Biographical Sketches

Biographies from Cole County People

David M. Oberman

 David M. Oberman
In 1914, David M. Oberman, industrial leader of Jefferson City, founded the manufacturing company bearing his name. It was one of the largest concerns of its kind in existence at the time.

Mr. Oberman was born in Skudenville, East Prussia, February 11, 1868. His father, Isador Oberman, was a large land owner and timber contractor. In Mr. Oberman’s boyhood there was an active market in Germany for horses brought in from Russia which were kept near his home near the Prussia-Lithuania border while the import duty was paid. At the age of ten he began his first business venture, buying hay and grain from neighbors and selling it to horse owners. At this he received some profit. Later he went with the traders to the steppes of Russia to purchase the wild horses, became himself a contractor and sold horses in Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, England and Scotland.

Impressed by what he had heard of America, he came to the country in 1884 at the age of sixteen, remaining in New York for a time to improve his command of our language, attending night school. He was employed by a jewelry house there, became a traveling salesman and traveled over the New England states. He subsequently went into the central states.

In 1893 he started home for a visit. In route to London he became acquainted with a man engaged in the import and export business in Africa, was offered a place with the firm and from London, instead of going to Germany, went to Africa where he remained until 1896. While there his work took him into many cities of the African coast and intereior, and to adjacent islands and points in the Mediterranean. His health broke down and he returned to America.

Locating in Lincoln, Illinois, Mr. Oberman engaged in business. Here he met and in 1898 married Dora May Houchin, sister of James A. Houchin. In January 1901, Mr. Oberman and his brother-in-law, James A. Houchin, came to Jefferson City where they made a contract for the use of prison labor in the manufacture of overalls. They subsequently made contracts with the penitentiaries.

After creating the D.M. Oberman Manufacturing Company in this city, Mr. Oberman established other factories at a number of points, including a large one at Springfield. Mr. Oberman died February 27, 1937.

T. R. Oberman

T. R. Oberman, son of David M. Oberman, was made head of the Oberman Company following his father’s death in February 1937. He was reared in Jefferson City and educated in the Culver Military Academy, Indiana, in Westminster College and Washington University. On leaving the university he operated a wholesale jobbing business in Joplin for some time, dealing in dry goods. While living there, on September 3, 1919, he married Miss Louise Gipson, daughter of a Joplin banker. Mr. and Mrs. Oberman had one daughter, Peggy.

Among his business interests, in addition to his garment factory, are the Cortez King Brand Mines, owned chiefly by him and other Jefferson City people, and extensive ranch properties in Wyoming. He was on the Board of Directors of Central Missouri Trust Company.

Adam Opel

 Adam Opel
Adam Opel was born July 31, 1821 in Bavaria, Germany. His was one of twelve children born to John and Margaret (Keisling) Opel, natives of Bavaria, who immigrated to America in 1849, the father dying before they reached St. Louis.

Adam Opel worked as a laborer for one year in St. Louis before moving to Cole County, settling in Liberty Township, where he engaged in farming until 1852. He then moved to Jefferson City where he learned the trade of carpenter and worked in carpentry and contracting until his retirement in 1898.

He married Barbara Schoetel in Germany who later died in Liberty Township, leaving one son, George. Mr. Opel was again married to L. Dierking, of which Carrie and Charles were born. Carrie married William W. Davis of Jefferson City and Charles was an architect and Vice President, Treasurer and Manager of the Missouri Illustrated Sketch Book Company. His second wife died and he then remarried Margaret Mayer. This union has three children: Louis, Hilda, and Anna.

Mr. Opel was a member of the Baptist Church and Ms. Opel of the First Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the Home Guards and of the militia during the Civil War. He and his family made their home at 505 Jefferson Street.

Charles Opel

 Charles Opel
Charles Opel was born in Jefferson City on June 23, 1857, son of Adam and Charlotte Opel. His schooling was in his birth town. He worked with his father as a cabinet maker, architect and builder. He built many of the lovely homes in the city, as well as many of the buildings of Lincoln Institute.

He married Myrtle C. Hughes in November 1881 and had seven children: Vernie, Jessie, Carl, Edward, Frank, Norman and George who died at the age of four. The family lived at 1101 West Main Street.

Joe Ortmeyer

Joe Ortmeyer was superintendent of gardening at Algoa Farms and a life long resident of Cole County. He was a son of Stephen and Josephine Ortmeyer. Stephen Ortmeyer was born in Prussia August 4, 1833, according to his passport to America. He was one of five children of Fred and Mary Boddodearen Ortmeyer. Following the death of his father, Stephen Ortmeyer’s mother came to Osage County by way of New Orleans where she lived fifteen years.

Stephen Ortmeyer owned a four hundred acre farm in this county on the Osage River where he raised cattle. He was a Democrat in politics and he and his wife were members of the Catholic Church. His children in addition to Joe were: Stephen of Folk, Missouri; Mrs. Betty Seiberner of Wardsville; John and Ferdinand of Osage City; and John N. Lauf, an adopted child. Stephen Ortmeyer died July 2, 1920. He was a man of literary tastes and was called “the poet of Osage Valley.”

Joe Ortmeyer lived on his father’s old homestead in the Osage Valley. He was married in 1910 to Hilda, daughter of John and Mary Krueger, all natives of Cole County. The couple had three children: Josephine, Raymond and Gilbert. At intervals Mr. Ortmeyer served on the Democratic County Committee. He had charge of gardening at Algoa since the beginning of the Park administration and on thirty-five acres of land produces food for the Algoa population of about seven hundred.

