The Nine Jacob Otts of Orangeburgh SC

The Nine Jacob Otts of Orangeburgh, South Carolina

Copyright © 1999-2004 T. Mark James
Permission Notice at end


Most people with Ott ancestry in the southern states can trace their lineage to an ancestor named Jacob Ott who lived in Orangeburgh, South Carolina, in the eighteenth century. The problem is, which one? There were at least nine men of that name who were born, or lived, or were alleged to have lived, in Orangeburgh sometime between 1700 and 1799. The purpose of this page is to try to straighten them out.

Here are the nine Jacobs, with an analysis of each to follow.


Jacob Ott born 1703 (or 1701, or 1708)

Some family stories, especially among the Louisiana Otts,[1] claim that the immigrant ancestor of the Ott line was a man named Jacob Ott. Most research indicates that this is false, and that the immigrant was named Melchior Ott.[2] Still, the Jacob ancestor theory has some evidence.

A looseleaf page in a Bible belonging to Charles Ott (1799-1867, of the Louisiana line) seems to show the following:[3]

If this is in fact an account of Charles Ott’s own ancestry, it would suggest an ancestor named Jacob, in the same generation where most other evidence puts a Melchior. Unfortunately, the Bible in question appears to be lost now, and the two accounts that we have of it are not entirely consistent; both admit that the page is largely illegible. The only other entry that anyone can read is, “Jasper Ott was born in Spitzerland [sic] A.D. 17__.”

Ruth Ott Wallis based her history of the Ott family[4] on the Charles Ott Bible. She discovered a marriage entry in Rev. Giessendanner’s records[5] for one Jacob Ott to Margaret Fichtner, dated 3 December 1754.[6] She concluded that this Jacob was the one in the Charles Ott Bible, born in 1703; and his and Margaret Fichtner’s son, Jacob, born 14 August 1755,[7] was the one who immigrated to Louisiana. Mrs. Wallis did not know of the Jacob born in 1725, who would have been a better candidate for a marriage in 1754. (Nor did she know of the Jacob born in 1774, who as we shall see was the one who moved to Louisiana. Thus Mrs. Wallis skipped two generations in her account.)

Janette Ott Lowery, who did much research on the Ott family during the 1970s,[8] knew of Mrs. Wallis’ book and the Charles Ott Bible; she also knew of the evidence showing an immigrant ancestor named Melchior. She concluded that Jacob Ott was the brother of Melchior. When Jacob died in Switzerland, Melchior brought Jacob’s four children, along with two of his own, to South Carolina. This family of seven would account for the grant of 350 acres (50 per head) that Melchior Ott received in 1735.[9] It is unclear whether Mrs. Lowery had other sources for this story besides the Charles Ott Bible.

The four children that she assigned to Jacob Ott were Jasper/Caspar (b. 1721), Esther (b. 1723), Jacob (b. 1725), and Isaac (b. 1729). Melchior’s children were John Frederick (b. 1719) and Ulrich (no date, but probably around 1730). The Giessendanner registers list all of these except Isaac (who doesn’t appear at all) as second-generation Otts, and only Melchior as a first-generation Ott.[10] Records in Oberhasli district, Switzerland,[11] show that Caspar Ott was born in 1728, not to Jacob, but rather to the same Melchior Ott (whom I call “Melchior of Guttannen”) who came to South Carolina in 1746.

One of the Melchiors from the Oberhasli district (“Melchior of Meiringen”) really did have a brother named Jacob, born in 1701;[12] and the absence of baptismal records for the period following 1703 leaves open the possibility that the other Melchior might have had a brother named Jacob too. Only one Jacob Ott of this generation married in the Oberhasli district (and the marriage register is intact for this entire period): Jacob Ott married Anna Zahler on 6 January 1729.[13] Jacob, brother of Melchior of Meiringen, would have been 27 years old, exactly the average age for men to marry for the first time in this period.[14] Children born to this couple during the period from 1729 to 1733 would be lost with the baptismal register, but after 1733 this couple had Salome (1734), Jacob (1740), and Catharina (1743).[15] Since the Jacob born in 1740 would have been much too young to marry Margaret Fichtner in 1754 (see Jacob born 1725), we can discount this family as the source of the “brother Jacob” story.

In a somewhat far-fetched account of the origin of the many Ott families in America, Dr. John Phillip Ott of Columbus, Georgia (who was probably writing in the early 1900s[16]) stated that there were four Ott brothers — Jasper, Peter, Melchior, and Jacob — who came from “the upper Rhine in Switzerland” and landed in New York. (Other variants of this story have seven brothers.) One brother started the New York branch of the family; one brother started the Pennsylvania branch; and the last two, Jacob and Melchior, came to South Carolina.

Apart from the usual suspicions that accrue to the generally bogus “three brothers” kinds of family stories, this one has some serious problems. For one thing, it is virtually certain that a Melchior Ott arrived by ship directly from Europe to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1735.[17] For another, the New York versions of this story claim a brother named Aaron as their ancestor; there is no Aaron Ott at all in the Oberhasli district (indeed, the given name Aaron is not used anywhere in the records that I have from there). In any event, attempts to unify all American Otts under one immigrant family are somewhat naïve, given the wide distribution of Ott families throughout Germany, France and Switzerland, and given also the fact that some Ott immigrants were Protestants while others were staunch Catholics.

Dr. J. P. Ott’s account probably derives from that of Siberia Ott, of Washington County, New York, who wrote to Dr. Ott’s father in 1880 in an attempt to establish a family claim to the Martin Ott fortune. Siberia Ott wrote of his ancestor Aaron Ott, who immigrated to New York with a German nobleman named Hylor around 1750; he also mentioned that “others of the Ott family came south of N. York” — probably the source of Dr. Ott’s story of the brothers. Siberia Ott’s story is a classic case of the distortions that can appear in family legends.

