William Östman

(Erik Wilhelm ÖSTMAN)


If you are Swedish and have ended up here by way of an Internet search, welcome.  This page is dedicated to an old Swedish sea captain whose story is slowly being unraveled.  This information was collected over the past 16 years and has come from many people.  If you can add anything new to this mystery, please drop me a line here.  I am particularly interested in getting a better photo of the Swedish Bark Charlotta shown farther down the page.


 “Uncle” Bill Ostman played a significant role in the lives of other families in Muscogee.  He was born near Stockholm, Sweden 16 Nov 1839, the year after Samuel Morse gave a public demonstration of the telegraph.  Perhaps Uncle Bill was best characterized by Herman Merritt who knew him before his death in 1916.  Herman’s story about Uncle Bill is here.

Bill was born Erik Wilhelm Östman 16 Nov 1839 in Lohärad, Stockholm, Sweden.  He was the 9th of ten children of Karl Fredrik Östman and Beata Dorotea Ek.  Here are their children.


i.                Beata Katarina ÖSTMAN born 13 Nov 1822 in Harbo, Vastmanland, Sweden. Died 1893 in Ånstaberg, Skepptuna. She married in 1859.


ii.              Lars Johan ÖSTMAN Kyrkoherde (Minister) born 19 Feb 1825 in Harbo, Vastmanland, Sweden. Died in Funbo. He married in 1867. He also married in 1858.


iii.            Karolina Dorotea ÖSTMAN born 3 Dec 1826 in Harbo, Vastmanland, Sweden.


iv.            Karl Ludvig ÖSTMAN Förvaltare (Bailiff) born 3 Mar 1829 in Harbo, Vastmanland, Sweden. Died in Rungarn, Bladåker.


v.              Fredrika Emilia ÖSTMAN born 5 Aug 1831 in Harbo, Vastmanland, Sweden. Died in Åbö, Husby-Långhundra. She married in 1868.


vi.            Fredrik Daniel ÖSTMAN born 22 Jul 1834 in Loharad, Stockholm, Sweden. Died 1834 in Lohärad.


vii.          Kristina Lovisa ÖSTMAN born 30 Sep 1835 in Lohärad, Stockholm, Sweden. Died 1860 in Lohärad.


viii.        Otto Fredrik Daniel ÖSTMAN Adjunkt (Curate) born 27 Aug 1837 in Lohärad, Stockholm, Sweden. Died in Hudiksvall.


ix.            Erik Wilhelm ÖSTMAN Sjöman (Seaman) born 16 Nov 1839 in Lohärad, Stockholm, Sweden. Died 3 Aug 1916 in Muscogee, Florida, USA.


x.              Per Gotthilf ÖSTMAN born 10 Jan 1842 in Lohärad, Stockholm, Sweden. Died 1842 in Lohärad.


I have no record of Bill after his birth until about 1866 when there is this entry in Swedish records:


In GID 2529.2.37400 [Stockholm] Lohärad AI:16 HFL 1866-1870 page 1, Eric Wilhelm ÖSTMAN has received a certificate for going to navigation school in Gävle.


Two years later he was the master of the Swedish Bark Charlotta.


Name: E.W. Östman

Date of birth: 1839

Parish of birth: Lohärad

Residence (parish): Lohärad

Occupation: Befälhavare (commander, chief)

Date and place of sign on: 07/18/1868 in Hudiksvall


Name: Charlotta (Bark)

Port of registry: Hudiksvall

Destination: London

Weight (nyläster): 209 (metric tons)

Shipowner: J.A. Jennische

Captain: E.W. Östman


This is the Charlotta as she looked in 1915.



In 1877 Bill moved to Gävle, Sweden and served on the Swedish ship Ran twice per Swedish records.


1: "Styrman" (~first mate) on the ship Ran from Gävle 1877-06-13 to Gävle 1877-08-04.


2: "Styrman" (~first mate) on the ship Ran from Gävle 1877-08-13 to London 1877-09-27.


It must have been some time after this that Bill met Oran Merritt with whom he lived on and off in Muscogee from at least 1900 until his death in 1916.


