John, an English pioneer, was a man without guile. He was noted for building excellent chairs. He shares a birthday with descendant David Cramer!
John grew to be 6’2”, with kindly blue eyes and light brown hair. He was the third of nine children raised in England, and his father died when he was fifteen years old. Yet he must have learned from him prior to that, for both his father and grandfather were woodturners and chairmakers, and this trade continued in the family for at least four generations.
John was very honest and easy-going, and the hired men at his English manor took advantage of his good nature. John’s wife Catherine loved to entertain with expensive china and wines. Ultimately the home was auctioned off to pay their many debts. Being a gifted woodcraftsman, John set up a small furniture shop.
The Cottams were members of the established Church of England, but news came that preachers were preaching a strange religion in the nearby city of Preston. John’s sister Elizabeth and her husband William Moss were among the early English converts. The Cottams heard the Elders preach and knew the gospel was true. They wept at Heber C. Kimball’s departure and made plans to also emigrate. Unfortunately, their daughter Jenny did not embrace the new faith, and son William died shortly after their conversion. Sons John and Thomas preceded the others to America, and arranged for the passage of their elderly parents through the Perpetual Emigration Fund.
John and his wife arrived in the Salt Lake Valley when he was sixty-three years old. After the Cottams came to Utah, father and sons followed the woodcrafts trade. Oxen dragged lumber from the mountains, local blacksmiths made nails, and a glue pot was always on the stove (made by boiling animal hooves) at the shop on 5th West North Temple. The furniture was excellent quality; chairs never came unglued or unnailed. Chairs made by son Thomas are in the St. George Temple, chairs made by son John on display in the Lion House. Old friends frequently gathered at the shop to reminisce. John witnessed the railroad enter the Valley, the depot just two blocks east of his home. He and his friends enjoyed watching the incoming trains and passengers drive through.
John and Catherine spoke using “thee” and “thou.” At the end of his life, John was quite ill. One night his wife waited by him until she was weary, and John said, “Thou canst go to bed, old darling,” and then he turned his face to the wall and “took his last long journey home.” His daughter-in-law said that John was a man without guile.
John would enjoy people watching at the airport, so I wish I could give him a trip back to England to see old family and friends.