Who, then, is the Jacob Ott shown in the Charles Ott Bible? Without the Bible page to examine, we can only guess. My guess is that this Jacob is Charles’ own father, Jacob Ott born 1774. To me, it seems odd that Jacob should be listed as having been born “of Swiss parentage”, while Jasper is shown as being born “in Spitzerland”. I would guess that the page is showing Charles’ ancestors in ascending order, not descending; and the age and condition of the page suggests that it might have been written by Jacob born 1774 himself. If this is true, the smudged date 170_ would really be 177_. We shall return to this Bible page in more detail below, when we discuss Jacob Ott born 1774.

If this interpretation is correct, then there is no need to come up with stories to explain yet another immigrant ancestor. This Jacob Ott really existed, but he never left Switzerland, nor did his offspring.


Jacob Ott born about 1725

A Jacob Ott, who would have been born somewhere around 1725, is one of six Otts mentioned in the Giessendanner record who appear to be of a younger generation than the two Melchior Otts who died during the 1750s. If we discount the evidence for an immigrant Jacob born in 1703, it would make most sense that the Jacob who appears in the Giessendanner records was a son of one of the Melchiors.

The first mention of a Jacob Ott in South Carolina is the signature of a man by that name on a petition in 1749, in support of Rev. Giessendanner as pastor of the local church.[18] This indicates that he must have been at least 21 years of age — thus born no later than 1728. The three marriages of men named Melchior Ott in Oberhasli district occurred from 1719 to 1722,[19] so 1720 would be the earliest likely birth date for our man. His marriage in 1754 would indicate a birth date toward the end of the 1720-1728 range, so 1725 is as good a guess as any.

The Giessendanner record shows a marriage between Jacob Ott and Margaret Fichtner on 3 December 1754.[20] Two children are recorded from this union: Jacob, born 14 August 1755;[21] and an unnamed (or illegible) daughter, baptised on an unspecified date, probably in January or February 1759.[22] Her name may have been Mary: at least, a “Jacob Ott Senar” sold a slave to “Mary Burch, daughter of the said Jacob Ott” in 1787,[23] and no other Jacob is likely to have had a married daughter in 1787.

It is presumed that this Jacob inherited the 350 acres of land that Melchior of Meiringen obtained in 1735, because his son disposed of the same land in 1786.[24] This might also indicate that Jacob had died by 1786, although we have no other evidence for his death. Family stories report that a Jacob Ott was murdered by the Tories during the Revolutionary War.[25] On the other hand, the 1787 deed of sale to Mary Burch is difficult to explain if Jacob died by 1786; and two stray Jacobs appear on the 1790 census, one of whom could well be the Jacob born in 1725.

Margaret Fichtner, wife of Jacob born 1725, was probably a daughter of Theodore Fichtner, who was surveyed 450 acres of land on Cow Castle Swamp, Orangeburgh, on 30 November 1752.[26] (This may have been the same man as “Theodosius Tichner” who arrived in Charleston with a wife and seven children on the Cunliffe, in September 1752.[27]) Of Theodore Fichtner’s other probable children:[28] Elizabeth Fichtner married George Frederick Knobel in 1753;[29] Rev. Giessendanner reported that they were “both lately come into this Township from Germany.” A Nicholas Dirr and wife Mary seem to be closely associated with the Fichtner family in the 1750s; Mary may have been another daughter of Theodore Fichtner.[30]


Jacob Ott born 1755

The only solid birthdate that we have for any of our nine Jacobs is this one, whose baptism appears in the Giessendanner record:[31]

This Jacob is probably the one who served in the Revolutionary War. Moss’s Roster of South Carolina Patriots lists him as having served 60 days as a captain in the militia.[32] In South Carolina Revolutionary Soldiers, Sailors, Patriots and Descendants, compiled by Joseph T. Maddox and Mary Carter (published by Georgia Pioneers Publications, no date), volume I, page 117, we see him listed as follows:[33]

This is the sole evidence that I know of for this Jacob’s marriage, and the authors do not cite their sources. The book is supposed to list wives’ maiden names. Did Jacob marry another Ott, or did the authors simply not know Jacob’s wife’s maiden name? There really was a Mary Elizabeth Ott, daughter of Caspar Ott and Maria Stehely, born on 4 August 1759 in Orangeburgh.[34] This might have been Jacob’s wife. Peggy Ann Easterling Miller says as much, in her book The Ott Family of Orangeburg District.[35] By her reckoning, Jacob and Mary Elizabeth Ott were first cousins; but Mrs. Miller worked under the assumption that there was only one Melchior Ott. By my account, Jacob and Mary Elizabeth were grandchildren of different Melchiors, and thus were not cousins, or at least not first or second cousins.

In 1786, Jacob and Mary Ott sold the land that Melchior Ott (of Meiringen) had acquired in Orangeburgh Township in 1735, to one Thomas Clarck.[36] They then moved to the area called Cow Castle Swamp, now known as Bowman, South Carolina.[37] A family register owned by the Dukes family in Bowman (who are descendants of Abraham Ott, c1799-c1865) lists the following entries:[38]

The correction on Mary’s death from “Twenty” to “Sixteen” indicates that this account was written after the fact. The reference to “Jacob Ott Sen.” suggests that there was also a “Jacob Ott Jun.”, but who this might be is not clear; at the time, the terms “senior” and “junior” did not necessarily apply to father and son, but to any two men of the same name but of different generations. (Still, as we shall see, Jacob born 1755 probably was the father of Jacob born 1776.)

