Judge Cotton Was a Natural
Cotton was one of our Superior Court judges. Prior to that he served on the San Mateo City Council and as mayor of San Mateo. He is also remembered for the prestigious family into which he married.
As a promising young San Francisco attorney, Cotton wooed and won the heart of Alice Borel, daughter of Swiss banker Anton Borel of San Mateo. He used to visit the Borel estate, and he wrote of their courtship days hiking and picnicking on her father's land. Cotton was appointed by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 to be the U.S. prosecuting attorney in the Philippines. His absence coincided with a trip Alice made to Switzerland. The two continued their romance through letters.
Aylett and Alice wrote of their plans for a wedding. They were determined that it would take place in 1907. Alice expressed her wish to be wed in the small chapel on the Borel estate. That same chapel was used years later for the Hillbarn Theater. Alice's sister Sophie was married at about the same time to John Lewis, Cotton's best friend. Anton Borel valued a close family, and he had homes built on his property for his children.
Aylett returned to his law practice in San Francisco. He was named Chief Assistant District Attorney for San Francisco in 1910. He was noted for always being a champion of the underdog. After 1920, Cotton returned to private practice.
In 1927 Cotton successfully ran for San Mateo City Council. He was a proponent of expansion for the city. During his days on the council, he fought for the annexation of the Aragon and Beresford sections as well as Bay Meadows and the land nearby. He served as mayor and councilman when many important changes were made in the city.
While still serving the city of San Mateo in 1935, Cotton was appointed to the Superior Court by Gov. Frank Merriam. Thus Aylett Cotton left city politics and began his distinguished career as a judge. Alice died in 1936, and Aylett later married her sister Sophie, who by now had been widowed.
Now the part of the story we never remember is about Cotton's father, Aylett R. Cotton Sr. He was a native of Ohio, descended from a noted Colonial family of Massachusetts. He was college educated and taught school for a time. He also studied law in Iowa. He came to California during the Gold Rush and returned to Iowa after two years. There he practiced law and served as a prosecuting attorney and a judge. He also served as mayor of his town and became a member of the state Constitutional Convention, member of the state House of Representatives, serving as speaker in his last term. Then he was twice elected to Congress. In 1883, he returned to California to practiced law in San Francisco, where he appeared in the Blue Book of local Society.
This young fellow, Aylett Cotton Jr. didn't just appear and make his mark because of his wife's family influence and money. His opponents did charge this during his political campaigns. It is obvious that he was just following in his father's footsteps when he became such a leading citizen of San Mateo County.
SOURCE- Daily Journal, August 08, 2005
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