Ranna Cossit was born in Connecticut, a grandson of a Frenchman named René Cossé who had immigrated to America in the early 1700s. In 1773, Cossit was ordained a minister and that same year, he married Thankful Brooks of New Hampshire. The new husband and wife settled in Claremont, New Hampshire, where they welcomed seven children.
As a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Rev. Cossit was asked to relocate to the King's Dominion (what is now Canada) following the American Revolution (also known as the Revolutionary War or the American War of Independence). Assigned to the British colony of Cape Breton that, at the time, was separate from mainland Nova Scotia, the Reverend’s new appointment came with an annual stipend (or salary) of 40 pounds from the Society and 100 pounds from the British Government.
As part of his new role as the region’s Anglican minister, Rev. Cossit was promised a church and manse (a cleric’s house) in the community, as well as a land grant of 1000 acres on the Louisbourg Road and an additional three town lots on North Charlotte Street. Upon his initial arrival in Sydney, however, he discovered that these terms would not be met. After an interval spent back in New Hampshire (November 1785 to the spring of 1786), the Reverend returned to Cape Breton and built the house at his own expense. Soon after his home’s completion, Rev. Cossit received a 200 pound reimbursement and by 1790, the church was finally completed at a cost of 500 pounds to the British government.
Life in the Cossit household was typical of a middle-class home in the new colony. Even though the house seems small by current standards, its size was considered quite generous for the time period and the Cossits enjoyed the social status that came with the Reverend’s position within the community.
Like many large families of their time, the Cossits had already lost one child by the time they moved into their new home in Sydney in May of 1788. The Cossits had another six children while living on Charlotte Street. Thankful died giving birth to her thirteenth child in 1802. Her husband recorded in the register of his church that she was a woman whose "whole life was ornamental to Christianity, as a wife, a parent, and a neighbour.”
After Thankful’s death, Rev. Cossit became embroiled in a struggle for political control in the colony. In an effort to keep the controversy from growing, Cossit’s archbishop transferred the Reverend to Yarmouth in 1800 and he remained there until his death in 1815.
Following the Cossit family’s relocation to Yarmouth, the house passed to various owners. Today, the house’s refurnishing is based on an 1815 inventory of Cossit's estate in Yarmouth and illustrates the household effects of a family of the late 1700s.