was born in Cassel, Prussia, August 29, 1830; remained in his native land until he sailed for California, in August, 1849, in the schooner Julius, Captain Steege, and made the journey around Cape Horn, touching at Rio de Janeiro and Valparaiso, and arriving at San Francisco April 8, 1850. There being no wharves then at that place, the captain ordered the boats lowered, in which the sailors had to take all the passengers and their baggage to the shore. Here Mr. Otter found himself, with others, standing beside his trunk on a foreign shore, not understanding English, and deliberating what to do. Suddenly a live Yankee, espying the trunks on his vacant lot, hastened to the spot and seemed to talk business, while he made figures on the trunks with chalk. Mr. Otter did not know what was meant until a fellow-countryman came up and interpreted that the chap simply wanted twenty-five cents to $1.00 from each traveler for having his trunk on his lot ! The German was an expressman, and he took the baggage up town, and left it upon a vacant lot, with the permission of the owner, Mr. Kuntz.
After looking around the embryo city a little, and seeing numerous piles of gold-dust, and inquiring where he might go to obtain it, he concluded to start for the Yuba. He had an expensive and an exciting trip to that point, with many a lingering thought of the luxurious home he had left in the fatherland. Arriving at "Blue Tent" camp, some rough-looking fellows came up to him and his companions for news. One of them took hold of his rifle and asked him in German how he came by it. Mr. Otter replied that in 1848, during the revolution in Cassel, he, with others, after putting the sentinel in the guard-house, entered the armory and took a number of firearms; and he succeeded in getting out of the country with that rifle. The questioner smiled, shook hands with him, and introduced himself as Lieutenant Weber, from the artillery in Cassel—the same man whom Mr. Otter and others had endeavored to liberate one day from prison, but failed ! He was imprisoned for saying that no artillery officer should order his men to shoot down citizens.
After mining for a short time with unsatisfactory results, on Goodyear's Bar, in Yuba River, Mr. Otter worked for a Missourian one month for $200 and board and lodging. Next, he started out prospecting toward Feather River, became lost from his party, and at length was so reduced by starvation that he attempted suicide by cutting some of his veins but before he succeeded with this horrible scheme he was found by Indians, who directed him to a mining camp. Reviving, he returned to San Francisco, where he did what drudgery he could find to do for a time, being penniless, and then went to other points, working in humble situations; worked a claim on Shaw's Flat for a time, and in 1854 visited his parents in Germany.
Returning, by the Nicaragua route, he mined on the same claim again. In the fall of 1859 he came to San Jose and engaged in the cattle business in the Santa Cruz Mountains. While thus employed he was thrown from a horse, and his leg was broken. He had to ride many miles to reach San Jose, where the bones were set. After recovering he sold his cattle and bought a part of the Santa Clara Brewery, which interest he sold in 1865, and commenced speculation and building. In 1868 he erected the "Arguello House," corner of First and St. John Streets. In 1870, again visited Germany, with his family,—wife and two children. Was there during the short but brilliant war between Germany and France, and witnessed at Berlin the most gorgeous pageant of the returning victorious army, led by King William, Prince Bismarck, Count von Moltke, etc., and many other of the highest officials, both of Germany and of other nations. On returning home, his train, in Germany, ran off the track, and several were killed and more wounded, but he escaped unhurt.
After living at Wiesbaden, a fashionable watering-place on the Rhine, until 1875, Mr. Otter embarked, December 5, on the Deutschland at Bremen, for New York. The vessel struck a rock in the English Channel and sunk nearly to the top deck. Many were drowned or frozen to death, but Mr. Otter succeeded in getting to the rigging, tying himself to it, where he kept warmth and life in his body by beating it, until rescued by a tug-boat. And still another awful death he escaped. He was next to sail in a vessel which was loaded, by a soulless Yankee, with spurious goods, over-insured, and to be furnished with a clock torpedo, so that it would explode and become a total wreck in mid-ocean; but a torpedo was accidently exploded on the wharf before loading, killing several, which gave the alarm, and the vessel itself was then exploded, in order to destroy what dangerous chemicals might be on board. After waiting about two weeks longer Mr. Otter obtained another opportunity to sail for America, which he safely improved, but with many misgivings. It was so stormy that the passengers wore life-preservers constantly for two weeks.
Mr. Otter came
to California around Cape Horn; and when he beheld again the green mountains of
his adopted State, his feelings overcame him, and he resolved never again to
leave it. His family came over from Europe the summer following, and from that
time to the present he has had the enjoyment of a happy family circle. His
parents came in 1858, and he has two sisters living here yet. Mr. Otter says
that he will never leave this glorious climate again until he makes his last
trip to Oak Hill , on the Monterey road, where he owns a corner lot, and
where his good parents and a brother are sleeping their long sleep.
Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.