Porter's father, Maxwell, moved to Tonad from Ristar in 875, giving up a career as a cartographer and explorer to open the Apple-Spruce Inn. The reasons for this change in both locale and career have never been clear, particularly as Max has often expressed a disdain for the reputation Tonad has among people from other villages, as well as for Tonadians who lend some justification to that reputation. However inexplicable, the move turned out to be fortuitous when five years later, he met Porter's mother, whom he eventually married. A few years later, they had Porter, and two years after that, his sister Gracia.
Throughout their childhood, Porter and Gracia received education in various subjects from various masters, always excelling in their studies. When the school system first opened in 904 (when Porter was 17 and Gracia 15), they both took entrance exams, to determine what grade they should start at. Porter was already old enough to graduate from primary school, in theory (as it was expected students would graduate the year they turn 16, in the future). In fact, he could have quite possibly earned an educational adult license stamp without ever attending school, but he wanted to give the new system a try, so he enrolled in tenth grade. Lucia could just as easily have graduated without attending school, but chose to enroll in ninth grade (believing she should be in a lower grade than her older brother, but not wishing to be a full two grades behind, as one might expect from their respective ages). Porter graduated at the end of the year, and received his educational stamp.
Also in 904, when the surname law was passed, Maxwell chose the name 'Cognoscente,' wishing to convey a sense of intelligence, in part to distance his family from the reputation of much of Tonad (not that Tonadians are necessarily considered stupid, just of a lower class than most other villages); and in part to demonstrate that Tonad in general did contain a higher class of citizens than some people believed. That is, his family were not the only examples of such people, but were representative of a wider citizenry. Porter, of course, agreed with his father's beliefs, and appreciated the name, himself.
In 905, Porter chose to take the year off to consider where he might want to attend secondary school. His first choice was the University of Ristar, as he had some inclination to spend a few years in his father's home village (which the family had visited a few times, when he and Gracia were younger). However, he also felt there would be some merit in attending the University of Tonad, if he was to remain true to the assertion that Tonad was as good as any other village. He began attending Tonad University in 906, though he still entertained the possibility of transferring, at some point. However, he soon learned of a local gang called Ass-Kickers Unlimited (or "Aku") causing trouble for various students at his school, and in response, he organized a group for mutual defense. He called the group the Brills, and over time they became a serious rival gang to the Aku. Eventually, Porter's involvement in this gang led to his expulsion from the university, so he never earned a degree.
Still, he could very well have quit the gang and found honest employment in virtually any field of his choice, even without a degree. Instead, he chose to turn his gang toward more upscale crimes, allowing only people whose intellect he respected into the Brills, and enforcing a strict code of ethics. This meant the Brills were no longer a significant rival of the Aku, as the two gangs operated in very different circles. Over the next several years, Porter is known to have become friendly with Larami Illuminatus, then the don of InterGang's Tonad branch. When she broke away from InterGang in 912 to form her own inter-village gang, the Illuminati, she absorbed the Brills into her gang, and made Porter the don of its Tonad branch (which meant his actual position and duties didn't significantly change, but he acquired a greater prestige).