Cogswell Monument


The Cogswell monument is a 70-foot granite obelisk crowned with a ten inch rose crystal star and surrounded by a number of curious carved stone sculptures. It is sited so that it is visible from much of the hilly cemetery. The pieces comprising the monument were carved on the East coast, and then loaded on 38 freight cars for their shipment to California. Historical records state that the 329-ton shipment was the “heaviest shipment ever made at one time across the country”.

After arriving at the terminus of the railroad in Oakland, the 30-ton obelisk was placed on a special wagon shipped from the east. Try as they might, the 24 horses couldn’t get the wagon to budge. Eventually, a combination of house moving equipment and a traction engine inched the obelisk up Cemetery Avenue and to the Cogswell plot. After all the pieces arrived at the site, crews of workmen took to the task of assembling the monument. In August of 1887, viewing the progress of the erection of the Cogswell Monument became a popular outing for many of Oakland’s residents.

Henry Daniel Cogswell (1820-1900) studied and practiced dentistry in Providence, Rhode Island, until his office was destroyed in a fire. Then, in 1849, like so many young men of the time he set sail for California. He sold goods in California’s Mother Lode mining region, but soon returned to San Francisco to set up his dental practice. In 1851, just a few months before his wife arrived from the East, his dental office fell victim to one of one of San Francisco’s many fires.

Cogswell eventually found his fortune as a land speculator; founded Cogswell Dental College, Cogswell Polytechnic Institute and gave considerable funds to the University of California. Cogswell was an ardent foe of demon rum and to that task he erected a number of water fountains in cities across the United States. These water fountains featured a bronze statue of a man that looked amazingly like Cogswell with a temperance pledge in one hand and a water goblet in the other.

Visitors to the Cogswell Monument in Mountain View Cemetery may wish to note the four figures flanking the obelisk: Faith, Hope, Charity and Temperance (she’s the one with the water goblet in her hand).
Photos and text © Douglas Keister Visit Doug’s Author Page

[address cemetery=”Mountain View Cemetery” street=”” city=”Oakland” state=”California” zip=”94611″]

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