Letter Book: 1785-1789

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LFR .C6R3L4
Category: Family
Creator: Cossit, Ranna, Rev. (1744-1815)
Description: 1 microfilm reel textual records () ; 35 mm.
            Ranna Cossit was born to Rene (1722-1810) and Phoebe (Hillyer) Cossitt (1720-1786) in North Granby, Connecticut on 29 December 1744. He worked as a minister for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) after being ordained in 1773, and with his new wife, Thankful Brooks (m. 1774), started a life in Claremont, New Hampshire. As an American loyalist during the American Revolution, he was able to stay home but not without hardship. He assisted the British by sharing information. At the end of the war, William Morice (1733-1819), secretary to the SPG in London, in 1785 offered Cossit a position at the newly independent British colony of Cape Breton (1784-1820), in its capital, Sydney. This offer came with a yearly salary as Anglican minister and an additional yearly salary from the government as the garrison chaplain. As there was no church or parsonage, Cossit waited until the next spring to remove there. He finished building a house on Charlotte Street in 1788 so he could finally bring his family. In 1791 St. George’s Church was designated an official Anglican parish. Originally, the Parish included the whole of Cape Breton Island, and St. George’s served as the British garrison chapel.

As an elected member of the Executive Council (1786), Cossit became involved in the political quagmire of Cape Breton politics, which seemed in the early years to involve two groups of settlers: the British led by the lieutenant-governors of Cape Breton – J. F. W. DesBarres and William Macarmick, and the smaller group of American loyalists, led by the former mayor of New York City, David Matthews. Cossit sided with the government, but by 1805, the environment became disruptive to the point the Bishop of Nova Scotia felt it best for the religious life of the community to ask Cossit to step down. He was appointed to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and inducted as rector of the new parish on 23 Jan. 1807. He died there on 13 March 1815.
            Contains the letter book, 1785-1789, of Rev. Ranna Cossit in his role as minister for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), stationed at Sydney, Cape Breton (now part of Nova Scotia). These are copies of letters exchanged between himself and William Morice (1733-1819), secretary of the Society in London, England. They mainly concern Cape Breton religious and political matters, with some family matters. Main subjects related to Cape Breton's colonial period (1784-1820) include religion (Church of England, societies, and clergymen); and politics and politicians.

Numbers are included for baptisms, marriages, burials, and communicants; and in 1788, there is tabulated data on families from the following communities: Sydney, Spanish River [Sydney River?], Big Pond, Coal Mines, Indian Cove, La Indian, Cow Bay [Port Morien], Luis Leray/Leroy?, Main a Dieu, Luisbourgh [Louisbourg], Gabberus [Gabarus], St. Peters, and St. Anns [Saint Anns].
Originals: Originals may be held at the Cossit House in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Archival Ref. No.: NSA Micro: Biography.
Finding Aids:
Electronic Finding Aid Record: Detailed Content.pdf

Microfilm was produced by the Nova Scotia Archives from material loaned for that purpose.

Related material: Researchers may wish to consult Reverend Ranna Cossit Personal Papers, 1785-1810; and the Parish of St. George’s Registers, 1785-1928.

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