Before the advent of e-mail communications, the Cossitt Family Association had regularly scheduled reunions.

These notes were taken at the Cossitt Family Reunion in August of 1981 in Granby, Connecticut by Ted and Beth Hanson.

"Tom Cossitt, Member of Parliament, Leeds-Grenville, Ontario, Canada, was president of the Cossitt Family Association.  He hired Professor Louis Cossitt of France to look into the history of the Cossitt family.  The following is what Louis and Tom found.

Professor Louis Cossitt's ancestor was a brother of Rene Cossitt's father.  Rene Cossitt was not French royalty.  He came from Vanday in France.  Vanday has a few forests, small woods, and hedges which made a tunnel of foliage.  Free-shooters used the opportunity.

Rene was born in 1690 in La Rochelle, Vanday Provence.  At the age of 19 he was conscripted to go to Quebec.  The ship was the Neptune; the captain was Captain Paradee.  The ship was captured by the British off the coast of Newfoundland.  The men were captured and taken to Boston and Deerfield, Massachusetts.  A prisoner exchange was arranged; however Rene and Samuel Partridge wanted to stay.  In a letter kept at the Massachusetts archives it states “I fear that if Cossitt and his friend went into the wood they would kill each other.”  Governor Bradley approved Rene’s stay.  Rene made his living by teaching French [Mark Williams, see reference below, called Rene Cossitt a school teacher.]

He met Ruth Porter in West Haven, Connecticut.  She agreed to marry him if he would never again return to France.  He agreed and they were married in 1719.

On June 28, 1732, he purchased land in Simsbury, Connecticut.  That land is in North Granby.  He was a farmer, but made a lot of money.  On March 22, 1740, he bought the property across the street from where the Cossitt library now sits in North Granby. (note:  His house was still standing in 1981.  It has since been knocked down.)

Rene’s father owned land in 3 Rivers Quebec."

This story differs a bit from the one published by Rev. Pearl Steele Cossitt, A.M. in his book The Cossitt Family: A Genealogical History of Rene Cossitt, a Frenchman Who Settled in Granby, Conn. A. D. 1717, and of His Descendants, originally published in 1879 and updated in 1925 by Frederick Henry White and Frederic Briggs Stebbins. 

“Their children and grandchildren were responsible for changing the spelling of the family name.  The first generation spelled the name ‘Cossit.’”

Note:  I had the opportunity to research Rene Cossit and Ruth Porter’s families using those local records.  Ruth Porter’s family had lived in the Simsbury area for decades before Rene Cossitt landed in America.

A Tempest in a Small Town: The Myth and Reality of Country Life in Granby, Connecticut 1680-1940, Mark Williams, writes:

“Rene Cossitt . .  ., a highly educated Frenchman, brought to Connecticut in captivity in around 1711, a resident for a time at Middletown, and then after marriage to Ruth Porter, attracted with a land grant to Simsbury in 1723 where Ruth’s grandparents, Joshua and Ruth Holcomb, lived.  He bought a farm in the old Griffin’s Lordship from John Gaspar Huffman, a mine operative, in 1725, and lived there for at least eleven years, struggling along with other debtors in the town to keep up with the changing economy of that era.  As a former Catholic, he preferred the Church of England to the pope-bashing Puritans, and took part in the Anglican congregation then organizing below the Falls.  Although he was not yet an inhabitant of Simsbury in January, 1723, when the town meeting decided to divide the commons, he did receive a grant of land among the lots of the Sixth Half-mile tier laid out on April 9, 1734.  This lot was located at the present junction of Day St. and North Granby Rd., and, as a matter of fact, Day St. is its original each boundary line."

“It is not clear when Rene moved to this forty-eight acre lot, for only his son, Rene, Jr., is listed in the 1742 tax list of the Norwest Society, and since the family was Anglican, we do not see much of them in the society records, Salmon Brook’s principal public record prior to 1786.  Certainly he was there by the late 1740’s, for he referred to the parcel in a deed of 1749 as ‘my homestead…with my dwelling house.’  At this point he was setting up his sons Rene Jr. and Franceway (an Anglicized version of Francois, no doubt) with farms in the North Granby area.  His eldest daughter Margaret has already married Nathaniel Holcomb IV, and they lived on a farm just south of the Cragg on the North Branch of Salmon Brook.  Here in the brook land and hilly upland near the Cragg, Rene and Ruth completed the raising of their family of nine children, and, apparently prospered.  Although he deeded a good deal of his land holdings to his children before his death in 1752, the estate of Rene Cossitt (or Raney, Ranna or Ranney, as his English neighbors called him) amounted to over 3500 pounds.  The Cossitts expanded into the brook land and tier lots to their north and, along with Nathaniel Holcomb IV, were largely responsible for the settlement of North Granby, where a library bearing the family name still serves the public.  It did pay, in the long run to risk living on the outskirts.  The land produced well, and if his daughter Mary’s marriage to Thomas Welton of Waterbury is any indication of the breadth of Rene’ s trading contacts, it would appear he had mastered the regional network by the 1740s.”

Beth Hanson, 29 January 2013

Editor’s note:  For well over 150 years, this version of how Rene Cossitt got to America has been taken as Gospel.  Recently y-DNA testing was done which may show that the story may be very inaccurate.  See Where was Rene born?