Were the Jacob and Mary Ott listed in the Dukes family register the same ones who sold Melchior’s land in 1786? Probably, because (1) a Jacob Ott purchased land in the Cow Castle area in 1785,[39] just prior to the 1786 sale; (2) Theodore Fichtner, probably the father of Margaret Fichtner and grandfather of Jacob born 1755, had acquired 450 acres of land in the Cow Castle area in 1752,[40] so Jacob had family there; (3) in 1788, a Jacob Ott was one of the founders of the short-lived Frederician Church on Cattle’s Creek (just north of Cow Castle), along with Frederick Knobel, who would have been Jacob born 1755’s uncle or first cousin;[41] and (4) we know of no other Jacob/Mary Ott couple at that time.

This family register appears in a Bible that appears to have once belonged to Abraham Ott (1755-1799). This fact points to a strong tie between Abraham and Jacob born 1755. Let’s look at Abraham Ott now.

Abraham Ott was a contemporary, and quite likely a brother, of Jacob Ott born 1755. Mysteriously, he seems to have escaped almost every enumeration taken in Orangeburgh. He was born in 1757,[42] at a time when Rev. Giessendanner was faithfully recording births and baptisms, but he does not appear in the Giessendanner record. He was presumably present in Orangeburgh in 1790, with a wife and a newborn daughter, but is absent from that year’s census. There is no official record of his marriage or death. In 1773, a Jacob and Abraham Ott paid a quitrent on 350 acres of land that had been granted to “Melcher Ott”[43] — probably the 1735 grant to Melchior of Meiringen. An Abraham Ott served as a lieutenant in the militia during the Revolutionary War.[44] In 1786, Abraham acquired 605 acres of land on Whitford Stage Swamp in Orangeburgh;[45] in 1788, he surveyed 205 acres in the Bull Swamp area of Orangeburgh, and received a deed for that land in 1793.[46] However, most of the information that we possess on Abraham comes from a Bible owned by Dr. W. F. Dukes, of the Bowman branch of the Ott family. Here is a transcription of the family page of that Bible:[47]

Abraham and his wife therefore both died in 1799, cleverly missing the 1800 census, and his probate papers are missing too, thanks probably to William Tecumseh Sherman.[48] According to a later lawsuit, Abraham’s will was administered by a Jacob Ott.[49] The most likely candidate for this administrator is Jacob born 1755, who would thus be a very close relative, probably a brother, of Abraham.

The 1790 census shows three men named Jacob Ott:[50]

The second one (page 416) we shall deal with in the next section. The last one, “Jacob Ott Junr”, is the best candidate for Jacob born 1755, because the other two Jacobs have no sons listed. Again, the terms “senior” and “junior” as used in the eighteenth century did not necessarily refer to a father-son pair; a Jacob who was “junior” early in his life could become a “senior” later, especially if he or some brother had a son named Jacob.

If Jacob Ott Junr was Jacob born 1755, then who were the two senior Jacobs? One of them could have been the father of Jacob born 1755, that is, Jacob born 1725. However, if we are correct in aligning the ownership of the 1735 land grant as Melchior of Meiringen to Jacob born 1725 to Jacob born 1755, then it is odd that Jacob born 1755 should have sold the 1735 land while his father was still alive; his ownership of it in 1786 suggests that both his grandfather and his father were dead by that time, and had no business showing up in the 1790 census. Still, it is tempting to identify one of the two senior Jacobs as Jacob born 1725. If so, he was probably the one on page 394, since the one on page 416 is listed among neighbors who lived in the Caw Caw Swamp region (many of them signed a 1798 petition to outlaw the blocking of the Caw Caw stream[51]); and the Otts of this region bore names that seem to belong to the family of Melchior of Guttannen. So Jacob born 1725, who (we have concluded) was of the family of Melchior of Meiringen, would more likely be the Jacob on page 394.

Dr. Julian D. Kelly has suggested that the two entries for Jacob Senr were really for the same family, enumerated twice by an inattentive census-taker.[52] But even if this is true — or if Jacob born 1725 was still alive in 1790 — that still leaves us with one stray Jacob on that year’s census. Let’s look at him now.


Jacob Ott born circa 1750s

On the 1790 census for Orangeburgh, there were two men listed as Jacob Ott Senr. Each had one male over 16 (himself) and two females in his household; one had ten slaves, the other eight. Assuming that one of them was Jacob born 1725 (an assumption that presents problems) or was a double-count, who is the other?

Both of these Jacobs vanish by the 1800 census. The 1790 census indicates only that they were both “over 16” — that is, born no later than 1774. Let’s assume, for the moment, that one of them was Jacob born 1725. The other one, if he was a young man, must have been at least in his twenties, since the census record suggests that he had a wife and daughter. That would indicate a birth no later than the 1760s. Note that his birth or baptism does not appear in the Giessendanner record, but as we learned with Abraham Ott above, that does not prove that he wasn’t born during Giessendanner’s period.

Could he have been an older man, born before the period of the Giessendanner records? It seems unlikely that he was the son of one of the Melchiors, because Melchior of Meiringen already had a son named Jacob, and we have what appears to be a complete list of Melchior of Guttannen’s children[53] — at least those born in Switzerland. It is possible that Melchior of Guttannen remarried in Orangeburgh and had a son in the late 1740s; such a child would have been too old to appear as a baptism in the Giessendanner records, and too young to figure as a witness to marriages and baptisms (as his older half-siblings did). Some of the older children of the two Melchiors might also have had marriages and children before Giessendanner’s time.

This mystery Jacob was probably not of a non-Melchior line. The only non-Melchior Ott family that we know of in the area was that of Martin Ott, of Craven County (across the Santee River from Orangeburgh County). Martin Ott died in 1774, leaving a will that mentions only one surviving son, also named Martin.[54] It is conceivable that the younger Martin had a son Jacob during the 1760s, but it is unclear why such a son would, just by chance, move to Orangeburgh County and find himself living in a neighborhood with Melchior descendants.

