Francois Rene Cossitt D.D.

Francois (Franceway) Ranna Cossitt was born in Claremont, New Hampshire on April 24, 1790.  He was the Great Grandson of Rene and Ruth Cossitt.  Both his maternal grandfather and an uncle were pastors of the Episcopalian congregation in Claremont.

In 1813 he graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont.  He then taught for several years as was the custom for young college graduates before continuing their education in a chosen field.  His original purpose was to become a lawyer, but when he got a spiritual change, he resolved to become a Christian minister.  He studied theology at New Haven and received a license as a "lay reader" in the Episcopal Church.

In 1822 Mr. Cossitt was ordained a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  That same year he married Lucinda Blair of Montgomery County Tennessee.  Together they would have five daughters before Lucinda died in 1833.

At a session of the Cumberland Synod at Princeton, KY in 1825, a plan was proposed for the formation of Cumberland College.  A charter was obtained from the State of Kentucky and in March 1826 Cumberland College opened with Francois Rene Cossitt as its President.

The original buildings were constructed on a farm outside of Princeton, KY and were no more than a log college, as rough in its exterior as an ordinary barn.  The dormitories for the students were coarse cabins, furnished with straw beds.  But the purpose of this institution was a novelty--educate young men, especially young men preparing for the ministry who could not afford more expensive colleges.  By the spring of 1830 there were one hundred and twenty-five students.

In 1839 he received the Doctorate of Divinity from Middlebury College and also from the Trustees of Cumberland College.  Cumberland College, however was continually beset with financial problems.  Dr. Cossitt labored for seventeen years at Cumberland College as its President and as a teacher.  Eventually the College was placed in the hands of others and eventually closed.

Early in 1843, he moved to Lebanon, Tennessee to take charge of what is now Cumberland University that was formed the year earlier.  He remained as its president for one year before resigning to take over a publication called Banner of Peace.  On December 24, 1849 he submitted his farewell to publishing Banner of Peace.  Today Cumberland University is a thriving Liberal Arts University with approximately 2000 students.  It is still located in Lebanon, Tennessee.

At the time of his death on February 3, 1863, Dr. Cossitt was survived by his second wife, Matilda Edwards Cossitt, his youngest daughter, Lucinda, and one granddaughter.


Rev Cossitt

Special thanks to the Historical Foundation of Cumberland Presbyterian Church & Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America for permission to use their information on Dr. Cossitt and his likeness.