William “Uncle Bill” Ostman
16 Nov 1839 near Stockholm, Sweden
3 Aug 1916 Muscogee, FL
(see the story Fences in the stories section of this web site for more details about Bill Ostman)
Bill Ostman is a puzzle. He apparently lived on and off with Kate and Orrin Merritt from 1901 (or earlier) until his death in 1916. In the 1910 census Bill Ostman was with the Merritts along with Eddie Petty. Eddie's parents had died so Orrin and Kate took Eddie in to raise. I have never been able to trace Eddie, though in 1900 a daughter of Dennis and Edna Mashburn was living with the Merritts as a servant. This girl later married a Petty but the birth places for parents on the census with Eddie in it don’t match. If anyone has any info on Eddie Petty please contact the webmaster.
I have never been able to find what Bill Ostman’s connection to the family was even though he was referred to as “Uncle” Bill. He served as a handy man, repairing fences and such until his death. He was a seaman, some say a sea captain, earlier in life. On one trip back to Sweden he brought all of Kate’s girls and granddaughters brooch watches. Edie Bowman Avant still had hers 90 years later.
Edie remembers visiting and sitting at the supper table in the Merritt house. Kate presided at the head of the table with Bill Ostman at the opposite end. Orrin sat next to Kate and the children and other assorted visitors and guests sat along the length of the table.
How a Swedish seaman found his way to Muscogee and lived with a family there remains an enduring mystery. The prolog to the story Fences is my best guess at how such a relationship came about but it’s mostly wild conjecture on my part.
The history of Muscogee is full of puzzles.