So the most likely explanation for this stray Jacob is that one of the second generation of Otts — the children of the two Melchiors — had a son named Jacob during the 1750s or 1760s. If we are correct in identifying the stray Jacob as the one listed on page 416 of the 1790 census — a page inhabited by probable descendants of Melchior of Guttannen — then this would be further evidence that our rogue Jacob might have been a grandson of Melchior of Guttannen.

There is evidence for such a grandson. There was a younger Melchior Ott (possibly the son of Melchior of Guttannen, born in 1730) who held 300 acres of land on which he paid quitrents from 1760 to 1770.[55] He also paid a quitrent in 1770 on 100 acres of land owned by his wife, Isabella Catherine Schellinger.[56] Then in 1771, the quitrent on Melchior’s land was paid by his son, Jacob.[57] If this Jacob was old enough to pay a quitrent in 1771, then he was probably born by the early 1750s. This could be the same man as our stray Jacob. His birth either antedated the Giessendanner record, or else he was simply missed out, as Abraham was. The younger Melchior would have had to be a father at age twenty or so, in order for this explanation to work.

Such a Jacob might even have been the namesake for Jacob born 1774, who, as we shall speculate, grew up in this same Caw Caw Creek neighborhood. And this might be why he is called “Jacob Ott Senr”, even though he has no son named Jacob (or any son at all) on the 1790 census. The unlisted “Jacob Ott Junr” might simply be his sixteen-year-old nephew, Jacob born 1774.

There is, however, another more disruptive possibility. If this Jacob was a rough contemporary of Jacob born 1755, might he also have had a wife named Mary? In that case, our identification of the Jacob/Mary couple who sold Melchior of Meiringen’s land with the Jacob/Mary couple who died in the Bowman area in 1820 and 1816, respectively, might be in error. Could this stray Jacob, and not Jacob born 1755, have been Abraham’s brother, who administered Abraham’s will when the latter died in 1799? Could this stray Jacob, and not Jacob born 1755, have been the father of Jacob born 1776? Probably not, because the 1790 census does not show a fourteen-year-old son (or any son) for this Jacob. But what our stray Jacob does teach us is that we do not know all there is to know about the nine Jacob Otts of eighteenth-century Orangeburgh. Indeed, if Jacob born 1725 was dead by the time of the 1790 census, then we have two stray Jacobs on that census, and ten Jacobs in all. And if we are incorrect in identifying the stray Jacob with the one who paid his father Melchior’s quitrent in 1771, then we have eleven.


Jacob Ott born 1774 (a.k.a. the Louisiana Jacob)

The Ott line of Washington Parish, Louisiana, traces their ancestry back to a Jacob Ott who married Margaret Jackson, moved to Louisiana probably in 1807 (and certainly by 1813), and died there on 26 February 1836, “age 61 years”.[58] He was therefore born in 1774 or early 1775. Accounts written by his descendants give him a birth date of 1774,[59] except for the one written by Ruth Ott Wallis, who wanted the progenitor of the Louisiana Otts to have been the Jacob born in 1755; she therefore emended the Bible account that she cited to read “age 81 years” instead of “age 61 years”.[60] But Jacob himself listed his age in the 50-60 category for the 1830 census,[61] which fits with the 1774 birth date.

Children of Jacob Ott and Margaret Jackson were:[62]

There was also a Joel Ott in the household in Louisiana. Some family stories claim that Joel was an illegitimate son of Jacob’s father,[63] others that he was adopted.

Family accounts tell that the Louisiana Jacob was the third in a succession of three Jacob Otts;[64] but those stories were probably based upon a reading of A. S. Salley’s History of Orangeburg County, which mentions the Jacobs born in 1725 and 1755.[65] Since there is a dearth of records in Orangeburgh from the end of the Giessendanner period (1760) to the beginning of the census data (1790), we cannot prove a link between Jacob born 1774 and any previous Jacob. There may also have been confusion in the family stories between Jacob born 1774, who moved to Louisiana, and Jacob born 1776, who moved to Alabama; the latter, as we shall see, may well have had a father and a grandfather named Jacob.

The only document that seems to give the ancestry of Jacob born 1774 is a loose-leaf page in the Charles Ott Bible. Charles Ott was the oldest surviving son of Jacob Ott and Margaret Jackson. This Bible seems to be lost now, and the two surviving accounts of it are not entirely consistent. The following transcription comes from a six-page history of the Otts written by Eleanore Ott.[66] The “Dr. Ott” mentioned is probably Dr. William Oscar Ott (1883-1963) of Fort Worth, Texas, grandson of Charles Ott and brother of Ruth Ott Wallis. I present the account below in all its ambiguity, particularly with regard to who wrote which parenthetical comment:

The second transcription of this Bible entry comes from Ruth Ott Wallis.[67] She writes:

Neither Mrs. Wallis nor Eleanore Ott appears to have examined the Bible in question. The use of the phrase “earliest authentic record” in both transcriptions suggests that they are not independent versions, but that both used Dr. Ott’s copy as their source — and didn’t necessarily transcribe it accurately, either. The first account seems to say that the page contained only four lines, the last of which was an illegible line of two words. Mrs. Wallis’ account, on the other hand, suggests, but does not explicitly state, that the page was full of names, all of whom were descendants of a Jacob born in 170_.

My interpretation (or, more honestly, my wild guess) is that the Jacob Ott on the first line is not the oldest ancestor, but the youngest — in other words, the Jacob to whom the Bible belonged. The smudged date would therefore be not 170_ but 177_, most likely 1774. Note that he was born “of Swiss parentage”, and not “in Switzerland” as Jasper Ott was. The second line would simply mean that the Jacob who came to Louisiana was a descendant of 17th-century Swiss immigrants. The third line indicates that Jasper (or Gasper or Caspar) Ott was his immigrant ancestor; and the fourth, illegible two-word line would give Jasper’s father: Melchior Ott.

