Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
John Van Cott John Van Cott

1814 - 1883
  • Born 1814 Canaan, New York
  • Baptized 1845 by Parley P. Pratt
  • Married Lucy Sachett; later practiced plural marriage; five wives; twenty-eight hildren
  • Ordained Seventy 1847
  • President of Scandinavian Mission 1852-1856
  • Again President of Scandinavian Mission 1859-1862
  • First Council of Seventy 1862-1883
  • Died 1883 Salt Lake City, Utah

    John Van Cott, one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventies from 1862 to 1883, was born Sept. 7, 1814, in Canaan, Columbia county, New York.

    He was descended from the first settlers of Long Island, N. Y., who came from Holland in 1640, and had for ten generations back belonged to the nobility of Holland. His parents were Losee Van Cott and Lavina Pratt (uncle and aunt to Parley P. and Orson Pratt). John Van Cott was the only boy in the family, and when only ten years old his father died after an illness of seven years, leaving his widow and children surrounded with peace and plenty.

    John embraced the fulness of the gospel under the administration of his uncle, Parley P. Pratt, at Nauvoo, Ill., in September, 1845, twelve years after he first heard the gospel; his sister never joined the Church.

    On September 15, 1835 he married Lucy Sachett, a young lady of a very fine family, who also joined the Church. Together with his wife and mother, he left New York, Feb. 3, 1846, starting for Nauvoo, Illinois. While residing temporarily at Nauvoo in the home of Parley P. Pratt, he contributed $400 in gold to the Temple and also donated to the Church a number of lots which he had purchased in Nauvoo; he received his blessings in the Nauvoo Temple.

   In the fall of 1846 he left Nauvoo for Winter Quarters, where he spent the winter of 184647, having built a one-room log house. Here he became acquainted with Brigham Young, to whom he became greatly attached, their friendship culminating in the marriage of his daughter to the President.

    He was ordained a Seventy Feb. 25, 1847, by Joseph Young.

    In the summer of 1847 Elder Van Cott, together with his mother, wife and two children (Mary and Martha) left Winter Quarters for the West in Capt. Daniel Spencer's company; he fitted up an extra team and wagon which was driven by a hired man. In this wagon his daughter Martha, then about nine years old, rode across the plains. Bro. Van Cott and his family arrived in the Valley Sept. 25, 1847.  Pres. Young sent Bro. Van Cott back to help into the Valley some of the saints, who were delayed on the journey. After his arrival in the Valley, Bro. Van Cott settled in what became known as the Farmer's Ward, on the corner of Tenth South street and West Temple street.

   In 1852, agreeable to call, he went on a mission to Europe, and after reaching England, he was sent to Scandinavia to succeed the late Willard Snow in the presidency of the Scandinavian mission. He presided in that capacity nearly four years, and returned to his mountain home in 1856, after a most successful ministry.

    After his return, he yielded obedience to the law of celestial marriage and took five wives, by whom he became the father of twenty-eight children.

    During the "Utah War," at the time of "The Move" in 1858, he was one of the men deputized to remain in Salt Lake City and set fire to the property, in case the soldiers on their arrival in the Valley should prove hostile.

    In 1859 he was called on a second mission to Scandinavia and again presided over the mission, this time about two and a half years. He returned home in 1862. On these two missions he became very much endeared to the Scandinavian Saints, whose sterling qualities and integrity he learned to appreciate. He also acquired the Danish language to a considerable degree of perfection.

    After his return home from his second foreign mission, he was chosen as one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventies, being first sustained in that capacity at the October conference, 1862. Soon afterwards he was called on a special mission to the Scandinavian Saints in Utah, and while laboring in that calling made his home temporarily in Sanpete county.

    He continued his labors among the Seventies with zeal and fidelity until his death, which occurred at his home a short distance south of Salt Lake City, Feb. 18, 1883, after a lingering illness of several months.

    In an obituary notice published in the Deseret News, the editor of that paper says: "It would be difficult to find a more exemplary or conscientious man than Brother Van Cott. He was a good man in the broad sense, not negatively so, but as a producer of the good fruits of a well spent life. He was one of those whose character and motives appeared so far beyond reproach that we doubt if they have ever been the subject of even suspicion. * * * At home and abroad, whenever Brother Van Cott adjourned, he was regarded with esteem and regard, his very presence and appearance inspiring sentiments of that nature."

   LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, p. 198
   LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 2, p.727
   LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 4, p.374
   Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
   2005 Church Almanac, p. 71

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