Son of Hugh and Diadema (Drake) Cotton. Married Mrs. Mary McGroff on 5 April 1881; they had a daughter in 1882 who died in infancy. He enlisted in the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was Orderly Sgt. and then the 7th Kansas Calvary. After the war he moved Kansas, Colorado and southern California, where he arrived in 1875, settling in Oakland.