Whether or not my interpretation is correct, it seems clear that Jasper/Caspar Ott is on that page only because he was an ancestor of Jacob born 1774. Such an inference is in fact consistent with the South Carolina census records. Caspar was born in Switzerland in 1728, the son of Melchior of Guttannen and Margreth von Bergen.[68] Jacob was born when Caspar was 46 years old. Could he have been a late son, or an early grandson?

Caspar Ott married Mary Stehely in 1752.[69] Before the Giessendanner record gives out, it shows four children born to the couple: Margaret (1753), Hans George (1755), Maria (1757), and Mary Elizabeth (1759).[70] Any son born after that would have been too young to father Jacob in 1774. Even Hans George, the oldest son, would have been only nineteen. Unless that last illegible line on the Charles Ott Bible page shows Hans George, my guess is that Jacob born 1774 was the son, and not the grandson, of Caspar Ott.

Marriages in eighteenth-century Orangeburgh tended to be between men in their mid-twenties and women in their late teens. Caspar was 24 when he married Mary Stehely. Mary’s age is unknown, but if she was, say, 17, then she would have been 39 when Jacob was born. The 1790 census shows “Gasper Ott Senr” with three males over 16 and one under 16, two females, and three slaves.[71] (Jacob would have been 16 at the time, and so could have fit in either category of males, depending on the census-taker’s whim.) The same census shows two men named John Ott,[72] either one of whom could be Caspar’s son Hans George Ott; one John has two boys under 16 in his household, while the other has four. Both Johns as well as “Gasper Ott Senr” and “Gasper Ott Junr” (who also has two boys under 16) are enumerated amongst neighbors in the Caw Caw Swamp area of Orangeburgh.

These same Caw Caw neighbors show up on page 295 of the 1800 census for Orangeburgh. Here are the Ott heads of household from that census. (There are no Otts listed anywhere in South Carolina outside of Orangeburgh.) The enumerated categories are: white males 0-10, 10-16, 16-26, 26-45, and over 45; white females, same age bins; free non-whites; and slaves.[73]

Peter Ott


Page 277

Anne Ott


Page 277

Jacob Ott Senr


Page 281

Jacob Ott Junr


Page 281

Peter Ott


Page 295

Jacob Ott


Page 295

Gaspar Ott


Page 295


The two Jacobs are immediately adjacent on page 281, as are the three Otts (Peter, Jacob, and Gaspar) on page 295. Peter and Anne on page 277 are separated by four entries. Neighbors’ names suggest that page 281 is the Cattle Creek area, and page 295 is in Caw Caw Swamp. Page 277 is less clear.

In 1800 (the census was actually taken in 1801), the Louisiana Jacob had a wife and one son, Charles. However, both of the young Jacobs also show a small girl. Jacob and Margaret may have had a daughter who died young; Charles might possibly have had a twin sister. The two young Jacobs (on pages 281 and 295) are identical in household configuration except for number of slaves. Presumably one was the Jacob born in 1774, the other one Jacob born 1776. Which was which? If Gaspar/Caspar was really his father or grandfather, then Jacob born 1774 grew up in the Caw Caw Swamp area (page 295). The Gaspar and Peter who live next to him would be his older brothers or cousins (Gaspar Senior probably died during the 1790s). As we shall see, the young Jacob on page 281, in the Cattle Creek neighborhood, was still there for the 1810 census, whereas the one from Caw Caw Swamp had left, presumably for Louisiana. This strongly suggests that the Cattle Creek Jacob was the one who went, much later, to Alabama. We’ll have a look at that Jacob in the next section.

Jacob born 1774 married Margaret Jackson in Orangeburgh in 1797. According to Margaret’s sworn statement, they were married by a Justice of the Peace, and there is no public or private record of the marriage.[74]

It is not known for certain just when the family went to Louisiana. Their daughter Naomi, born in 1805, consistently listed her birth state as South Carolina on census records. Her sister Charlotte, born in 1814, consistently called herself a Louisianian. But Sarah, born in 1808, told the 1850 census taker that she was born in Louisiana; then she told the 1860 census taker that she was born in South Carolina. And her brother Samuel, born in 1811, did not live long enough to figure by name on any census. The fact that Jacob and Margaret’s family does not appear on the 1810 census for Orangeburgh, South Carolina, suggests that they had left by then, but it does not prove when they arrived in Louisiana. Pioneer families from the Carolinas often stopped off in Georgia or the then-new Mississippi Territory first, sometimes staying for several years, before moving on to Louisiana.

The area in which the Otts settled, now called Washington Parish, did not acquire that name until 1819. Until 1810, it was a part of Spanish West Florida, and not Louisiana at all. In the autumn of 1810, the locals revolted against Spanish rule and, after a brief period as the independent Republic of West Florida and a somewhat longer period in administrative limbo, the area was incorporated into Louisiana in 1812. No Ott name figures in this brief but turbulent episode of the region’s history. However, in 1813 and 1814, when the United States government took a survey of settlers with a view to confirming their Spanish land grants, Jacob Ott was there, stating that he had arrived in 1807.[75] Another survey taken in 1819 showed Jacob Ott again, and this time he stated that he had settled in 1812.[76] To be sure, Jacob may have been (in fact, probably was) on different land in 1819. However, his mysterious and possibly illegitimate brother or nephew, Joel Ott, stated in 1819 that he had settled in 1804[77] — probably either a clerk’s transcription error or a blatant lie. So the reliability of the 1807 date for Jacob is open to question as well. It is certain that Jacob was in Louisiana by 1813, because he and Margaret were founding members of the Mount Nebo Baptist Church,[78] near Mt. Hermon, Louisiana, in that year.

