His brother, Charles N. Cotton outlived Ben by 6 years. Charles died in 1914, on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, at age 80. At his death his body was transported to Pawtucket, RI and buried next to his wife. He had two children, Emma, and Jennie. Emma died in 1919. Jennie lived to be a very elderly woman. She also died on Nantucket. She was buried with her parents in Pawtucket. One of her descendants still lives on Nantucket.
His wife, Ella Cotton, age 38 at the time of Ben Cotton’s death, continued to work for a few years in the Harlem laundry he owned. Edward Le Roy Rice, author of Monarchs of Minstrelsy, 1911, an invaluable reference work, thanked Ella in a list of acknowledgements. Presumably she supplied some of the photographs that Rice used in his book. The last record of her future life was an entry in the city directory of 1915.
Of his four daughters, the eldest, Sarah Elizabeth (Cotton) Rounds died in Bristol, RI, in 1918. She was 70 years old at the time of her death. Several of her descendents still live in Bristol. Her great, great grandson acted on Broadway before falling victim to the AIDS epidemic.
Isadora (Cotton) Durbrow died in San Francisco in 1933 at the age of 83. Her husband, George, had died in 1912. Together they had operated and superintended the salt mines at Indio, California, on the edge of the Salton Sea. When George died Isadora moved back to Rhode Island, filed for a widow’s pension based on her husband’s Civil War service, and lived in Providence for two decades. In her final years, both of her sisters now long dead, she returned to California.
Euretta (Cotton) Purrington died at age 71 in San Francisco. Her son, Benjamin Allen Purrington, began singing in local productions at the age of 25. Eventually he became of a member of the Bohemian Club, and authored several plays, including “Saul,” published by the Club in 1936. One of his descendants still lives in the Bay area.
Idalene (Cotton) Long's last play was a mystery/ detective production titled “At 9:45.” The script for the play was “novelized." The book included a photograph of Idalene in her role. The Longs filed for bankruptcy in 1923. Nick Long continued to act well after his wife had stopped performing on the stage. Before he died he had a minor role in a silent film, “Shore Leave,” that can be seen on DVD. Idalene died in Amityville, New York in 1939 at 66. She outlived her husband, Nick, by more than a decade.
The Longs' two children also had careers performing. Gladys (Long) Davis was probably the “chorine” that Ed Sullivan once made mention of in a scrap of theatrical gossip about her brother. Sullivan’s comment may have been the first use of the term “torch” to mean undying (and unrequited) love, as in to “carry a torch” and “torch songs.” She died in New York in 1941.
Nick Long Jr., her younger brother, acted in half a dozen silent films, all of which have been lost. Two of his “talkies” can still be viewed on DVD. “Broadway Melody of 1936” starring Jack Benny, Robert Taylor, and June Knight, was nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. In it Long performs an acrobatic dance routine. That same year of 1936 he appeared in a small part for “King of Burlesque,” again performing a dance number. The film is notable for a cameo role for pianist Fats Waller. Ironically both Long and Waller were cast as would-be entertainers eager to break into show business. Long was killed in an automobile accident on the Henry Hudson Parkway in 1949. He was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery, in New York, in the same lot with his grandfather, Ben Cotton; grandmother, Nellie Cotton; parents, Idalene Cotton and Nick Long; and his sister, Gladys.