, as he was named for my father. The family knew quite a bit about John Marshall Cookson as he was well loved by his granddaughters. However, the only datum known about his father, Calvin Gray Cookson, was his name. That and the story that when John was a little boy his father went out hunting and never came home. So, who was Calvin Gray? It has been one of my great pleasures to answer that question, although there are still questions not answered!
Calvin Gray Cookson was born in Oct 1820 in Belmont, Waldo, Maine. He was the son of Daniel Noyes Cookson and Lucy Gifford. I know his parents from a book by James Savage (4 volumes!) that gives the ancestry of numerous people in New England. This is a famous book but as much for its inaccuracies as its scope. I have yet to find any document that shows that these are his parents. I know it was Belmont from his military enlistment papers(more about this later). Belmont is in southern Waldo County in South Central Maine. It was originally called Greene Plantation and in the first decade of the 1800's many people settled there illegally," squatters" as it were. In order to avoid the agents of the actual owners they would dress up as Indians when they came by. In 1814 the residents successfully petitioned the State of Massachusetts to become incorporated into a town called Belmont. One of the prominent men at this time was named Calvin Gray. I believe that our Calvin was named after him, perhaps he was a friend of his father's.
By 1839, Calvin and his family were living in Linneus in Aroostook County. This is right on the border with New Brunswick, Canada. In fact the border went back and forth a bit so that by 1839 people were a little heated over whose land was whose. It actually led to war, the Aroostook War. Calvin enlisted in the U.S. Army in the town of Houlton, very near home. His enlistment papers tell us that he was 19, with blue eyes, light hair, fair complexion and 5'10" tall. He enlisted for 5 years and was discharged on 15 Apr 1844 at Fort Adams, Rhode Island. Now the Aroostook War didn't last very long and was mostly fought by diplomats. There were no casualties except a cow! But Calvin had signed up for 5 years so he served the last three of them in Rhode Island. During this time he married Mary Ann Dow, the girl next door, as her family also lived in Linneus. Their daughter, Georgiana, was born 27 Aug 1842, followed by Calvin Wilbert on 8 Sep 1845 and John Marshall on 2 Feb 1848.
Whether Calvin tried farming after he left the Army in 1844 or went into lumber (the main industry of the area) I don't know. But on 25 Jun 1846 he enlisted in the Army again, this time to take part in the Mexican War. According to the enlistment record he was now 25, 6'1", light complexion, light hair and occupation, "soldier". He enlisted in the First Regiment,Col John McCluskey's Company, Co. F. Unfortunately(or not, depending on your viewpoint), it doesn't look like he ever went into the war. All the references I've seen state that Maine didn't send any troops into the Mexican War. There were Maine men who fought but they fought in other regiments. I think he must have been frustrated because he wanted to fight and now he'd joined the Army twice with no fighting! He had three small children and he didn't want to farm apparently(he never farmed that I can see in his life). So he went hunting and didn't return. I don't know where he was, I can't find him in the 1850 Census or in the 1851 Census of Canada. But in those northern woods it would be easy for a man to escape the Census takers.
The next time we hear of him is 20 Nov 1851 in Bangor, Maine when he marries Sarah F. Rich. I can only assume that he returned home only to find that his wife had died, his brother moved and his children were put in an orphanage, location unknown. If he sought his children, I don't know, but he didn't find them at that time. Calvin and Sarah had three children, Isabella, Fernando and Lucy Jane but by 1857 they had moved to Vienna, Elgin, Ontario, Canada where their fourth child, Emily, was born. In Vienna, Calvin was a lumber dealer and general merchant and he seems to have been fairly successful. The home he had was next door to that of Thomas Edison's family, which one can visit today.
About 1867, his son, John Marshall Cookson showed up at his door. After the Civil War John had found his sister and brother and located their father and brought them all together in Vienna. They are all there in the 1871 Census. Not long after, though, John moved to Au Gres, Michigan on Saginaw Bay, and they all followed him except for Calvin Wilbert who stayed in Canada. John's son, Henry John, was born in Au Gres in 1873. At that the lumber industry was waning in Canada and booming in the Saginaw area, so they followed the lumber. Calvin died in Au Gres on 9 Jun 1878 of Consumption. He was 58 years old.
He had the last laugh after he died and finally came recognition as a soldier. He received a headstone "provided for Union Civil War Veterans" and is listed as a Sgt Co F First Regiment. I think they mixed him up with his son, Calvin Wilbert, who fought in the Civil War but the regiment and company is his from the Mexican War. So he was recognized a soldier as he had always wanted to be!