Louis Ott

 Louis Ott
Louis Ott was the son of Judge Philipp and Elizabeth Wippenback Ott, natives of Germany and Cole County pioneers. “Dr.” Louis Ott, the pioneer lumberman of Central Missouir, was born in a log house directly across the road from the old Cole County Court House at Marion on August 27, 1869. He became well known in the industry and in Central Missouri through “Lumber Doctor” articles he wrote for the the St. Louis Lumbermen and for other Lumber Journals as a side line. He addressed the Lumber Associations in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas, Nebraska and other states.

He attended the country schools at Marion and graduated at Jefferson City in the stable loft of Clem Ware’s Livery Stable called “Clarke’s Opera House.” Because of the unfortunate death of a younger brother who was thrown from a horse and killed, he was not allowed to ride any of the many horses on his father’s farm, so he broke a calf to ride and drive.

He came to Jefferson City on a steamboat in 1882 and started his career in the lumber business working after school and on Saturdays in his father’s lumberyard. After graduating he served an apprenticeship of five years as a plumber, receiving only fifty cents per day for the first year with small advances for the following four years. He quit the plumbing business to assist his father who bought out his partner, Mr. A. M. Beckers.

He was elected to the city council from the old second ward and during his term as councilman, he was married to Hilda C. Wagner, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Wagner. Ott then moved to the third ward and was elected to the council from that ward. He was a member of the volunteer fire department, serving as private, assistant chief, chief, secretary, treasurer and president at different times.

He had two children, Mrs. Irene Ott Steppleman and Elmer Ott and seven grandchildren, all boys: Frank Louis Steppleman, Elmer Ott, Jr., William Albert Ott, Jack Donald Steppleman and Thomas Sproule Ott. The family home was on Fairmount. And he established a five-acre playground with lake, island, cave and a hundred pine trees. Louis L. Ott died in January 1945 at the age of seventy-six.

Judge Philipp Ott

Philipp Ott was born in the Beyreuth, Bavaria, Germany on October 11, 1831, his parents being Charles and Catherine Semmelman Ott, also natives of Germany. He received his education at the college of Bayrenth and in 1849 he and his sister Johanna, immigrated to America with Adam Opel, landing first in New Orleans, after 53 days on the ocean. He then located to St. Louis and worked for his uncle and after his uncle’s death, continued to run the business for his aunt, later purchasing it from her.

In 1853 he disposed of the business and moved to Cole County working in merchandising at Marion. At the age of 26 he was appointed Postmaster at Marion where he remained for over 25 years. In 1865 he moved to Kansas City but remained only one year, returning to Marion, where he engaged in farming until 1882. He then moved to Jefferson City where he ran a large lumber business. In 1885 he was appointed County Judge and was elected two successive terms. He was also Deputy Sheriff of Cole County for four years.

He married Elizabeth Eippenbeck, a native of Germany, on April 14, 1853 and four children were born: Francis S., Katie, Louis and one who died young. He was elected Mayor of Jefferson City on April 2, 1889 on the Republican ticket. Judge Ott died in 1918.

Benjamin H. Otto

 Benjamin H. Ott
Benjamin H. Otto was born in Hanover, Germany on May 25, 1850 at Dreble Court, Bersenbueck. He was six years old when his parents, Henry and Catherine Van Delde Otto, immigrated to America. His mother died at the age of 36.

He learned the trade of pressman in the office of the St. Louis Republic of which he remained a number of years. He went to Jefferson City in 1870 accepting a position as foreman of the pressroom of the paper then known as the State Times, then the State Tribune, of which he continued until his death on March 17, 1900. The family resided at 525 East Main Street.

He was a charter member of the Typographical Union, No. 119 of Jefferson City. He was elected President of this union in 1886 and was re-elected a second time. He united in marriage March 28, 1872 to Martha Meador, daughter of James H. and Charlotte Meador. Six children were born to this union, three who died in infancy. The other three were William H., Lottie and Minnie. Lottie married Rudolph H. Dallmeyer on December 17, 1890.

Jesse N. Owens

Jesse N. Owens was born in Derby, Sedgewick County, Kansas, September 6, 1887, the son of Merril Jefferson and Alice Ann West Owens. Both of his parents were reared in Kentucky. Jesse Owens lived in a sod shanty in southwestern Kansas for a time before the family moved to a farm in Cass County, Missouri while he was still quite young. In 1903 they moved to Harrisonville in that county. Mr. Owens graduated from high school there in 1908 and from the Chillicothe Business College in 1909.

For a time he worked for the Burlington railroad at Brookfield, then returned to Harrisonville where he was law clerk and abstractor of titles. He was city collector of Harrisonville in 1912-1913. Accepting a place under Cornelius Roach, Secretary of State, he worked in that department of state government from 1914-1916, becoming a clerk in the office of the adjutant general in 1917. During World War I Mr. Owens was in the General Engineer Depot in Washington, D.C., and in the Reserve Officers’ Training Camp at Camp Lee, Virginia.

In 1921, associated with Col. A. Linxwiler and Frank B. Newkam, he organized the Cole County Abstract, Realty and Insurance Company in Jefferson City. He served on the city council from 1930 to 1936 and was nominated and elected mayor in April, 1937.

© 2006 - Cole County Historical Society