Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.

(This material was told by Emma Jarvis Cottam McArthur, daughter of Thomas and Emmaline Jarvis Cottam, to Nellie McArthur Gubler, eldest grandchild of the Cottams.)

Part 1:


Conference time in St. George was always a busy, happy time for Aunt Em and Uncle Thomas Cottam. Preparations were begun at least two weeks before the big event. The extra butter must be saved and stored in the cellar along with a couple of home-cured hams. Always the best of everything was used for those occasions. The house must be cleaned from attic to cellar and this took much effort since the two-story structure, on the southeast corner of the block where tabernacle and temple streets meet, contained seven large rooms besides two large halls, a pantry and a bathroom, and a big porch, extending the full length of the southern end of the house and half way across the west side. There was also a deck directly above the porch.

The corrals also, must be cleaned (by the man folks) as when guests were invited that also included the teams and wagons or buggies.

The household duties -- washing, ironing, mending, etc. must be kept up-to-date as conference lasted Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. All cleaning must be finished two days prior to the big event as final preparations were carried on and final purchases made. For plenty of provisions must be provided. It required two days for the baking of the bread, as two batches of at least twelve loaves each must be made. All cooking was done on a large scale and included dried corn (soaked and simmered to tenderness) baked beans, bottled fruit, rice pudding, etc. On Friday at least twenty-five pies, and three or four kinds of cakes must be baked and stored in the screen-doored pastry cupboard on the south side of the pantry. The deep shelves held pies three-deep.

Guests began arriving on Friday afternoon and when the weather permitted beds were made up on the porch and deck but if it was rainy weather they had to be made indoors. Sometimes guests brought their own quilts, but Aunt Em always had extra quilts and extra bed linen which was kept in the spacious cl--- the hall stairway.

Early on conference mornings the family and guests must arise early and the day's activities began. Potatoes were peeled and covered with cold water till time to be cooked. Breakfast must be served, dishes washed and the ham sliced ready for frying when twelve o'clock came, and large kettles of milk gravy made from the ham gravy. One morning one of the male guests, thinking he would be of help, grabbed the broom and began stirring up a dust from the rag carpet. Aunt Em said, "Dave, if you'll just put that broom down and go on to meeting, I'll get there."

Aunt Em joined the choir when she was fourteen years of age and was in it for over sixty years so she always went to the meetings and took part of the older children with her. She had a new baby regularly every two years, but that didn't prevent [her] from going to meetings; as being a plump woman anyway her appearance wasn't much the worse. In fact, when her eighth child was expected, she attended a party on Friday night and the game of "musical chairs" was played. She sat back in a corner, the group insisted that she play it with them but she said she'd rather not. Then they coaxed until she consented. On Sunday evening the child (Ivins) was born and people opened their mouths in astonishment. The babies came to bless their home. The oldest child was a girl (Emma) and had to help a great deal with the children and preparations. She was sometimes left at home to wash dishes, tend babies and see that the fire was kept burning the potatoes, etc. kept cooking. When she was about nine years old she remembers how her mother would say, pointing to some task well done, "My big girl has done this." She acknowledges that responsibilities were good for her and says that children will generally do as expected if we have faith in them and give them a little just praise.

When Emma was about thirteen she also became a member of the choir and then always attended conference meetings. Annie, the next --- seven and a half years younger, then had to ---- -- place.

It was one grand rush to get to meetings but Aunt Em's policy was to never stay home to attend to cooking or housework. Sometimes the dishwashing was begun but had to be left and finished later. They were never late except when the fourth son (Walter), a great tease interfered. He would sometimes go into the pantry, close the door and pull out the knife and fork drawer which would prevent the door from opening. There he'd stay and laugh at his mother as she threatened to "shake the pants off him" if he didn't let her in so she could go ahead with her preparations.

All meetings lasted two full hours and as soon as the morning meeting was dismissed the women would rush home to put dinner on the table while Brother Cottam waited around to see if any people were left without a place to go. He always rounded up a good crowd even though the house was full already. Many times the long table extending the full length of the big kitchen and having room for fifteen or sixteen persons, was set three times for one meal. At one time fourteen Bishops were seated around it at the same time. It was always understood that any member of the family having friends were always welcome to bring them home for meals any time. Sometimes some members of the family ate in the pantry. Moroni, the sixth child, was always very bashful and would always take his plate, cup, and spoon and sit on the cellar steps to eat.

Brother Cottam held many positions of responsibility during his lifetime. Some of them being Bishop, Bishop's counselor, assessor and collector, member of the city council, mayor, member of the state legislature, counselor in the Stake Presidency, member of the stake board of education, assistant and later president of the St. George Temple, and Patriarch in the St. George Stake. Nevertheless he was never arrogant or proud and while in the stake presidency said to President Edward H. Snow, "You take the authorities." However, he many times entertained the authorities. Apostles Hyrum Smith asked to stay at Cottam's as he said he felt a good influence there that he did not feel in all homes. Some of the best friendships were made at these conference times and have continued through the years.

Family prayers were participated in both night and morning by all present. When the chairs were set to the table they were turned with the backs inward so all could kneel in a circle facing each other. The lead in the prayers was sometimes taken by the parents, sometimes by the children, and at other times by the visiting brethren. When being seated at the table, the blessing on the food was always in order.

The speakers for the meetings were called at random. The people were warned beforehand to study the scriptures and be prepared to speak at any time and then to call upon the Lord for assistance. It was expected that speakers would not use notes. It was a privilege as well as a duty for all to attend conference. The church served for entertainment as well as for education. Picture shows were unknown for many years. The people had implicit faith in the counsel of the authorities and were always glad to have them come.

The sacrament was administered to and passed to the audience each Sunday afternoon. Wine was used and passed in ordinary tumblers. Each person took a sip and passed it on to the next person until a refill was necessary, at which time the tumbler was passed back to the deacon to be refilled from a pitcher which he carried for that purpose. Many times persons took extra large "sips" and the glass of wine didn't go very far.

People came to these Quarterly Conferences from far and near for the St. George Stake took in a lot of territory in those days. They came from as far south as Panaca and the White River country farther north in Nevada. They also came from Springdale, Virgin, Rockville, Hurricane, LaVerkin, Toquerville, Washington, New Harmony, Enterprise, Pine Valley, Pinto, Veyo, Gunlock, and Santa Clara in Utah.

(This material was told by Emma Jarvis Cottam McArthur, daughter of Thomas and Emmaline Jarvis Cottam, to Nellie McArthur Gubler, eldest grandchild of the Cottams.)


Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.


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