Joel Ott was treated as a half-brother by the children of Jacob Ott and Margaret Jackson. Ruth Ott Wallis’ account makes it look as if he migrated to Louisiana with the family, and lived with them until his first marriage to Maria Cutrer in 1814. Wallis quotes Charles Ott as telling the story that during the War of 1812, he (then 15) and Joel (somewhat older) accompanied Colonel Andrew Jackson to the Ott stables, to get horses so that Joel could join Andrew Jackson’s troops.[79] This must have been in December 1814, when Jackson was preparing for the Battle of New Orleans the following month. Both Joel and Jacob Ott served in that war.[80] Joel received a pension for his service; Margaret Jackson Ott applied in 1854 for a widow’s pension, but it is not clear whether she got one before her death later that year.

The evidence for Joel’s age is not very consistent. Effie Norwood Jones, a descendant of Joel, gives a birth date of 22 March 1782.[81] She does not cite a source for this date, but its precision indicates that it may have come, directly or indirectly, from some family record such as a Bible. The 1850 census gives his age as 50,[82] i.e. born in 1800 — although the number is not perfectly clear, and any event, his marriage in 1814 suggests an upper bound of about 1795 for his birth year. All other census data are consistent with a birth year of 1791 or 1792.[83] In the government land survey of 1813-1814,[84] he is listed as having settled in Louisiana in 1804, implying that he was at least 21 at that time (born by 1783) — but it was in the interest of settlers to exaggerate the length of time they had been in Louisiana. Alton Ott, a Joel descendant, concludes that he was born in the first half of 1792,[85] a birthdate that is curiously consistent — except for the decade — with that given by Effie Norwood Jones. One wonders whether there might have been a Bible or other family record that showed his birth date as 22 March 1792, and that the year was misread as 1782 by someone who believed that Joel was an illegitimate child born during the Revolutionary War.

Joel could just conceivably have been an illegitimate son of Jacob born 1774, but his absence from Jacob’s household in the 1800 census suggests otherwise. Some family stories suggest that he was an illegitimate son of Jacob Ott born 1755 and a “camp follower” during the Revolutionary War;[86] but these stories would seem to assume (as Ruth Ott Wallis did) that Jacob born 1755 married Margaret Jackson and moved to Louisiana, so that the other children would really have been Joel’s half-siblings. On the 1800 census, Gaspar Ott (next door to Jacob born 1774) has three boys 16 and under in his household.[87] My suspicion is that Joel is one of them, and Samuel Ott could be another. Gaspar and his wife are absent from the 1810 census, so by my guess, Jacob took in the orphaned Joel and Samuel, and brought them with him to Louisiana.

In Louisiana, Jacob went into a sawmill business in 1819 with several partners.[88] In 1822, Samuel Ott and Griffin Riviere joined the partnership.[89] On the 1820 census for St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, “Ott & Ravier” are listed four entries away from Jacob Ott.[90] A Samuel Ott was granted a passport in 1810 to travel through Creek territory,[91] and on the 1819 settler list he states that he settled his land in St. Tammany Parish in 1812.[92] However, he does not appear on the 1813-1814 settler list.

Ruth Ott Wallis believed that Samuel was a younger brother to Jacob,[93] and the census entries do show that Samuel was born in the 1780s.[94] However, if Jacob was a late son of Caspar Ott (born 1728), it is less likely that Samuel was a later son still, by a decade or so. I would see Samuel as a nephew of Jacob, perhaps a brother or cousin of Joel. I’ll present a guess as to Samuel’s and Joel’s stories below.

Who was Margaret Jackson? The 1850 census for Washington Parish, Louisiana, shows her living with her son Charles, and gives her age as 73 — born, therefore, in about 1777.[95] According to family lore, she was an aunt of president Andrew Jackson, but this is patently false, since Andrew was born ten years before his “aunt”. Still, the stories of a presidential link are persistent. Ruth Ott Wallis cites several of these stories in her book:[96]


And later:

That last sentence probably sets the tone for all of these stories: heroic, pride-inspiring, and altogether improbable, since Stonewall Jackson and Andrew Jackson were not related to each other.

There is a Philip Jackson who lives a few census entries away from Jacob Ott on the 1800 census,[97] and it is tempting to see him as a father or brother of Margaret; unfortunately, that’s the wrong Jacob, who moved to Alabama, not to Louisiana.

Several Jacksons appeared in Orangeburgh by 1742: Miles, Richard, Thomas, and David.[98] They may have been related; at least, they appear at each other’s marriages and baptisms. Margaret might have been a granddaughter (or so) of one of them. There were also several Jackson families in Sumter District, across the Santee River from Orangeburgh District, and others farther northeast in the Cheraws District. Some of these Jacksons were of mixed race; and if Margaret was one of them, it wouldn’t be the first time that a family had spun a heroic story to hide what was thought of, at the time, as the embarrassment of impure blood.


Jacob Ott born 1776 (a.k.a. the Alabama Jacob)

No Jacob has caused more trouble for Ott researchers than the one who migrated from Orangeburgh to Dale County, Alabama, probably during the 1820s. This is not his fault. He simply had the bad luck to be born at very nearly the same time as the better-researched Jacob (born 1774) who went to Louisiana. The fact that both the Louisiana and the Alabama Ott families can lay claim to a South Carolina progenitor named Jacob Ott has led to much confusion. More than one researcher has assumed that the two branches are really the same, and that they both come from Jacob Ott and Margaret Jackson. One researcher, named John Henry Knight, went so far as to reinvent the birth dates of Margaret Jackson and her seven children, to make this theory fit.[99] The International Genealogical Index is still contaminated with Knight’s spurious data.

