Gustave OTTO, a farmer residing on section 27, Magnolia township, is a
representative of that hardy race that has done so much toward the
upbuilding of this country. He was born in Prussia, Germany, July 29, 1838,
and there remained until nineteen years of age, receiving a good common
school education. While still residing in his native land, he learned the
wagon maker’s trade, at which he worked until coming to this country. In
1857 he crossed the ocean, coming west directly to Chicago, where he
remained six weeks and then came to Marshall county, Illinois, and worked
for Henry WEIR one month. In the following spring he worked for John MYERS,
and then came to Magnolia township, Putnam county and entered the service of
Captain William HAWS as a farm hand at a salary of ten dollars per month.
Mr. OTTO continued in the employ of Captain HAWS from 1858 until 1865, and then rented the Phillips farm in British Lane, La Salle county for one year, after which he leased the farm of George Hildebrandt in Magnolia township, Putnam county, for two years.. In the spring of 1868 he purchased eighty acres, a part of his present farm and which was a part of the Joel Haws farm, where Mr. HAWS settled in 1838. In 1862 he married Miss Eunice HAWS, a daughter of Joel HAWS, and a native of Putnam county, born in 1840. Her education was received in the public schools of Magnolia township. By this union seven children were born, all of whom are now living – James A., Helen M., Joel W., Maud M., Bessie, Alice and Lulu.
As stated the first purchase of land by Mr. OTTO was eighty acres of the Joel Haws farm. With that industry and perseverance peculiar to his nationality, combined with habits of strict economy, he commenced the improvement of his place, and as his means would permit added to his possessions until he now has a farm of two hundred and sixty acres, in addition to which he owns forty-six acres of timber land in Marshall county. In addition to general farming he has made something of a specialty of stock raising, and has at all times upon his place a good grade of cattle, hogs and other stock.
Mr. OTTO was reared a Lutheran and has always been attached to the teachings of that church. He is a member of the Masonic order, holding membership with the blue lodge at Magnolia, and has served in all the chairs to junior warden. A friend of the public schools, he has taken much interest in educational matters, and for fifteen years has served as school director. Politically, he is a democrat, and has been honored by his fellow citizens with local office, serving as road commissioner, township collector and for eight years a member of the board of supervisors of the county, three years of which time serving as chairman.
On coming to this country, Mr. OTTO found himself in debt to the amount of seventy-five dollars. To the payment of his debt he first turned his attention and was never satisfied until every dollar was paid. He then began to lay by a store of his hard earned means until he felt able to marry and afterward to purchase his farm. He can truly be said to be a self-made man, and never attended an English school. On the death of Captain William Haws he was appointed one of the administrators of the estate and has faithfully discharged the duties of that important trust.
Extracted March 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.
Among the venerable and worthy citizens who in former years were actively connected with the agricultural development of Putnam county but are now living in honorable retirement is numbered Gustav OTTO, who owns and occupies a beautiful home in the village of Magnolia, enjoying in well earned rest the fruits of his former toil. His birth occurred in Prussia, Germany, July 29, 1838. His parents were Michael and Rose (ZEABEL) OTTO, who were likewise natives of the fatherland, and the former died when our subject was a little lad of but three years. The mother was afterward married again, subsequent to which time she came to the United States and settled in Magnolia, where her death occurred in 1875.
