Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.Page 284
JESSE M. OTT, who for many years has been one of the forceful and honored factors in business circles in Petersburg and one whose influence has not been a minor element in public affairs, has attained prominence through the inherent force of his character and exercise of his native talent and the utilization of surrounding opportunities. He has won notable success in business, yet it is not this alone that entitles him to rank as one of the foremost men of his day in Menard county. His connection with the public interests of his city has been far-reaching and beneficial for he has aided in shaping the municipal policy development of this portion of the state. His patriotic citizenship and his interest in community affairs has taken tangible form in his zealous laborers for the improvements instituted through aldermanic measures. He is now serving for the fourth term as mayor of Petersburg, having been elected for a fourth time in 1903.
Mr. Ott was born in Petersburg township, Menard county, on the 29th of March, 1855, and is a son of Nimrod Ott, a native of Louisville, Kentucky. The family is of German lineage and the grandfather was born in Germany. The founder of the family in America was the great-grandfather of Mr. Ott, who on crossing the Atlantic established his home in Kentucky at the time General Boone was making his explorations in that state. Mr. Ott there carried on farming in pioneer times and the grandfather, who also became a farmer, spent his entire life in the Blue Grass state. Nimrod Ott and his brother's, however, removed to Indiana, locating in Harrison County, where some branches of the family are still found. Nimrod Ott was a blacksmith by trade and in 1849 he removed from Indiana to Illinois, locating on a farm five miles west of Petersburg, where he engaged in farming, having a valuable tract of land there of two hundred and fifty acres, upon which he made his home until 1868, when he sold that property and took up his abode in the county seat in order that he might afford his children better educational opportunities. His death occurred in Petersburg in 1895. He married Miss Perlina Gum, also a native of Kentucky, and they had eight children.
Jesse M. Ott, the youngest, acquired his education in the public schools of Petersburg and after putting aside his text-books engaged in clerking in a drug store for two years. He then turned his attention to teaching in the public schools, which profession he followed for seven years and the periods of vacation during that time were devoted to employment in a drug store. In 1883 he entered the insurance field, in which he has since continued and has built up an extensive clientage, representing a large number of the leading insurance companies of the country. In 1885 he also extended the field of his labor by becoming connected with the coal trade and has since conducted business along this dual line.
Mr. Ott has been particularly prominent in community affairs in Petersburg and is a recognized leader in the ranks of the Democratic party. Whether in or out of office he has labored earnestly and effectively for the promotion of the general welfare. He was elected police magistrate and held the office for eight years, when in 1891 he was chosen mayor of the city by popular suffrage. He served at that time by re-election for three consecutive terms and retired from office as he had entered it, with the confidence and good will of all concerned. Again he was chosen mayor in 1903 and is now holding the position. His previous service was a guarantee of the business-like and progressive administration and in the substantial improvement and progress of Petersburg are seen many evidences of the co-operation and active support of Mr. Ott.
On the 18th of August, 1877, occurred the marriage of Mr. Ott and Miss Emma Crawford, who was born in Menard county, was a daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Crawford, and died on the 16th of August, 1898. They had four children: Lester B., who is now bookkeeper in the First National Bank, of Petersburg; Lyman E., a resident of Minnesota; Nona P., who is now in the office with her father; and Jesse A., deceased. On the 10th of October 1899, Mr. Ott was again married, his second union being with Miss Emma Woldridge, also a native of Menard county, whose parents, Richard and A.M. Woldridge, are now residing in Petersburg. They have one child, Marion A.
Mr. Ott has passed through all of the chairs of the Knights of Pythias lodge and is also a member of the Modern Woodmen camp at Petersburg. He owns a fine residence in this city and also valuable real estate on the south side of the public square and farm property in Menard county. Entering upon his business career without friends or advantageous circumstances to aid him he has placed his dependence upon indefatigable energy and labor, which are the sure and safe foundation of all prosperity and to-day he is accounted one of the substantial as well as one of the most influential and representative men of Petersburg.