In fact, a quick look at the 1800 census for Orangeburgh, South Carolina,[100] shows the truth: There were two young Jacob Otts of nearly the same age. Each Jacob had a wife about his age, a son and a daughter. In the case of Jacob born 1776, these children would have been Jacob born 1797 and Polly Sally, born in 1800. By 1810, the two Jacobs’ families had evolved in very different ways. The Jacob who went to Louisiana had a son and three daughters by then, while the Jacob who went to Alabama had four sons and five daughters. Here is a list of the twelve children of Jacob born 1776 and his unnamed wife, taken from the Bible of Abraham Ratcliffe Ott.[101]

No entry in the 1810 census for South Carolina matches Jacob born 1774 (although we’ll deal with that issue later); however, Jacob born 1776 is there. Here are the Otts from the 1810 census for Orangeburgh.[103] (There was one other Ott in South Carolina, a Malachi Ott in Columbia.[104]) The enumerated categories are the same as they were in 1800: white males 0-10, 10-16, 16-26, 26-45, and over 45; white females, same age bins; free non-whites; and slaves.

Pr Ott


Page 127

Wm Ott


Page 127A

Jn Ott


Page 128

Do Ott


Page 128

Jb Ott


Page 133A

Jb Ott


Page 133A

Jb Ott


Page 134

Jb Ott


Page 134

Z. Ott


Page 137


The two Jacobs on page 134 are in the same context of names (for example, Philip Jackson) as those on page 281 of the 1800 census, suggesting that this is the Cattle Creek neighborhood again. They are separated by only one entry. Notice that the second Jacob on that page has a family configuration that almost matches that of Jacob born 1776, except for two details: One girl is missing, and the ages of both Jacob and his wife are one bin too high. The next-closest configuration (the second Jacob on page 133A) is off by three children. We might assume that the census-taker ticked the wrong age category for Jacob and his wife — the phrase “Close enough for government work” comes to mind — because a family of seven children under age ten (and only one older) looks much more like that of a mother in her thirties, than one over 45. However, we would still have to account for the missing daughter.

If the second Jacob on page 134 is Jacob born 1776, then the one above him on the same page would most likely be his father (as it was on page 281 in 1800), Jacob born 1755. His wife is still with him (she didn’t die, according to the Dukes family register, until 1816), and there are two boys and a girl, all ages 10-16, in the household. The girl might be the missing daughter from Jacob born 1776’s household, Polly Sally, age 10. The two boys could be the remaining orphans of Abraham Ott, brother of Jacob born 1755: Lewis Thompson (age 15) and Abraham James (age 11).[105] Abraham’s daughter, Mary, had been married off in 1802, at age twelve, to John Wolfe.[106]

Although the 1810 Orangeburgh census shows four heads of household named Jacob Ott, the 1820 census shows only one,[107] and he has no obvious connection to any of the four from 1810. He is certainly not the Jacob born 1776, because the census entry shows no children under ten years old; yet Jacob born 1776 had three. Jacob and his family may have already left Orangeburgh by this time, even though he doesn’t show up in Dale County, Alabama, until the 1830 census;[108] and his eldest son “Jake” (Jacob born 1797) apparently remained in the Orangeburgh area until at least 1823.[109]

The children of Jacob born 1776 appear in 1830 and later censuses in Dale and Clarke Counties, Alabama.[110] Jacob himself does not appear anywhere after 1830, so it is presumed that he died during the 1830s.

Who was the wife of Jacob born 1776, the mother of the twelve children listed in the Abraham Ratcliffe Ott Bible? We have only one clue, and it’s a weak one.

Hand-scrawled on one transcription of the Abraham Ratcliffe Ott Bible page is the notation “Minnie 1797”. The handwriting might be that of Thomas Sydney Ott.[111] An unsigned letter accompanying a photocopy of the Bible page in the possession of Leo Ott (the letter’s author might be Victor Leggett Ott)[112] expresses doubt that Minnie could have been a daughter of this family. She doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else in the records, and the numbering of the children in the Abraham Ratcliffe Ott Bible leaves no room for both Jacob born 1797 and Minnie. There is a Minnie Ott, daughter of John A. D. Ott (1778-1839), who was born in Bowman, South Carolina, in 1809.[113] By Leo Ott’s account, John A. D. Ott was the brother of Jacob born 1776. Perhaps whoever wrote Minnie’s name on the Bible page was confusing her with John A. D. Ott’s child.

I wonder if the hand-written Minnie could be the mother, and not a sister, of the children listed in the Abraham Ratcliffe Bible; the 1797 date would thus be a marriage date, not a birth date. There is absolutely no evidence to support this speculation, except, perhaps, the idea that John A. D. Ott might have named his daughter Minnie after his sister-in-law.


Jacob Ott born 1775-1784 (first instance)

Of the four heads of household named “Jb Ott” in the 1810 census for Orangeburgh, we can comfortably account for two: Jacob born 1776 and Jacob born 1755. Who were the other two? Both are listed on page 133A, although they are not close together. Let’s look at the top one first.[114]

This Jacob was listed as of age 26-45, therefore born between 1765 and 1784 (if the census-taker didn’t mess up again). He had in his household a younger wife (age 16-25), or perhaps an older daughter, and two girls under ten. The younger wife, plus the fact that he does not appear as a head of household in 1800, suggests, but does not prove, a birth date of 1775 or later. This configuration does not match any of our Jacobs so far. However, if we allow a looser birth date going back to 1765 or so, we might identify him with the spare Jacob from the 1790 census. All we know about that one is that he had two females with him in 1790. One of them could have been the female aged 16-25 on the 1810 census. That would still leave the question as to where this guy was in 1800, but as we have seen, the early census data cannot be assumed to be complete.

Note, however, that if these two Jacobs are the same, we have destroyed our identification of the “spare 1790 Jacob” with the son of Melchior Ott and Isabella Catherine Schellinger, who paid a quitrent in 1771. Since this 1810 Jacob could not have been born earlier than 1765, he would have been at most six years old when he paid the quitrent — not very likely. Therefore, we still have two different Jacobs: The spare 1790 Jacob is either different from this first spare 1810 Jacob or else different from the 1771 quitrent Jacob — and he is possibly different from both of them.


