November 29, 1845, near Mount Storm, West Virginia.
November 17, 1880, Union District, Grant County, West Virginia.
Idleman Cemetery, Mount Storm, West Virginia.
William was the son of Samuel Cosner and Mary Anne Cosner, a daughter of Frances D. Idleman.
As there were no public schools in Virginia until long after his childhood, William had poor opportunities for his early education. His parents taught him to read and write, and he then attended two pay schools. Each of these schools lasted for about three months and were called Quarter Schools. After he had finished the second quarter, his father died, and Cosner was obliged to remain at home and work to support his mother and sisters. During this period, he spent his spare time studying and writing poetry.
Cosner had a deeply religious nature and though quite young, was a worker in the first Sunday School organized at Mount Storm. After a time, he left Mount Storm with his mother and sisters and located in Canaan Valley where he organized a Sunday School in a log school house where he was never absent from service save once. While living in Canaan, he rode on horse back to Moorefield, a distance of 50 miles, to join the Presbyterian Church of which his mother was an ardent member. When asked by the pastor, Reverend George W. White, his grounds of hope he replied by handing him a poem he had written beginning,
Jesus is my full salvation. This so pleased Dr. White that he carried it before the next session of the Presbytery, where it was unanimously decided to offer to educate him for the ministry. Dr. White was immediately sent to Canaan Valley to make the arrangements. William gladly accepted the offer and pursuant to the plan moved his family back to a home among relatives at Mount Storm. He then attended school two years at Moorefield.
Cosner then entered Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where he stayed three years. During that time, he and a classmate, by invitation, called upon former Confederate general Robert E. Lee. It was a short time before Lee’s death and he was quite feeble. At the close of their visit Lee asked them to kneel beside him while he prayed God to bless them. William was so impressed by Lee’s gracious and dignified bearing that he exclaimed to his schoolmate that he was the most perfect gentleman he had ever met.
After leaving Washington and Lee, Cosner entered the University of Hampden Sidney, Virginia, where he completed his course and was ordained. He had gained a year’s time on the scheduled course and graduated with the highest honors of a class of twenty-six students. At the request of his neighbors and friends at home he was installed by Dr. White as a Home Missionary in the Allegheny Field, of which he was the founder. He labored industriously here over a large field for about two years until his death.