Otto Anderson (1870-1916)

otto-anderson-obit-1916-lessor-wisconsinOtto Anderson (1870-1916) was a surprising find in my Anderson lineage, a successful businessman well-known and respected in his community. We’re still researching information about him, but I’ve found enough to help us paint the picture of my not-so-distant relative, the brother of Johan/John Christian Anderson, my great grandfather.

He owned a store with his wife in Navarino, formerly known as Galesburg, in Shawano County, not far from Lessor, Wisconsin. According to the obituary, he was a town founder and successful businessman in the Township of Galesburg. He was buried in Lessor, Wisconsin, in Our Savior’s Lutheran Cemetery.

In our Anderson family tree, Otto was the child of Hans Anderson (1844-1924 and son of Andrias Anderson) and Sarah, daughter of Ole Olson, married on June 15, 1867 at La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin. His father, Hans, was born in Fredriksvern, Norway, arriving with his father, Andrias Anderson, at age 7 to the United States in 1851 in New York, traveling onto Wisconsin immediately after arrival.

Otto was the first generation of this Anderson line born in the United States. His early years were filled with traveling adventures as well as death. His father was a farmer and he and Julia had 11 children with only 5 surviving. We known the names of 9 of the 11 children so far: Amelia, Louis (b. 1869), Johan Christian (c1875), Carolina (c1871), Gena/Jenny (c1873), Mary (c1877), Ida (c1879), and Anton (April 18, 1880). Otto was born in South Dakota after his family moved there to find work, we believe.

According to the birth records and census, the family lived in Wisconsin in the nearby towns of Manitowoc, Cicerco, and Lessor during the first few years of their arrival from Norway. By 1869, the family was in Yankton, South Dakota, possibly to find work as part of the migration to look for work. Otto, Louis, Johan, Caroline, and Gena were born there. Mary Anderson was born about 1877 in Town of Cicero, Wisconsin, in Outagamie County, and the US Census has them back by 1880, where few of them left until their death. Most of them are buried in the Out Savior’s Lutheran Cemetery in Lessor.

otto and julia property in galesburg navarino-store

otto and julia property in galesburg navarino1911 Navarino Township, Shawano County Plat Map shows Otto Anderson owning two lots, 30 acres in the township of Navarino either hosting or next to a school and the other was 160 acres very close by. In 1920, the 1920 Navarino Township Plat Map shows these properties owned by Otto’s wife, Julia. In 1923, court records show that Julia filed for mortgage foreclosure.

Using the Shawano County Plat maps, I compared them with Google Maps Satellite and Street Views to get a visual picture of where the two properties were and where the store was located. When I was last there in 2006, no evidence of the store remained, as best as we could estimate from the plat maps. However, across the railroad tracks are the buildings that look like they might be the restored train station or train stop buildings, though it looks like a home now. It’s fascinating to guess what it looked like 100 years ago. While the agricultural areas remain much the same, the town appears to be more of a bedroom community.

otto and julia property in galesburg navarino-store-streetview

Most of the Anderson family lived in or near Lessor Township, about 4 miles away, though according to the 1911 Navarino Plat Map, father Hans Anderson lived to the northwest a couple miles in plat section 7, along highway 156 past the Hilda Cemetery, turning off onto County Road K to the next unlabeled road it crosses. Even today, this area of the Navarino Township remains fairly natural, highlighted by the Navarino State Wildlife Area in the center of the township area.

Galesburg was renamed Navarino sometime after 1930, though I can’t find history on why the name change. It is located in Shawano County, Wisconsin, with the survey title “Township 25 North, Range 16 East, Fourth Principal Extended Meridian.” For fun, we researched the latitude and longitude as 44° 38′ 12.9″ N by 88° 32′ 56.4″ W. The elevation is 244 meters above sea level, and if you are really serious about tracking it down, the US Geological Society’s GNIS Feature ID is 1583781.

In 1908, Julia and Otto were involved in an assault case with two others in their store. I’m typing up the records and will add them soon. No one was hurt, and the courts decided it was a false claim against the Andersons.

He had moved only recently to Green Bay, Wisconsin, at the time of his death. His wife, Julia M. Anderson (born February 9, 1875) died on May 11, 1959, and is buried near him. Next to them is Helen S. Anderson, August 28, 1902, to October 18, 1920, Otto and Julia’s daughter who died at age 18, less than four years after her father.

