Search billions of records on

By Elaine Otto

Matilda Otto, was probably best remembered as Mrs. Otto, a laughing white haired, blue-eyed lady who owned the General Store in Hurley, Missouri, where she lived for about thirty years.  Her descendants don’t know much about those years, only what they have picked up from others, and information the census returns reveal.  However, a few memories pieced together with the census returns, civil war records from her husband, Amasa, and an article written in her seventy-fifth year shows her to be vivacious, full of life and adventure, an explorer of her time, taking her first airplane ride in her golden years. The article states, “Mrs. Otto had the first automobile and the first phonograph ever seen in Hurley,” and goes on quoting her saying, “When I got the phonograph, my store was so crowded all the time you could hardly get through it.”  Apparently she created quite a stir when she drove her car to church that first time. “We drove the automobile to church the first day, and it almost broke up the services,” she said.  “Everyone gathered around us and those who weren't afraid took turns riding in it.”

According to Civil War Records, Matilda ZILISKI and Amasa OTTO married in Iowa, Nov. 1875.  In 1886 they moved from Iowa to California, and then in 1894 they relocated to Hurley, Stone County, Missouri.

She is found in the 1910 Census for Hurley, Missouri. These records show her of German birth, age fifty-five, and married for thirty-five years.  She had given birth to four children, two who were alive at the time of the census. Living at home was herself, her husband, Amasa, and a son, Paul, born 1892 in California.  Her daughter, Maggie, born 1879 in Iowa, had already married and moved away.  It is not known to whom, but it is thought her married name might have been Douglas and that she stayed in the local area.  Again the census tells us Amasa was a “merchant” of a grocery store.  The family owned and ran the
store ... Matilda was the sales person and Paul the bookkeeper.

The 1920 MO Census shows sixty-five-year-old Matilda lived alone, and although she is listed as single, she was in fact a widow, Amasa having died in 1918.  It also states the year of her immigration as 1867 and naturalization as 1872.  The store was being run by her son Paul, who was now married to Eva Ball and had two children of his own, Gordon and Jack.

Based on the dates of  immigration and naturalization shown on this census, it is thought she was of a family who emigrated into Illinois in 1872, her father being, Albert Ziliski, age 42, mother Juliane, age 42, and siblings, Robert, age 19, Albertine, age 16, Julius, age 12, Ernst, age 8, Carl, age 6, Paul, age 4, and Caroline, age 2.  The newspaper article stated she emigrated from Germany and was the oldest of thirteen children.

Around 1930, Matilda became ill and was unable to live by herself.  She went to live with her son Paul, who now lived in Arkansas.  She remained there until her death a few years later, and was buried at Edgemere Cemetery in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Return to Stone County Biographies
Return to Stone County Main Page

Copyright 2001