Tuesday, March 28, 2017

John Franklin OTWELL (1821-1908)

25 Mar 1885
Argus Newspaper, St. Mary's Museum
Edna OTWELL-SIM > Edwin OTWELL > Maurice OTWELL > John F. OTWELL
BORN - In Fayette County, Kentucky on April 29, 1821, John Franklin Otwell was born to William Otwell and Quintilla Garth.  On the 1830 US Census we found John's father in Fayette County.  No family member names are listed on this census, just check marks for ages of those in the household.  In 1839 after the death of his grandfather, Francis Otwell, John moved with his parents to Francis' farm in Scott, Kentucky.  We found the family on the US 1840 Census in Scott, Kentucky.

MARRIAGE - On December 19, 1844 he married Mary H. Taylor.  They had one child, Maurice Otwell, born in 1845.

John Otwell was found on the 1850 US Census listed as a farmer in Fayette County.  He was also listed on the 1850 Slave Schedule with a listing of five slaves, 4 males and one female.

In 1858 he was listed in the will of his father, William, as an heir and executor.  He was also listed as the husband of Mary Taylor Otwell in the will of her father, Stark Taylor, in 1858.

In the Port Rowan News an article stated that "John Otwell came to Ontario in 1859 to escape from the mutiny and discontent between the North and South, and free his own conscience from his share of the responsibility for a system for which he had no sympathy."  John was now permanently in Ontario, Canada.
Port Rowan News, unknown date
Courtesy cousin Herb OTWELL/Arlene ROLA
Per the 1901 Canadian Census he was naturalized in 1854.

Original Label
Courtesy cousin Herb OTWELL
John was a farmer and gardener who became well-known in the community.  He grew a tremendous amount of vegetables and small fruits on about 25 acres of his farm.  In 1862 he built the first canning factory in West Nissouri.  We found many articles on the awards he won as a market gardener and also in the North Riding Show.  His business flourished.  During the growing and canning season he employed over 20 people.  He advertised for vegetable plants that would be sent by mail. He was a master of the best methods for preserving his fruits and vegetables.  Some vegetables he grew were squash, pumpkins, cabbage, onions, cucumbers, watermelon, corn, beets, carrots, parsnips and peas.  His tomatoes were rated excellent.

John Otwell had sleighs in the winter with wood-burning stoves on them.  He was the envy of many in his town.  He had an excellent reputation and was the head of a prosperous pickling company.  He led an exemplary life and was well-respected in his community.

On January 19, 1882, J. F. Otwell & Son Pickling Factory burned.  On February 22, 1882 he wrote a letter to the editor of the St. Mary's Argus thanking his insurance companies for their prompt payment.
23 Feb 1882, Argus Newspaper, page 6
St. Mary's Museum

Jar circa 1886
Maple Leaf Auctions

15 July 1886
Argus Newspaper

St. Mary's Museum
In 1886 an article stated J. F. Otwell's pickles are fast becoming famous all over the continent.  He began using a wider-neck jar with a screw top so the jars could be reused.

Can after JF sold the name
Photo courtesy St. Mary's Museum
In 1889 John's only child, Maurice, was committed to an insane asylum after many years of crazy behavior. The following year Mary Otwell, John's wife, died.  On the 1891 Canadian Census John is listed as 68 (he is 70), Presbyterian, and listed as a carpenter.  He had sold the farm and moved to London, Ontario.  Maurice's wife and their children are living with John.  He had previously sold his canning business.

2 Nov 1893
Argus, p 5
St. Mary's Museum
Hard times and dementia took a toll on John F. Otwell.  In November of 1893 he confessed to stealing a horse, wagon and harness that he used to steal grain from farmers in London, Ontario.  He confessed to the crimes and on November 9, 1893 he was found guilty and sentenced to two years at the Kingston Penitentiary.  He was 72-years old.  He was interviewed by Dr. Buck from the asylum his son was committed to.  Dr. Buck concluded John suffered from senile dementia and should not be responsible for his actions.  This had no effect on his sentence and John spent two years in Kingston.

We next find John on the 1901 Canadian Census.  He was 80-years old and living in St. Mary's, Ontario with his granddaughter, Mary Haley, and her family.  Some time after this he went to Detroit, Michigan where his daughter-in-law and some grandchildren were living.

DEATH - John Franklin Otwell died June 21, 1908 in Detroit.  He was 87-years old.  His cause of death was paralysis acute ascending.  His remains were returned to London, Ontario, Canada for burial.

John F. Otwell was one of the most interesting ancestors we have researched.  He was so well-respected and accomplished in his Canadian community.  His friends and neighbors signed a petition to try and stop his prison sentence.  This was unsuccessful because John had plead guilty to his crimes.  John Franklin Otwell was Mary Jane's favorite ancestor that we have researched.

Just when we thought John's stealing occurred in his old age, we found several articles in the Louisville Evening Bulletin dated around September 21, 1857.  When he was in Kentucky he stole a horse and buggy of Mr. Wilkes.  He was given bail of $1500 and remanded to jail to await trial at the next term of the criminal court.  He was also listed in a separate article as a person in jail.

21 Sep 1857
Louisville Evening Bulletin
Found on Old Fulton Postcards

Visit his on-line memorial:
5 Jan 1955

St. Mary's Museum

No comments:

Post a Comment