Some of our brethren throughout the state have accomplished much in preaching the gospel, building church houses, school houses and communities, but none have reached a higher mark in these endeavors than Bishop H. C. Cotton. He was born at Bayou Sara, La., August, 1852. At the close of the Civil War he attended the private and public schools of his town, where he completed the English Course. In 1884 he entered Leland University, where he found himself surrounded by many disadvantages. These obstacles, together with the responsibility of a family and the oversight of a large church, compelled him to give up further study at the University and arrange for private study at home. His progress proved his success as a private student. Manifest educational attainments possessed by him, and the educational training that came to others through his instrumentality placed him among the men of thought and action of his day.
Elder Cotton was converted at Bayou Sara, La., and baptized into the membership of the Independent Missionary Baptist Church, May 10, 1871. In 1875 he was licensed to preach and in 1879 he was ordained by the following Bishops: Daniel Dorsey, Samuel Tucker, Henry Hewlet, Eli Perkins and Anderson Hogan.
One of the first acts of his public life was the organization of East and West Feliciana and Point Coupee Baptist Association. This association was instrumental in collecting the few scattered churches for future service. It began the work of organizing churches, ordaining preachers and disseminating Baptist doctrine until the year 1885. Then the State Convention (as will be observed elsewhere in this volume) for the conveniences of the churches re-districted the state into 13 associational districts. It was then that this body organized by Dr. Cotton became the Fourth District Baptist Association. The following brethren assisted in the organization of the East and West Feliciana and Point Coupee Baptist Association: Daniel Dorsey, George Dent, Henry Hewlet, Archie Hulbert, Nathaniel Ratliff, John Clark, Wash Carter, Moses Overton, Rufin Thornton and many others whose names are not preserved.
Bishop Cotton served nearly four years as State and District Missionary and has pastored twenty-seven years, during which time he baptized more than a thousand souls, assisted in organizing many churches, helped in the ordination of a large number of young ministers. Three church edifices have been constructed and remodeled under his wise leadership. This same leader of men with others organized and founded the Houma Academy, Houma, La., and the Israel Academy, Bell Alliance, La. Both of these schools have creditably constructed buildings with modern improvements. Their value is more than $2,000 each.
For more than twenty consecutive years Dr. Cotton served as Moderator of the Fifth District Association, and was three times elected President of the Louisiana Baptist State Convention, the highest honor that could be bestowed by his brethren. His brethren were satisfied and delighted with his service while he presided over the Convention. He was called to the Israel Baptist Church in 1885, which is one of our largest and most influential churches. During the 28 years of pastoral work with these good people, he has more than doubled the membership and increased the material value from $5,000 to $10,000, having remodeled the church edifice and made it modern in every respect. Israel Academy which was fostered by him and his great church is a large two-story frame structure 45?0?2, completed throughout. Israel Baptist Church put this school up at a cost of $2,556.20, and paid for it in six months and one day.
Through the teaching and influence of this great man the majority of his members own homes.
Leland University has signally honored him by conferring upon him the honorary degree, D. D., and also elected him as one of its trustees. Dr. Cotton enjoyed the esteem and confidence not only of the people of Bell Alliance, but of all who knew him. He did great good while he lived, blessing every life that came in contact with his.
"Soldier of Christ, well done,
Praise be thy new employ, And, while eternal ages run,
Rest in thy Savior's joy."
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