In nearly every community are individuals who, by innate ability and sheer force of character, rise above their fellows and win for themselves public honors and preferment, occupying conspicuous places in the public esteem. Such a one is the well-known gentleman whose name, appears above, who has been prominently identified with the history of Audubon county for a number of years, during which period his life has been closely interwoven with the growth and development of the county. He has been active in business affairs, as well as having taken a prominent part in the official administration of the county government, and his career as a progressive and enterprising citizen has been synonymous with all that is honorable and upright in citizenship.
Otto Witthauer, former county auditor of Audubon county and present representative from this county in the Iowa General Assembly, was born in Woodward, Center county, Pennsylvania, on October 11, 1857, the son of Herman and Louisa (Flahl) Witthauer, both of whom were natives of Germany, where they were married, emigrating to America in May, 1854. They resided in Pennsylvania until April 5, 1865, at which time they set out for the long trip to the newer and cheaper lands of western Iowa. The family located on a farm of one hundred and sixty acres near Guthrie Center, Guthrie county, and resided thereon until 1884, in which year Herman Witthauer purchased the adjoining farm, where he spent the rest of his life, his death occurring in 1905. Mrs. Witthauer died in 1901. They were the parents of eight children, namely: Louis, who is tilling the home farm in Guthrie county; Ida, who died in infancy; Otto, with whom this review directly treats; Hugo, who died in infancy; Bruna, who died at the age of six years; Thomas, a resident of Council Bluffs; Udo, of Wellsville, Missouri, and Edward, formerly a citizen of Olathe, Kansas, now deceased.
Otto Witthauer was reared to young manhood on the pioneer farm in Guthrie county, and after receiving what instruction was available in the local district school, he attended the county high school at Panora, Guthrie county, Iowa. He fitted himself for the profession of teaching and taught for four years in his home county, after which, in the fall of 1880, he entered the employ of Captain Stuart, an extensive grain and lumber merchant. Mr. Witthauer first began his work for Captain Stuart in the latter's lumber yards at Guthrie Center, but was soon afterward transferred to Monteith. In April, 1881, he was placed in charge of Captain Stuart's business at Exira, this county. The nature of his occupation gave him a wide acquaintance throughout the county and he made many warm and faithful friends. He became his party's candidate for county recorder in the fall of 1884, was elected to this office, and served for one term of two years. Upon the expiration of his term of office he returned to Exira and engaged in the mercantile business on his own account. He was unfortunate, for in 1887 fire destroyed his building and wiped out the stock of goods. He did not attempt again to start in business, but re-entered Captain Stuart's employ and was thus engaged until Stuart disposed of his business in the fall of 1888, at which time Mr. Witthauer embarked in the lumber business for himself, continuing that business until 1890, when he sold out and engaged in the hardware and harness business for two years, after which he was employed by the Davenport Syrup Refining Company as grain buyer at Exira. He remained in this latter position for six years, or until 1898, the firm in the meantime being incorporated with the Davenport Elevator Company. For a period of one and one-half years, following 1898 Mr. Witthauer was employed as manager for the Fullerton Lumber Company at Exira. From 1899 to 1909 his occupations were varied and he then made a trip to Montana, where he was superintendent of a saw-mill and lumber company for one year. He returned home in 1910 and in that year was elected to the office of auditor of Audubon county.
In June, 1883, Otto Witthauer was married to Hattie Bowman, of this county, to which union three children have been born, Bessie, a teacher of music in the public schools of Corwith, Iowa; Omar, at home, and Leo, who died in infancy.
Mr. Witthauer is a member of the Christian church and is a consistent supporter of that faith. He is fraternally allied with the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen of America. Mr. Witthauer is a stanch Democrat in his political affiliations and stands high in the councils of his party. He was elected to the office of county auditor in the fall of 1910 and was re-elected in 1912, serving two full terms. He was a most capable official and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of the people of Audubon county, not only in his capacity of commissioner but as a citizen who was held in high regard by all who knew him. Mr. Witthauer is now a representative from Audubon county in the state Legislature, having been elected in 1914, in which honorable public capacity he has made a fine reputation throughout the state.