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Martin Ott, Austrian Millionaire

[The following article appeared in the Spring 1997 issue of Cora Ott's Ott Family Newsletter. For more information on the newsletter, please contact Cora Ott at [email protected].]



 In 1879 some articles in the European newspapers stimulated Ott families to do some family research. A multimillionaire, Martin OTT, born in Zimmern (Bavaria), had died in Vienna, leaving a large inheritance. The members of the Dutch OTT family, who thought their name was unique (which it was in Holland) came together and raised a fund so one of them, Joris OTT (1829-1892) could do some research and travel to Vienna to collect themoney.

There Joris found that he was not the only one and as he had no evidence he returned empty handed. A cousin of Martin OTT's mother would have inherited the lot. Anyway the money spent for the trip at least resulted in that he wrote detailed reports of his travels in which he also mentioned something about what they knew by tradition. That Joris OTT was a good loser appears from the end of his report: "Seen a lot and enjoyed a lot!"

Are there any readers who also heard or read about this inheritance and does anyone have genealogical data about this Martin OTT? 

Jan Ott <[email protected]>


[This follow-up article appeared in the Summer 1997 issue of the Ott Family Newsletter.]


Jan --

I saw your fascinating article in the Ott Family Newsletter about the inheritance of Martin Ott. Yes, the press reports about this inheritance made an impact in the United States too, at least among the descendants of Jacob Ott (born 1774 in Orangeburgh, South Carolina; died 1836 in Mount Hermon, Louisiana).

Ruth Ott Wallis, in her 1965 booklet "The Descendants of Jacob Ott of South Carolina and Louisiana", quoted two letters relating to an unsuccessful attempt on the part of Jacob Ott's grandchildren to establish a claim to the Martin Ott estate. Jacob Ott had 53 grandchildren; most of the family names cited in the two letters are among those grandchildren, or else are spouses of grandchildren, and so are first cousins or first cousins-in-law.

The first letter is dated 15 July 1879, from the Consulate General of the United States of America in Vienna, to "Mrs. Fanny J. English" (Frances Ott English, a Jacob granddaughter), Johnson Station, Mississippi. Note that Wallis' transcription of German words and names is a bit suspect.



In reply to your letters of the 24. and 25. in reference to the heritage of Martin Ott, recently deceased in this city, I have to inform you that I have placed your letters in the hands of Dr. Victor Hasenohels, Hofund Gerichts Advocat, No. 1 Hessgane, in this city, who is now investigating as far as possible, all records and other evidence going to establish the claim of numerous applicants, with the request that he examine the data which you give and to inform you at the earliest opportunity of the results of his investigations.

O. Hasenohels is an excellent lawyer and honorable gentleman and any information you wish to give or receive should be addressed to or applied for directly to him at the enclosed address.

I am Madam,
Very Truly


James Reejoeaoer
U. S. Consul General


The second letter, dated 2 September 1910, was written by E. W. Brock (husband of Angie Brumfield, another Jacob granddaughter), of Elitown, Louisiana, to Mrs. Courtney Lampton (yet another Jacob granddaughter), of Tylertown, Mississippi. "Aunt Sallie" is Sarah Ott Evans, daughter of Jacob Ott, and "cousin Sarepta Ott" is still another granddaughter. "Aunt Lottie" is Charlotte Ott Brumfield, daughter of Jacob Ott -- and E. W. Brock's mother-in-law. (The odd sentence in the second paragraph is copied "as is" from the Wallis booklet.)


Dear cousin,

I am trying to make proof to the Martin Ott estate in Germany, so could you get Aunt Sallie's Bible record of her family, births, deaths, marriages, and all dates of all these? How many heirs and names of each. When was Aunt Lottie married and when deceased?

Cousin Courtney, I think likely we will hear in a few days from my attorneys on this subject. I am having a search made to ascertain if this estate prescribed or not in 30 years after heirs begin to make claim, and if fail these estates go to the government. Cousin Sarepta Ott says it has been about 29 years since you all began to work at this, so would like to hear from you in regards to the matter.

Guess this will be agreeable with all concerned if I can get up trace.

Yours truly,


E. W. Brock


Of course, this letter was written 31 years (not 29) after the claim had first been made, so the inheritance had no doubt already been settled.

Jan, you mentioned that Martin Ott had been born in Bavaria. This has interesting implications for the credibility of some family stories that we Ott descendants have been using as the basis for research. Walter Thomas Ott (yet another grandchild of Jacob Ott) wrote up a summary of the family's history, in which he stated that the Otts were originally from a noble family of Bavaria, and fled to Switzerland during a period of fighting between Protestants and Catholics (I took this to mean the Thirty Years War). I had always assumed that Walter Thomas Ott was repeating stories that he had heard on his grandfather's knee. Now I have to suspect that the connection with a noble and presumably wealthy Bavarian family was simply an invention, or a wishful conclusion, related to the effort to lay claim to Martin Ott's estate.

There was a Martin Ott in Orangeburgh, South Carolina. He was granted 100 acres of land on Ninety-Six Creek in 1762. He left a will dated 8 May 1774 which mentions four children including a son Martin. The index of the Daughters of the American Revolution mentions a Martin Ott (1743-1814) who may have been this son. The Flatrock Cemetery has a Martin L. Ott (1809-1900). All of this information comes from Peggy Ann Easterling Miller, who tried unsuccessfully to find a connection between this family and that of Melchior Ott, the probable immigrant ancestor of the Jacob Ott who went to Louisiana. As far as I know, no one has found any evidence as to where the immigrant Martin Ott came from.

What's clear is that the Martin Ott inheritance sparked a vigorous effort to find the roots of the Louisiana Ott family, and this effort continues today (even in the absence of Martin's alluring wealth). The work done by E. W. Brock and his "cousin Sarepta", to assemble a list of heirs, inspired Sarepta Ott's nephew, Dr. William Oscar Ott (1883-1963), to extend the list of Ott descendants into the mid-twentieth century. After William Ott died, his sister, Ruth Ott Wallis, completed the work and published it in 1965. Although the information in that booklet on the early Otts may have been distorted by the desire for Martin Ott's money, Wallis' list of thousands of Jacob Ott descendants is still the major reference on this family.

A question for researchers of other Ott lines: To what extent did your own family research have its origins in the death of Martin Ott in 1879? I wonder if there would even be an Ott Family Newsletter today, if there had been no press coverage of Martin Ott's death.


-- Mark James <[email protected]>


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