My great-great-great grandfather Jacob Gates knew Oliver Cowdery and the Prophet Joseph Smith personally. He saw Joseph Smith on his horse heading to Carthage, IL before the martyrdom. Here is a cool story about him talking to Oliver before his death.
“Testimony of Jacob Gates. My father, Jacob Gates, while on his way to England, in 1849, stopped at the town of Richmond, where lived at that time Oliver Cowdery. Hearing that Oliver was in poor health, and wishing to renew old acquaintance, as they had been friends in earlier days, father called on him at his home. Their conversation, during the visit drifted to early Church history, and to their mutual experiences during the troublous times in Missouri and Illinois. Finally father put this question to him: “Oliver,” said he, “I want you to tell me the whole truth about your testimony concerning the Book of Mormon—the testimony sent forth to the world over your signature and found in the front of that book. Was your testimony based on a dream, was it the imagination of your mind, was it an illusion, a myth—tell me truthfully?”
To question him thus seemed to touch Oliver very deeply. He answered not a word, but arose from his easy chair, went to the book case, took down a Book of Mormon of the first edition, turned to the testimony of the Three Witnesses, and read in the most solemn manner the words to which he had subscribed his name, nearly twenty years before. Facing my father, he said: “Jacob, I want you to remember what I say to you. I am a dying man, and what would it profit me to tell you a lie? I know,” said he, “that this Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God. My eyes saw, my ears heard, and my understanding was touched, and I know that whereof I testified is true. It was no dream, no vain imagination of the mind—it was real.”
Then father asked him about the angel under whose hands he received the priesthood, to which he made answer thus: “Jacob, I felt the hand of the angel on my head as plainly as I could feel yours, and could hear his voice as I now hear yours.”
Then father asked this question: “If all that you tell me is true, why did you leave the Church?” Oliver made only this explanation; said he: “When I left the Church, I felt wicked, I felt like shedding blood, but I have got all over that now.”