Jacob Ott born 1775-1784 (second instance)

Now let’s look at the second spare Jacob Ott from page 133A of the 1810 census for Orangeburgh.

Like the first one, he listed himself as age 26-45, so he was born somewhere between 1765 and 1784. Since he seems not to have qualified as a head of household in 1800, we can probably put a lower bound of about 1775 for his birth year. His wife is of the same age bracket. They have in their household two boys age 10-16 and another under 10, and a girl age 10-16 plus two more under 10. Again, this does not match the configuration of any of the other Jacobs that we have discussed in this essay. Therefore, the best explanation is that he is yet another eighteenth-century Jacob Ott from Orangeburgh, born to one of the many third-generation Otts.

There is, however, one other intruguing possibility. None of the four Jacob Otts on the 1810 census matches the configuration of the Jacob born 1774 who moved to Louisiana, which leads us to suspect that Jacob had already left. However, the second Jacob on page 133A approximately matches the sum of the families of Jacob born 1774 and his probable elder brother, Gasper Ott Jr.

We know that by 1810, Jacob born 1774 had one son 10-16, one son under 10, and two daughters under 10. From the 1800 census data, we see that Gasper Ott Jr. had two boys born 1784-1790 and one boy born 1790-1800;[115] he had a wife or older daughter born 1774-1784, and a girl born 1790-1800. Let’s assume that both Gasper and his wife died sometime between 1800 and 1810. By 1810, the two older boys and the older female would have moved out on their own (or died), leaving a boy and a girl each aged 10-20. If both of these children were 16 or under, and if we add them to the family of Jacob born 1774, we arrive at exactly the census configuration shown for the second Jacob Ott on page 133A.

In order for this to idea work, Jacob born 1774 must have lied when he told the Federal land agents that he had been in Louisiana since 1807.[116] So far I have seen no proof that Jacob was in Louisiana before 1813. He would have had to marry off his niece before moving to Louisiana. And the nephew could have been the mysterious Joel Ott, taken along with the family to Louisiana, and accepted as something of a half-brother by Jacob and Margaret’s children; in fact he would have been their older cousin.

It’s a tempting explanation, but one with only the most circumstantial of evidence right now.

If this is true, then who were the older sons of Gasper Ott Jr, who disappeared before the 1810 census? One of them could have been the Samuel Ott who went into business with Jacob (born 1774) in Louisiana. He obtained a passport to travel through Creek country on 26 November 1810.[117] On the 1830 census for Washington Parish, Louisiana,[118] he listed his age as 40-50, which means he was born during the 1780s. The other dispersed son could be any of the younger Otts on the 1810 census — including, even, the first stray 1810 Jacob from page 133A. After all, Gasper Ott Jr’s family seems to be the only one in eighteenth-century Orangeburgh without a Jacob in it.

My guess, however, would be that this third brother was David Ott, who appears in census and other records in Pike County, Mississippi (across the state line from Washington Parish, Louisiana) from 1820 to 1845.[119] David’s widow, Mary, and some of their children moved to Union Parish, Louisiana, where they are on the 1850 census.[120]


Jacob Ott born 1797

The family register page from the Abraham Ratcliffe Bible shows only eleven children born to Jacob Ott born 1776. They are numbered from two to twelve, indicating that the torn top of the page once contained child number one. (Actually, the children are numbered from two to eleven; the twins, James and Sarah, are lumped together at number seven.) We know from the 1800 census that this first child was a boy.[121] The facts that Jacob born 1797 appears with the family of Jacob born 1776 in Dale and Clarke Counties, Alabama,[122] and that he named his own first child Lewis Melchior Ott (named after child number nine on the Bible page),[123] provides strong evidence that he was in fact child number one. Jacob born 1797 was also called “Jake” Ott.

Jake is on the 1810 Orangeburgh census, as the boy age 10-16 in Jacob born 1776’s household.[124] In the War of 1812, he served 81 days as a private in Captain Joseph Ratcliff’s company.[125] By the time of the 1820 census, his family had left Orangeburgh, presumably in or on their way to Alabama; however, Jake seems to have stayed in Orangeburgh, where he married Mary (or “Marcy”) Hinkle in about 1823.[126] There were at least two children from this marriage:[127]

From these dates it appears that Jake brought his family from Orangeburgh to Alabama during the latter part of the 1820s.

The following is taken from Jake’s application for a pension from the War of 1812:[128]

The response to his pension application was to confirm his military service, but to show that his memory of the dates was over two years off. He enlisted on 27 June 1812, and was discharged on 15 September of that year.[129] If his memory of his year of marriage was equally faulty, it could have been earlier than 1823, and his children could be older than the dates shown for them.

On the 1850 census for Dale County, Alabama, Jacob “Utt”, age 51, shows up in the household of Richard Ott — presumably his brother of that name, born in 1805.[130] On the 1870 and 1880 censuses, he is found in Clarke County, Alabama, living with “Louis Ott”[131] — this is his son, Lewis Melchior Ott, although the census lists his age as 50 in 1870, and 58 in 1880. This indicates that Lewis was born around 1820-1822, not 1825, and could be construed as further evidence that Jake Ott and Mary Hinkle married before the 1823 date that Jake gave on his pension application.

Jake’s application for a war pension was approved on 12 December 1873, and he seems to have received his pension until at least 1882.[132] In November 1885, the Pension Office enquired as to whether Jacob Ott, pensioner of the War of 1812, was living or dead; and the postmaster of Coffeeville, Clarke County, Alabama, Jake’s last known postal address, replied that Jacob Ott was reported to be dead, but he could not ascertain the date of his death.[133] Clearly, though, he lived well into his eighties. Jake Ott, the last of our nine eighteenth-century Jacobs, lived longer than any other.

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Jacob Page revision 2.04, last updated on 29 February 2004.

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