COTTON, Robert H.
Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, pp 404-406
A long course of persevering industry and prudent management on the part of Robert H. COTTON has resulted in the accumulation of a competence which has enabled him to retire from the toils of life and spend his declining years in ease and enjoyment. He was born in Monongalia County, VA, 15 Jan 1811, and is a son of James COTTON, a native of NJ, where his father, also named James COTTON, was born. The great grandfather of our subject was a native of Belfast, Ireland, of Scotch ancestry, who came to America in the early Colonial times, spending the remainder of his days in NJ. [p 405]
The grandfather of our subject was a farmer by occupation, and on removing from his native State, made his home in Monongalia County, VA, where he was among the earliest settlers. There he purchased a tract of timber land and industriously set about clearing and improving his estate, being accidentally killed by the falling of a tree in 1806. He was a patriot of the Revolutionary War, serving through all that struggle. The maiden name of his wife was Achsa GALLOWAY; she was also a native of NJ, and departed this life while residing on the home farm in VA.
James COTTON, the father of our subject, was very young when his parents made their home in VA, where he grew to man's estate and married. He became the proprietor of a tract of timber land with a small clearing upon it and a log house, which was the birthplace of our subject. He was a hard working and economical man, and succeeded in accumulating a handsome estate, upon which he resided until 1822. Then disposing of his acreage he removed to PA, locating in Greene County, where he made his home until coming to IL, at which time he settled in Henry County; his death occurred at the home of his son, R. H. COTTON, in 1871.
Jemimah CHALFANT, the mother of our subject, was born in Monongalia County, VA, and was a daughter of Solomon CHALFANT, whose birth occurred in Newcastle, DE. The father was very young when his parents removed to the Old Dominion [VA], and when reaching mature years he served seven years under General Washington, participating in the battles of Brandywine, Stony Point and numerous other engagements. He spent the winter at Valley Forge, made memorable in history for the sufferings which the soldiers endured, and had the pleasure of seeing Cornwallis surrender his sword at Yorktown. His wife was Miss EATON, and he passed his last years in Monongalia County. Our subject now has in his possession a $6 note of Continental money which was paid his grandfather in remuneration for his services in the Revolutionary War. The mother of our subject died in Greene County, PA, after having borne her husband eight children: Elizabeth, Robert H., Achsa, Eaton, James, Solomon, David and Lydia.
The original of this sketch was a lad of 11 years when his parents removed to the Keystone State [PA]. When attaining his 16th year, desiring to earn money of his own, he commenced clerking in a general store in Waynesburg [Greene County, PA], which position he held for about eight years. At the end of that time, having been very economical, he had laid by a sum sufficient to enable him to engage in business on his own account, and making his home in that place, he carried on a successful trade until 1839, which was the date of his removal to Washington County [PA]. He was then appointed Superintendent of a general agency for the Jerome Clock Company, and later for Seth Thomas, of Plymouth, CT. He continued as Mr. Thomas' representative in OH, IN, KY, and IL, his headquarters being at Zanesville [Muskingum County, OH] until 1851, which was the date of his advent into Rockford [Winnebago County, IL]. This now prosperous city was little more than a hamlet at that early day, there being no railroads nearer than Elgin [Kane County, IL]. Mr. COTTON purchased a farm close to the city, upon which he resided for two years, when he moved into the village and engaged in the real estate and mercantile business for six years. In the spring of 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed Superintendent in the Chief Quartermaster's Department, being first stationed at Rollo [Rolla?], MO. From that place he was sent to Ft. Donelson, arriving there the day the fort surrendered. Later, he went to Shiloh, being there at the time of that famous battle. He was stationed in different places and continued in the service of his country until Feb 1866. Returning to the peaceful pursuits of life, Mr. COTTON opened a boarding and sale stable in Chicago, in which line of business he continued until 1871, since which time he has lived retired from active life.
The first marriage of our subject occurred in Greene County, PA, 24 Jun 1834, at which time Miss Margaret HAGER became his wife. Mrs. COTTON was born in Washington, PA, and was the daughter of Nicholas and Charlotte (DRAKE) HAGER, natives, respectively, of PA and [p 406] NJ. His good wife departed this life in Sep 1878, and our subject was united, in Mar 1883, to Mrs. Harriet (TROWBRIDGE) PLATT, who was born in New Haven [New Haven County], CT, and was a daughter of Eli and Lue (LINES) TROWBRIDGE. The parents of Mrs. COTTON were natives of the Nutmeg State [CT], where they spent their entire lives. Previous to her union with our subject she had been married to John PLATT, a native of CT, who came to IL in 1836, and for one year resided at Alton [Madison County, IL], after which he came to Rockford [Winnebago County, IL]. Mr. PLATT purchased land in the city, where he erected a small board house and engaged in the mercantile business, being one of the first merchants of the then village. He continued so employed for two years, then became the owner of a tract of land a few miles from Pecatonica [Winnebago County, IL], where he erected a log house, and for six or seven years was engaged in cultivating the soil. At the expiration of that time, he disposed of his property and returned to Rockford, where he was a public-spirited and progressive citizen until his death, in 1881.
Mr. COTTON of this sketch by his first marriage became the father of five children: James A., who is a resident of Rockford; Lizzie, Mrs. William BRITTAN, died in 1858, leaving one child, named Lizzie, who is the wife of William F. WOODRUFF; Christian E., resides in Columbus [Franklin County], OH; Nicholas, deceased; and Gilbert P., who is a graduate of West Point, is Captain of Battery H, 1st Artillery in the U. S. Regular Army; he has recently been appointed Commissioner by the Govenment to go to Honduras in the interest of the World's Fair.
Mrs. COTTON stands very high in church circles, being one of the charter members of the 2nd Congregational Church at Rockford. Our worthy subject became a member of the Masonic fraternity while residing in OH, and was a charter member of Cyprus Encampment, organized at Zanesville, OH, in 1848, of which organization he was elected Captain General. At he time of is leaving the Buckeye State [OH], he occupied the honorable position of Grand Generalissimo for the State. In politics he was in early life a Whig, and was a delegate to the Pittsburg Convention in 1836 that nominated William Henry Harrison. He has voted for the following Presidents [Presidential candidates]: Henry Clay, William Henry Harrison, Winfield Scott, John C. Fremont, Abraham Lincoln, U. S. Grant, R. B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, James G. Blaine, and Benjamin Harrison. When Mr. COTTON shall have passed away to enjoy the recompense due his long and useful life, his memory will still live and his honorable and successful career will stand forth as a fitting example of what can be done by earnest and constant effort.
Submitted by Cathy Kubly.