Bill immigrated to the US in 1881 and was naturalized by 1899 when he bought land from the Bureau of Land Management.  This is also the year Kate and Oran were married and so matches the story Herman Merritt wrote about the two sailing together until Oran met Kate.  In the 1910 Muscogee Census he was listed as naturalized and a self-employed carpenter.  The thought occurred to us that perhaps he was called Uncle because he married one of Kate's aunts.  But he was listed as single in the 1910 census - not divorced or widowed.


Swedish Emigration Records   1783-1951

William Ostman

born c1839   Male

Origin - Amerika

Destination - Pensacola

Sept. 14, 1888

Port of Departure:  Göteborg

Database Emil Hamn



In 1899 Bill Ostman purchased land from the US along the Styx River in Baldwin County, AL (not far from Muscogee) as shown below.


Patentee Name: OSTMAN, WILLIAM

Authority: May 20, 1862: Homestead Entry (12 Stat. 392)

Signature Date: 8/14/1899

Metes/Bounds: N Legal Land Descriptions







4-S/4-E N

St Stephens




We know Bill was in Muscogee, or at least knew the Merritts, by 1901 since he is mentioned in a 1901 letter as having been invited to their daughter Minnie’s wedding.  He was living with the Merritts in 1908 (received Christmas card – see below), 1910 (Federal census), and 1916 when he died. During this time he made several trips back to Sweden but always returned to Muscogee.  On one of those trips he brought back brooch watches for all of the girls.  Oran’s and Kate’s granddaughter, Edie Bowman Avant, still had hers when she died in 2000.


I have never figured out Bill's relation to either Kate or Orrin. Jack Merritt, however, had this old Christmas card to Bill from his brother living in Hudiksvall, Sweden.



The initials on the card look like Tk or Fk but the F in Florida looks just like the first letter of the initials, thus, making it Fk.  The only sibling with both an F and a K in their name is Otto Fredrik Daniel ÖSTMAN, Bill’s older brother who would have been 71 at the time. 


Våra hjärtlig aste väl äns kningar till jul och ny år för du vi sig alla.


Shown below in order are the words I can decipher and their possible translation:

·       våra   our

·       hjärtlig         hearty, cordial, heartfelt

·       aste    most

·       väl     well

·       ans     care    or äns  ???

·       kningar        appointments – probably an archaic version meaning furniture or equipment or good things.

·       till      at

·       jul      Christmas

·       och    and

·       ny      new

·       år       year

·       för     for

·       du      you

·       vi       we      or ni   you     

·       sig      oneself, himself, herself, itself, themselves

·       alla     everyone


This probably translates roughly to:


Our hearty well wishes at Christmas and New Year for you from all of us.


There are, however, obviously problems with this translation.  If anyone can more accurately translate this, please send me your translation and I will post it here.



This is a photograph from Arthur Merritt’s collection.  These five children are obviously some connection to Bill. 


The photo was made in Hudiksvall, Sweden and we already know from the Christmas card that Bill’s brother, Fredrik, lived there and was in contact with Bill in the US.  It would seem, then, to be a good hypothesis that these are Fredrik’s children.  In fact the Swedish Census data list supports this:


1890 Swedish Census:

Östman, Otto Fredrik Daniel    1837       F

Frisk, Fanny Helena Elisabeth    1852       M

(Barn), Karl Edvard Harald     1873       Ch

(Barn), Ingegerd Ida Elisabeth    1876       Ch

(Barn), Nils Fredrik Edvin      1877       Ch

(Barn), Anna Astrid                1879       Ch


1900 Swedish Census:

Östman, Otto Fredrik Daniel    1837       Father

Frisk, Fanny Helena Elisabet    1852       Mother

(Barn), Gerda Maria                1874       Child

(Barn), Ingegärd Ida Elisabet    1876       Child

(Barn), Nils Fredrik Edvin      1877       Child

(Barn), Anna Astrid                1879       Child

(Barn), Viola Helena               1883       Child


The photo shows the four eldest children to be two boys and two girls just as shown in the census records.  The fifth, and youngest, child might be Viola Helena born after 1880.  If this is the correct family, Viola’s age appears to be about two in the photo placing it as having been made about 1885.  If any visitor recognizes this photo, contact me here.  I have a much larger version that I will be happy to send you if you want it.


Here is a photo of Uncle Bill Ostman himself.


Bill Ostman 1904 Sm