Biography of John Cozzens

The man whose name appears above is one of the most prominent citizens of Montpelier, Bear Lake county, Idaho, and is entitled to the distinction of having been a pioneer and a leader of pioneers on the site of the present town, where he first arrived a third of a century ago and where he has lived since, active in all good works tending to development and prosperity.

John Cozzens was born in South Wales, at High Cross, Penbrookshire, May 17, 1833, of Welsh, Scotch and Irish ancestry. James Cozzens, his father, was a farmer and a member of what was then the Independent Presbyterian Church. His wife was Diana Thomas. He died in the thirty-seventh year of his age, she at the age of forty-two. They left nine children, of whom only three are living. John Cozzens, the eldest of the family, was educated in Wales, learned the butcher’s trade there and, at the age of nineteen, married Miss Martha Cozzens, a distant relative and one of the pioneers of Montpelier. They were converted to the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and sailed, the year after their marriage, for America, with Utah as their destination. That was in 1856. Mr. Cozzens took up government lands in Weaver valley and lived there until the church called for volunteers to settle Bear Lake valley. Then he was one of the fifteen men, who with their families, responded to the call. After stopping for a while at Paris, they came to Montpelier in 1864. There was not at that lime a rod of iron rail within the limits of the present county of Bear Lake and the settlers had to go seventy-five miles for their supplies and bring them in with ox teams. They lived simply and cheaply in the poorest apologies for log houses, and had to rely on the most primitive means for everything. Mr. Cozzens brought along a big coffee mill, and this was used to grind the grain for the colony. It was hard enough for the pioneers to procure the necessaries of life for them-selves and their families, but they fed the Indians also when opportunity presented, as a means to gaining and retaining their good will. Mr. Cozzens early took up a quarter section of government land, and most of his companions secured land in the same way. He was the president of the colony during the first ten years of its existence. For a time the hardships and discouragements were numerous and diversified. They took the form of early frosts, which killed everything that had been planted and had appeared above the ground, and of crickets and grasshoppers, which destroyed the crops when the harvest time approached. But the pioneers were patient and were upborne by their faith. The winters were colder than any winters have been in the same locality since, and this brought many discomforts. The mail was brought in irregularly by men on snowshoes and it was necessary to burrow down under the drifts for the fuel which was indispensable. But better things came by and by. The wilderness disappeared, a beautiful agricultural country was developed and a thriving town grew up as if by magic. Mr. Cozzens is now the owner of two hundred acres of land which, even if he had nothing else to show for his years of toil and self-denial, would in itself be a small fortune. Modern improvements and appliances are to be seen everywhere. The pests of the early days are for the most part gone. The Indians are gone, but this blessing has a shadow. The Indians formerly ate ground squirrels in such large numbers that those pests were killed and frightened off so thoroughly as to be no obstruction to successful farming. The squirrels have now multiplied to such an extent that, though many are killed every year for the bounty, paid by the county, of two cents on each tail brought in, they are numerous enough to destroy much grain.

July 25, 1870, Mr. Cozzens married Miss Emily Merrill and Miss Sarah J. Perkins. By his two marriages he has eighteen children. Following are the names of his children by his first wife: Almira, who married D. E. Rich and lives at Ogden, Utah; James D., of Preston; William, who is on a mission to Kansas for his church; Orrin, who has a sheep range in the mountains; and Mark, Earl and Lucille, who are members of their father’s household. His children by his second marriage are named as follows: John, who is married and lives at Meadowville; Diana, Matthew, David, Luke, Joseph, Paul, Milton, Martha and Golden. Mr. Cozzens is a Democrat, a man of good business reputation and a citizen of much liberality and public spirit.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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