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Florian Otto Wittichen (1836-1899)

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Florian Otto Wittichen
(no known picture)
Sex: Male
Birth: June 17, 1836
in Montjoie (now Monschau), Prussia (now Germany)
Death: August 28, 1899
near Catonsville, Baltimore County, Maryland
Burial: unknown
Father: Friedrich Paul Wittichen
Mother: Charlotte Sophie Möller
Spouse/Partner: Catharine Ramsay Forbes
Marriage: November 12, 1878
in Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia

         Otto Wittichen was born into a family with over 150 years of involvement in textile production, which was the leading industry in Montjoie (now Monschau) from the 16th to 19th centuries. Otto's father Friedrich was recorded as a "Tuchfabrikant", which translates to "cloth maker". Friedrich's father Christian was also recorded as a Tuchfabrikant as well as a "Tuchschlerenschleifermeister", which appears to mean "cloth cutter and polishing/grinding master". Christian's father-in-law, Christian Nicolai, was recorded as a "Tuchmacher", which seems to mean the same as Tuchfabrikant. Christian Wittichen's maternal grandfather, Arnold Welter, and Arnold's father Wilhelm were also recorded as Tuchfabrikanten. Arnold's father-in-law Matthias Schloesser was also listed as a Tuchfabrikant. It is through Matthias that our family may be related to the wife of Johann Heinrich Scheibler through her first marriage. Scheibler was very successful in the cloth manufacturing business during its peak in the mid to late 18th century and built the Rotes Haus (Red House), one of Monschau's major tourist attractions today. As Scheibler and others industrialized Monschau's cloth manufacture, employees flooded in. However, poor lines of communication coupled with the steep river valley combined to eventually force the town's manufacturers to move elsewhere. This the business environment that led Otto, partnered with his brother Friedrich Adolph, to make their experience more profitable in the United States. And so Otto made the journey to New York aboard the Arago in 1859.

         In New York, Otto successfully "engaged in the wholesale mercantile business" until health issues forced him to retire in 1870. He appears to have been working with a Frederick Adolph Wittichen in 1864. Traditionally, Otto returned to Germany for three years during this period, but all we have in evidence of this is a record of his return from Germany in 1865. However, we have no idea when he went there or what he did there. Supposedly, his return to Germany triggered an automatic conscription into the Prussian Army for three years. We know his brother Franz served as a doctor in the 1870 and 1871 campaigns (I assume this means the Franco-Prussian War) because his medals survived and appeared on a military discussion site. The medals can be viewed below in the gallery. The author made the following statement:

This is the small 3 piece medal bar of Dr.Franz Emil Wittichen. 1870 EK2(Godet), 1870 Mecklemburg cross für Kriegsverdienst and the 1871 campaign medal for combatants. It wasn't unusual for doctors to receive awards for bravery in the nc version but got the campaign medal for combatants. Unfortunately the documents are lost in time (the name was given from the sellers family).

         In 1870, Otto purchased a farm in Hay Market, Virginia, and become a farmer. By 1873, he had established a fertilizer company in Alexandria, Virginia, and settled in Wayside, in Prince William Co., VA (may be the same farm as the one near Hay Market). In nearby Warrenton, John Murray Forbes, a former member of Virginia's House of Burgesses, made his residence. Probably through his fertilizer business, Otto made contact with Mr. Forbes and came to meet his young daughter Kate. Kate's older sister had married a German immigrant, so she may have found Otto interesting. Also, she was in her mid-twenties, a bit old for an unmarried woman in those days. At any rate, they were married in 1878 in Warrenton and moved to Otto's home in Wayside. In 1881, after having two daughters, they relocated to Catonsville, a town outside of Baltimore, MD, and transferred the fertilizer business there. Here they would have 5 more children and by 1890, Otto had partners: James E. Tate and Louis Muller. In 1893, Otto had a portrait commissioned of his wife for her 40th birthday. All appeared well, but health issues were already causing problems.

         In 1896, the fertilizer factory closed due to his health issues. He is said to have been suffering them since about 1890. This "complication of diseases" led to his death three years later. Having no relatives in Catonsville, Kate decided to move to be near her brother Thomas Semmes Forbes in Birmingham, AL. Money was tighter for the family, but I doubt they were in dire straits. Several fine pieces made the trip with them, including two fine silver pitchers from her parents, her portrait and an item with a Ramsay family crest on it. In January 1900, the family relocated, probably by train. A new town and new opportunities awaited.

ChildrenEdit

Name Birth Death
Children of Florian Otto Wittichen and Catharine Ramsay Forbes


Pauline Forbes Wittichen September 1, 1879
Wayside, Prince William County, Virginia
June 5, 1943
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama


Sophia Semmes Wittichen November 6, 1880
Wayside, Prince William County, Virginia
March 18, 1964
Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama


Carl Ferdinand Wittichen April 7, 1882
Catonsville, Baltimore County, Maryland
December 5, 1942
Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland


Florian Otto Wittichen October 7, 1884
Catonsville, Baltimore County, Maryland
June ??, 1971
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee


Kate Ramsay Wittichen March 11, 1886
Catonsville, Baltimore County, Maryland
July 31, 1887
Catonsville, Baltimore County, Maryland


Murray Forbes Wittichen July 25, 1887
Catonsville, Baltimore County, Maryland
January 22, 1971
Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, Florida


George Moller Wittichen March 17, 1889
Catonsville, Baltimore County, Maryland
June 10, 1962
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Ancestry.com - Wittichen Search results.
  • FamilySearch.org - Social Security Death Index
  • Genealogybank.com - Baltimore? Sun, August 29, 1899
  • Jim Shaw Trademarks 1870-1873
  • Wittichen, Julia Parker. Genealogy notes.
  • Wittichen, Murray F., compiler. "Descendants of Otto Wittichen and Kate Forbes." Privately written out, 1967.
  • Citizen's Historical Association. "Family History of Carl F. Wittichen." c. 1936 (in Family Files at Birmingham Public Library)
  • online 1890 Baltimore Business Directory
  • Trow City Directory Co.'s Copartnership and Corporation Directory, New YorkCity, 1864-65. P. 98.

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