The obituary from the local newspaper in Shawano, Wisconsin, reads:

Thursday, June 8, 1916
Man Who Founded Galesberg, Dead
Amassed Considerable Wealth In Store At Galesburg And in Shawano Land

On Monday morning, May 22, the sad news flashed across the phones, that Otto Anderson had passed away at his home in Green Bay, of Brights disease. He was confined to the house only about four or five weeks, but had been in failing health for a year or more. A year ago he disposed of his business at Galesburg, in Shawano county, at which place he kept a general store, and last Fall moved with his family to Green Bay, to procure better schooling for his children. He was a man well known thruout this community, and well liked by all. He was a man of business in every sense of the word, and attained considerable wealth. Mr. Anderson was only forty-six years old, and leaves to mourn his early departure, his wife, three children, Harold, Helen, and Blanche, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hans Anderson, two brothers, John and Antone, three sisters, Mrs. John Svendson, Mrs. Peter Hovie and a sister married in Sawyer, Wis. The funeral was held at the Norwegian Lutheran Church at Lessor. Services at Green Bay in the morning, Wednesday, May 24, conducted by Rev. P. Bongsto (sp). Then the sad long journey to Lessor, where the church yard was filled with people from Navarino, Cicero, and surrounding country. It was the largest funeral ever held at Lessor and the many beautiful flowers bespoke the high esteem of the people. Rev. J. Bugge (sp) of Green Valley and Rev. Phral (sp) of Cicero, together with the Bongsto conducted the impressive ceremony. We all unite in extending our sympathy to the bereaved ones.

tombstone-otto-anderson-1916-topHis tombstone reads:

Across the top: Otto Anderson, Born March 24, 1870, Died May 22, 1916
Front: He has gone from his dear ones, his children, his wife, whom he willingly toiled for, and loved as his life. Oh, God, how mysterious and how strange are thy ways, to take from us this loved one in the best of his days.

tombstone-otto-anderson-1916-frontOnly 46 years old, Otto Anderson must have suffered greatly during his last few weeks of life, and the loss of him at such a young age was great in a family that lived long, is clear from the tombstone.

According to Wikipedia, Bright’s disease is a “historical classification” of kidney diseases and no longer used. Modern terminology calls them acute or chronic nephritis. Described in 1827 by English physician, Richard Bright, there are any number of things that could be described as Bright’s Disease. In general, it’s an inflammation caused by the formation of kidney stones as part of chronic kidney disease, which can come from vitamin deficiency, poor eating habits, high blood pressure, and more. The symptoms were extreme with back pain, fever, high blood pressure, vomiting and nausea, edema, respiratory difficulty, and sometimes painful urination. The traditional treatment involved blood letting, diuretics and laxatives, but by 1916, William Howard Hay’s diet, the famous “Hay Diet,” was a popular cure all, as many claim it to be today. Hay claimed he cured himself of Bright’s disease by changing his diet to stabilize the blood’s pH levels therefore maintaining the alkali and acid balance. There is no evidence yet that Anderson tried this or any other treatments, or how long he suffered before his death.

julia-m-anderson1875-1959-lessor-WisconsinAs I dig into the life of Otto Anderson and his family, I found mention of his wife, Julia Anderson, in A Walking Tour of the Lessor Cemetery by Rolf H. Erickson, Evanston, Illinois, 1991, published by Northwestern University Library.

Julia Anderson (1875-1959) and her husband Otto Anderson (1870-1916) ran the general store at Galesburg (Navarino) for many years. Julia was a daughter of +Thor Tostenson and +Helena Nwvra. Their children were +Helen who is buried here, Harold and Blanche (Mrs. Jerald McCoy). Harold became a doctor and lived in Washington state; Blanche died in San Francisco. Otto was the son of +Hans and Siri Anderson. His brothers were Johan and +Anton; his sisters were Elizabeth (Mrs. John Svendson), Ida (Mrs. Peter Hovie) and “a sister married in Sawyer, Wisconsin.” Barbro Ramseth wrote that Otto was so prominent there were four ministers at the church service and six at the grave.

The mention of Sarah Anderson as “Siri” is an interesting twist in the Norwegian family names being converted to American names and may help us track down more information on her.

The book, Navarino Timber Trails and Tales was published in 1992 by the local township where Otto Anderson’s store was located in Navarino, Wisconsin. It is available used from for USD $149.00 and as high as $180 elsewhere. The Waupaca County Website features an index list of the citizens mentioned in the book and Otto and Julia Anderson and their store have a lot of coverage but I haven’t figured out how to get my hands on the book to copy those pages except by going there or nagging someone in the Wisconsin Shawano County WebGen Project.

There is more to the story of Otto Anderson, a man who clearly made a big impact on his community in 46 short years. I’m still digging.

Related Anderson Family Resources and References


For those searching in Wisconsin for the many Otto Andersons in their family history, the following may help you. Please note these are NOT my relatives and I have no information about their family line. If you ask about them, I cannot help you and may delete your comment as it only adds to the confusion.

Otto Anderson (1869 – 1916) listed in the Find A Grave Memorial. The information is similar. Born in 1869 in Norway, died March 9, 1916, in Adams County, Wisconsin. “About 1888 he married his wife Emma, and they immigrated to America that same year. Otto was the father of Lena, Agnes, Clara, Ella, Minnie, Alice, Ovidia, Olga, Elmer and Otto Jr.” which brings another Otto into the picture.

Otto Anderson (1884-1973) at the COPP CEMETERY Chippewa County Wisconsin.

Otto Anderson (born 1849, Middle Sweden) was a merchant tailor in Galesburg and was married to Eva, daughter of B.J. Nelson, and you can find more information in the 1886 Portrait & Biographical Album of Knox Co., IL.

I hope this additional information is helpful, but I have no further information on these unrelated line.

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Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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