The Strange Case of Margaret Cogan

by Teddy H. Sanford Jr., (c) 13 June 2020

Margaret Cogan was born in 1615 at the home of her parents, Philobert Cogan (1563 – 10 February 1641) and Ann Marshall (1576-1650). They lived in Chard, County of Somerset, England. Philobert Cogan wrote his name as “Philobert Cogan in the County of Somerset, gentleman.” This would be the lowest rank of the landed gentry of England, ranking just below an esquire. He probably owned bargain lands and tenements. The rank of gentleman was generally comprised of the younger sons and grandsons of peers.

In the case of Philobert Cogan, he was the third son of four children born to Thomas Cogan (1530-1580) and his wife Elizabeth Fisher (1538-1580). His oldest brother was Thomas Cogan II (1559-1613), and the second son was Robert Cogan (1561-1583), who died at the early age of 22. He also had a younger sister named Margaret Cogan (1565-1583), who also died at an early age. She was only 18 years old.

Philobert Cogan and Ann Marshal were married in 1602 when Philobert was already 39 years old and Ann was 26. This might suggest that Philobert had an earlier marriage, but this is not supported by any records. What comes across the nearly 400 years since the death of Philobert Cogan is that he was a good man. He raised his family as he should and understood his position in English society. At some point in his lineage was a peer of the realm who lent him the title of gentleman as a second, third, or fourth son. Looking at what he was willing to do for one his daughters, the name fits. Philobert and Ann had a total of seven children, one son and six daughters. They were:

Mary Cogan, 1604-?
Mary Cogan born in 1604. She married Roger Ludlow at Chard on 18 December 1624. Roger and Mary came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony on board the ship, “Mary and John.” The ship brought 140 Puritan immigrants. They landed on 30 May 1630 some two weeks prior to the arrival of John Winthrop (1588-1649) and the Great Migration fleet which brought an additional 700-1,000 immigrants to the colony. Mary Cogan and Roger Ludlow had seven children. They later left the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Roger became the Founding Father of Connecticut. After many years in the colony, Roger and Mary returned to England and later moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1668 when he was appointed Master of Chancery. Mary died in Dublin on 3 June 1664 just a short time before her husband. Records of his death no longer exist. Mary Cogan Ludlow was a sister-in-law to Governor John Endecott. She received one gold ring or 10 shillings as her inheritance from her father Philobert Cogan.
Elizabeth Cogan, 1607-1676
Elizabeth Cogan born in 1607. Her first husband was a man named Gibson. They had no children, and at some point he died. She made the decision to come to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and traveled there on the “Mary and John,” along with her older sister, Mary Cogan Ludlow, and Mary’s husband, Roger Ludlow. Shortly after arriving, Elizabeth met Governor John Endecott, who had lost his first wife the previous winter. The two were married by Reverend Samuel Skelton on 17 August 1630. They had two children, John Endecott, Jr. (1632-1667), who married Elizabeth Houchin in 1653. The couple had no children. The second son was Zerubbabel Endecott (1635-1684), who married Mary Smith in 1654. They had ten children. Elizabeth Cogan Endecott was the sister-in-law of Roger Ludlow. She received one gold ring or 10 shillings as her inheritance from her father Philobert Cogan.
Thomas Cogan, 1609-1654

Thomas Cogan born in 1609. When Philobert Cogan prepared his will on 10 February 1640, his only son was still living but received only a small inheritance at that time. He received one gold ring or ten shillings. Ann Cogan, his mother, was given control of his estate as the sole executrix. The will goes on to say that his son gets the balance of the estate on the death of his mother Ann. The will goes on to describe the distribution of assets if the son, Thomas Cogan, died without issue, that is, no children of his own. When the will was written in 1640 and later proved in 1641 after the death of Philobert Cogan, it would appear that Thomas Cogan was not married and had no children of his own. He would have been over 30 years of age at the time. In fact, his mother, Ann Marshal Cogan would live nearly a decade. She died in 1650. Her son, Thomas Cogan, would then have taken over the estate assets as the eldest male heir. He would live until 1654 when he died at the age of 45.

Martha Cogan, 1613-

Martha Cogan born in 1613. Martha grew up and married Peter Holway (1610-1656) of Chard, Somerset in 1635. They may have later come to the Massachusetts Bay Colony ahead of the English Civil War. She received one gold ring or 10 shillings for her inheritance from her father, Philobert Cogan.

Margaret Cogan, 1615-1641

Margaret Cogan born in 1615. When Philobert Cogan died on 10 February 1641, Margaret was 26 years old and had never married. Her oldest sister, Mary Ludlow had married the prominent Puritan leader, Roger Ludlow at the age of 20 in 1624 and was living in the colonies in 1641. Her second oldest sister, Elizabeth Endecott, was 11 years into her second marriage with the Puritan leader John Endecott who she wed in 1630. Both of these sisters and her remaining three sisters had received an inheritance of a gold ring or 10 shillings. The worth of 10 shillings in 1640 is equivalent to $127.07 today. In comparison, Margaret Cogan received an inheritance of 300 pounds sterling. That amount converts to $76,245.03 today.

What could have been the reason that her father left her this huge fortune? By the time that Philobert Cogan died, four of his six daughters were married. While the individual destinies of some of these are not known, the ones that are known indicate that they married well. This led him to endow them with a token gift of a ring to remember their mother and father. In the case of Margaret, however, something tragic seems to have gone on. She could have suffered some childhood disease, mental defect, or serious accident that made the prospect of marriage untenable. In the 17th Century, life tended to pass such people by, and her father was seeking to insure that caregivers were available to look after her needs. There are few examples of this level of compassion in a world just a hundred years after the end of the Middle Ages. It appears that Margaret may have never received her inheritance, however, since she died within months of the death of her father in 1641. She was only 26 years old.

Ann Cogan, 1617-?

Ann Cogan born in 1617. Ann grew up and married a man named Robinson in Chard. Records on the marriage of this daughter are not well preserved, and there is only a single source that indicates that her husband could have been a Nicholas Robinson. Possible marriage dates vary from 1636-1638. She also was willed the token of a gold ring or 10 shillings by her father.

Susan Cogan, 1619-?

Susan Cogan born in 1619, the youngest of the children of Philobert Cogan and Ann Marshall. She was of a marriageable age of 22 when her father passed away, and it appears that in 1641 she may have married John Newman, who was also a native of Chard. Like most of her sisters, she received the same token inheritance of a gold ring or 10 shillings.