Cogswell referred to this property in documents as “Westberry Lee,” naming it after his birthplace in England, and a mortgage record for 1641 indicates a house and other buildings on the property. The seventeenth-century buildings do not survive, but archaeological evidence has revealed that a structure from that period had lain perpendicular to the existing 1728 house. In 1651 John Cogswell began to divide his property among his sons, deeding sixty acres each to William and John Jr. John Jr. immediately sold his acreage to William, and by 1657, John Sr. had sold the remaining 180 acres to William as well.
William Cogswell (1619-1700) was a successful farmer, and also served as a selectman and parish meeting moderator in Chebacco Parish. Records from this period show his farm included a malt house, a sawmill or grist mill, orchards, and crops of barley, hay, and salt marsh hay. In 1656 William was granted compensation by the Town of Ipswich for a highway that crossed the property, leading from Ipswich to Gloucester. He was also given permission to operate a ferry across the Chebacco (now Essex) River as part of the highway, charging two pence a person; the ferry was replaced by a horse bridge in 1666. On William’s death, he left his property to his four sons in fifty- to one hundred-acre parcels.
Captain Jonathan Cogswell (1661-1717) inherited eighty acres from his father in 1700, including the present house site, and as his brothers predeceased him, his land increased. By the end of his life seventeen years later, the farm had attained its present 165-acre configuration, which has remained intact to this day. Captain Cogswell was a merchant, Justice of the Peace, and a member of the militia. There is little documentation of his time on the farm, but his will leaves “his Negro man, Jack, and his Indian maid, Nell” to his wife, and the contents of his widow’s will in 1723 indicate a high degree of prosperity.
Jonathan Cogswell Jr. (1687-1752) inherited the 165-acre property in 1717 at age thirty, and his time at Westberry Lee is the most significant in terms of buildings that survive today. Two years after inheriting the property, Jonathan built a salt hay barn, the oldest building currently standing at Cogswell’s Grant. In 1728 he built the western portion of the current house, possibly as an addition to the existing seventeenth-century house that was oriented north to south. The terraces in front of the house may also date to his tenure, as they are typical of country house landscaping in this period.
By 1749 Jonathan Cogswell Jr. was so prosperous that he had the second-highest taxable wealth in all of Ipswich. Sometime before 1752, the seventeenth-century portion of the house was taken down, and a new addition, the eastern portion of the current house, was constructed. It appears that this portion of the house was not entirely finished, however, before Jonathan Jr. died in 1752. The farm was leased to tenant farmers until 1761, when Jonathan Jr.’s son was old enough to take possession.
Colonel Jonathan Cogswell (1740-1819) lived at Westberry Lee and worked the farm for thirty years, starting at age twenty-one, when he came into his majority. He was Captain of an Ipswich alarm list company raised in 1774, promoted to Major in 1775, and was Colonel of the Second Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers in the army from 1776 until the end of the Revolutionary War. A Justice of the Peace, a member of the State Constitutional Convention in 1780, and part of the Massachusetts delegation to the United States Constitutional Convention in 1788, Colonel Cogswell was a prominent figure in the community. However, in 1791, Colonel Cogswell decided to move closer to Chebacco center, and upon the untimely death of his only son in 1813, Westberry Lee was once again leased to tenants. This was the last time that the Cogswell family resided at the farm, and though Colonel Cogswell’s widow refused to sell the property during her lifetime, it finally passed out of the family in 1839, two hundred years after John Cogswell’s original grant.