Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy 129th Birthday, Charlotte Cottam Hatch (1882-1970)!

Anna Cramer's mother

Charlotte, known as Lottie, is a great-grandmother with whom I'm still getting acquainted.  I've sympathized with her frustrated ambitions, farming in small-town Scipio but longing for her children to be educated.  I'm intrigued that she gave her maiden name as a middle name to all of her children (7 out of 9 were girls), a feminist statement for the time.  I've wondered about her parenting which seemed to foster learning but wasn't heavy on faith.  

Recently, I visited the Relief Society building in Salt Lake, and in their registers you can find the names of all the 100,000 plus women who donated $5 to build the building as requested in 1947.  Somewhat to my surprise, I found Lottie on the list.  Not only that, out of her meager cash supplies she also donated $10 more on behalf of her two inactive daughters.  Somehow that small gesture has changed my whole perception of this woman.
Lottie was born in Salt Lake to European pioneers: nearly 60-year old John Cottam, an English chairmaker with several wives who was jailed for polygamy when Lottie was a child, and his fourth wife, Anna Gustava Engelbrektsson, a young Swedish cook.  Lottie had three brothers and a sister who died in infancy, so she was always her father's "little lady."  (And she always referred to John as "my sainted father.")

Lottie's mother died when she was a teenager, and she was close to her stepmother Mary.  (Lottie named her oldest two daughters, Mary and Anna, after these two mothers.)  
Anna Cottam with her children; Lottie seated in the middle

horsewoman Lottie

Lottie taught school in the Salt Lake area, and she married Frank Hatch in the Salt Lake temple in 1909.  She and Frank had nine children. She wrote plays, directed community theatricals, directed the ward choir, and loved beautiful literature.  From the proceeds of those shows she was able to purchase a piano, and later a Victrola. Lottie was very involved in local school issues, and sent her high school-aged children to school an hour's bus ride away in Fillmore.  We have her to thank for histories she wrote of her parents and grandparents, and the cousin relationships fostered during summers together with her grandchildren on the farm.  My father is still close to his cousins from those childhood working vacations in Scipio.  

Anna remembered her mother studying her Relief Society lessons while the iron heated up, and detailed for posterity the intensive labor required to run a farm nearly a century ago.  Lottie raised fruits and vegetables, cured meats (and gave pork roasts to Salt Lake friends for Christmas presents), made soap, baked eight loaves of bread daily, and sewed the clothes for her large family--Anna particularly remembered new dresses for 4th of July and Christmastime.

There was a story told at Lottie's daughter Helen's recent funeral: visiting her grown daughters in Salt Lake in the 1940s, Lottie was so shocked to find Helen smoking, that she locked herself in the bathroom for hours.  Helen was in turn so dismayed at her mother's reaction that she quit smoking.  

One mystery about Charlotte is a lingering family legend that she sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 25 years (see here).  Not only is she not found in the choir rolls, she didn't even live in Salt Lake for twenty-five years as an adult, having moved to Scipio in her thirties.  My best theory is that this has somehow become confused with the fact that her step-mother (John Cottam's ex-wife Ann) was in the Tabernacle Choir.  Perhaps Ann brought Lottie to sing in the Tabernacle for a special performance or youth choir and that got exaggerated?  Hmmm...

Lottie & Frank
In her later years, Lottie suffered health challenges with jaundice, gallbladder surgery, and a deteriorating hip joint.  Eventually she had to use a wheelchair.  She and Frank would head south and stay with Anna's family for two months at a time in sunny Arizona.  Once, in Mesa, she chased grandson Lew down the street to give him a dollar bill for his date.

I would give this independent, spunky woman a trip to New York City to enjoy Broadway musicals!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, sounds like she'd be good to go to for advice in this whole SALTA mess!
    I'd give her a gift card to Barnes and Noble to purchase some of today's literature.