Gustav OTTO was reared in his native country to the age of nineteen years and was there educated. Having heard favorable reports of the United States and the possibilities to be enjoyed by young men of ambition and energy, Mr. OTTO decided to try his fortune in the new country, and accordingly, in 1857, took passage on a sailing vessel bound for the new world, which was six weeks in making the voyage. When he boarded the vessel at Hamburg, Germany, he had but thirty dollars in money, so that when he landed in America it was necessary that he at once secure employment. He had learned and followed the wagonmaker's trade in the fatherland, but on coming to this country never followed that pursuit. Upon landing in New York he at once made his way to Chicago, and remained in that city for six weeks, subsequent to which time he went to Marshall county, Illinois, where he was employed for one month by Henry WEIR. In the following spring he entered the employ of John MEYERS, for whom he worked during that season and then came to Putnam county, and was employed at farm labor by Captain William Haws, who lived in Magnolia township, receiving as compensation for his services ten dollars per month. He continued in the employ of Mr. Haws from 1858 until 1865, when, having saved his earnings, he felt justified in starting out in life upon an independent venture, and first located on a tract of land which he rented from a Mr. Phillips, at British Lane, La Salle county, this state. After a year he leased a farm of George HILDEBRANDT, and once more took up his abode in Magnolia township, Putnam county. He operated that farm for two years, and in the meantime, having saved a sum sufficient to purchase land, in the spring of 1868 he came into possession of a tract of eighty acres, which forms a part of the farm which he still owns, and which was known as the Joel HAWS farm, and had been settled in 1838. With persistent energy, so characteristic of the German race, Mr. OTTO at once began to develop and improve his farm, following only the most practical methods in the cultivation of his field and the planting of his crops. As the years passed and he prospered in his undertakings he added to his land from time to time until he now owns two hundred and sixty acres of finely improved land, which is now operated by his son, Joel, and from which he derives an income sufficient to enable him to live in honorable retirement throughout his remaining days. He also owns forty-six acres of timber land in Marshall county, so that his landed possessions are of considerable extent. In former years, in addition to his general fanning pursuits, Mr. OTTO also engaged quite extensively in stock-raising, having at all times the best grades of animals. He was actively engaged in farming and stock-raising until eight years ago, when he retired and took up his abode in the village of Magnolia, where he bought five acres of land, whereon he has a commodious residence, which is one of the finest homes in the town, and here he and his wife are spending the evening of their days.
In 1862 Mr. OTTO was united in marriage to Miss Eunice HAWS, a daughter of Joel HAWS, and a native of Putnam county, born in 1840. Her education was acquired in the public schools of Magnolia township and she was early trained to the duties of the household, so that she was well qualified to take charge of a home of her own at the time of her marriage to Mr. OTTO, to whom she has indeed proved a faithful and able assistant. Unto our subject and his wife have been born seven children, and the family circle yet remains unbroken by the hand of death. The record is as follows: James A., who wedded Miss PHILBROOK and resides at Independence, Kansas; Helen M., the wife of I. D. GLENN, a resident farmer of this township; Joel W., who wedded Nellie SIMPSON, of Hennepin, and is operating the old homestead farm; Maud M., the wife of Lawrence DUGAN, and a resident of Camp Grove, Illinois; Bessie, the wife of Rev. SCHACHT, a resident of London Mills, Illinois; Alice, the wife of George BOYESTEDE; and Lulu, who is at home.
In politics Mr. OTTO has always been a democrat and has taken a deep and active interest in the work of his party. Recognizing his ability and worth he has frequently been called upon to fill positions of public honor and trust, having served for twenty-four years as school director, one year as collector, three years as highway commissioner, and for eight years was supervisor, and for three years of the time acted as chairman of the board. Although Magnolia township is a republican stronghold Mr. OTTO has never been defeated for any office, thus showing his popularity and prominence in this community. He was reared in the faith of the Lutheran church, and has always been identified with the church of that denomination, while fraternally he holds membership with the blue lodge of Masons at Magnolia, acting as treasurer of the organization for many years, and he also served in a number of other offices in the lodge.
When Mr. OTTO arrived in America he was in debt to the amount of seventy-five dollars, but he immediately secured employment, and in a short time earned money sufficient to liquidate this indebtedness, after which he saved his earnings, which he judiciously invested in land, and through his close application and capable management prospered in his undertakings, thus adding to his possessions from time to time until he is now one of the wealthy land-owners of Putnam county, and is Known as a reliable and trustworthy citizen who has acquired his property through honest and straightforward methods. Upon the death of Captain William HAWS, many years ago, our subject was appointed one of the administrators of the estate, the duties of which he discharged with the same loyalty that has ever been manifest in the conduct of his own personal interests. He has been a trustee of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company for about twenty years. He and his wife are highly esteemed in the community in which they have so long lived and labored, and their own beautiful home is a favorite resort for their numerous friends and acquaintances.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.