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Daniel J. Otto
McLean County, Illinois

DANIEL J. OTTO, who is practically living a retired life on his fine farm in section 30, Normal township, is a splendid representative of that class of German-American citizens who have done so much to advance the material interests of their adopted country. For many years he was one of the most active and enterprising farmers in the county, industrious as the day was long, but in the lapse of time he has accumulated sufficiently of this world's goods to enable him to lay aside business cares and take life easy. It is not his nature, however, to be idle, so he still does such work as he may feel inclined to do.

He was born in Hessen, Germany, September 11, 1833, and there received his primary education in his native language. His father, John Otto, was a native of the same province, and by occupation was a farmer.

He married Mrs. Margaret Brenneman, nee Otto, who was a distant relative, and they became the parents of three children: Anna, who married Henry Eisenfeld, of Peru, Ill.; Daniel J., our subject; and Jacob, who died at the age of twenty-one years on the old home place in Pennsylvania. By her first husband, Samuel Brenneman, Mrs. Otto had three children: Mary, Samuel and Katie.

In 1845 John Otto came with his family to the United States and located in Somerset county, Pennsylvania, where he purchased what was known as soldier's lot, comprising two hundred acres of land, which was all in timber, and from which very little clearing had been done and on which no improvements had been made. With the energy characteristic of the race he went to work, cleared the land and in due time had a good farm. He remained on that farm during the remainder of his life, dying in 1857. His wife survived him but one year, when she, too, passed to her reward.

The subject of this sketch was but twelve years old when he accompanied his parents to the United States, and for about one year after his arrival he attended the public schools of Somerset county, Pennsylvania, and acquired a fair knowledge of the English language. After that short time in the schools of his adopted country he commenced work with his father in clearing the farm of its heavy timber, and in the school of experience acquired the greater part of the knowledge now possessed.

He remained with his father until twenty-one years old, when he left home and came to McLean county, Illinois. This was in the spring of 1855. For two years he worked by the month for various persons, and then rented a farm in Allin township on which he remained six years, in the meantime accumulating sufficient means to purchase one hundred and twenty acres in the same township. This he improved while still continuing to work his rented land.

His first purchase was made in 1860, and this he later traded for one hundred and sixty acres, also in Allin township. After residing on this last farm for four years he sold it for fifty dollars an acre and in 1867 moved to Champaign county, where he purchased a farm of four hundred acres on which he remained for six years. He was not pleased, however, with that farm, and in 1875 traded it for a farm of two hundred and twenty-three acres in Normal and Dry Grove townships. McLean county, giving in addition four thousand dollars in cash. It was his judgment that the land in Normal township was far superior to that in Champaign county, and he has never felt any reason to change his mind in that regard.

On returning to McLean county, Mr. Otto located on the Normal farm and there remained twelve years, during which time he made several purchases of land as his means permitted. He first purchased one hundred and sixty acres in Dry Grove township, and a little later ninety acres in Normal township, then eighty acres more in Dry Grove township, adjoining his first purchase of ninety acres. He next bought eighty acres adjoining the last eighty, after which he bought eighty acres more in Normal township, adjoining his first ninety, paying for the same one hundred dollars per acre. His next purchase was of forty-three acres adjoining the other place, for which he paid one hundred and seventeen dollars per acre.

On the 27th of April, 1857, Mr. Otto married Miss Jacobina Otto, a native of Butler county, Ohio, and daughter of Daniel and Barbara Otto. Her father moved to McLean county at an early day and became one of the large land owners of the county. By this union ten children were born, four of whom died in infancy. Of those who reached mature years, John E. married Mary Bohrer, and they have had six children, four of whom are living, Gertrude B., Lillian, Hattie and Elsie. They reside in Dry Grove township. Samuel B. married Mary Basting, by whom he had three children, Mabel, Roy and Ralph. His second marriage was with Sarah Baumetz, and they have one child, Grace. They are living in Normal township. Albert married Minnie Basting, and they have four children, Clara, May, Pearl and Alvin. They reside in Dry Grove township. Eliza married Henry C. Lowrey, and with their two children, Joseph Otto and Lawrence, they live in Storey county, Iowa. George D. married Jennie Meyer, and they have three children, Harvey M., Blanche and Chester. They reside in Normal township. Charles E. married Gertrude Kirkpatrick, and they have one child, Cleta. Their home is in Normal township.

On the 30th of September, 1884, Mrs. Otto departed this life, and her remains were interred in the cemetery at Bloomington. She was a good woman, a kind and loving wife and mother, and had many friends to mourn her loss. October 6, 1886, Mr. Otto again married, taking as his wife Miss Mary Houston, a native of Monroe county, Indiana, and daughter of Alfred Houston, who is now living a retired life in Rantoul, Illinois. There are no children by this last union, but in January, 1890, Mr. and Mrs. Otto adopted the orphan son of a brother of Mrs. Otto, and the little one, Allen C. Houston, is now attending the district school.

Mr. Otto has always kept the best grade of stock, hogs, cattle and horses, and has always endeavored to feed all the grain he raised. For eighteen years he was engaged in the business of fattening cattle for the market, and in this line was unusually successful. In fact success has crowned all his efforts in life. On coming to this county he had a good chopping axe, which he wielded with a good strong arm, and from which it may almost be said that with it he hewed out a fortune, for it was his entire capital. He is now the owner of over eight hundred acres of as fine land as there is in McLean county, which is truly the garden spot of the state.

All his land is under cultivation and well improved in every respect, having excellent farm houses and barns, with such outbuildings as are necessary in carrying on well regulated farms. On his farms he has put down over six thousand dollars worth of tiling, and made many other substantial improvements.

Politically, Mr. Otto is a Republican on national issues, but in local elections is decidedly independent, voting for the best men regardless of the party names which they wear. He has never cared for office, but served one term as a member of the county board of supervisors from Dry Grove township, and was also assessor of that township for one term. For nine years he was trustee of schools in Dry Grove township, and for two years served in the same office in Normal township.

He is a member of the Mennonite church, with which he has been connected since he was sixteen years old. His wife is a member of the Christian church. Both are held in the highest esteem, and they have many friends throughout the county, who esteem them for their worth's sake.

[The Biographical record of McLean County, Illinois - S.J. Clarke Publishing Company - (1899)]


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