William Otterson

William Otterson, his wife Ada, and their roomers on the US 1910 Census.

Born: 1885
Occupation: Plasterer
Killed: July 28, 1919
Cause of death: Skull-fracture

William J. Otterson was an Irish Catholic man born on the Isle of Man, then part of the United Kingdom, in 1885. He immigrated to the United States in 1904. Otterson became part of Chicago’s significant population of Irish immigrants and worked as a plasterer, like his father before him. At the time of the 1910 census, he lived in the city’s second ward with his wife, Ada (Moore), who followed her husband to Chicago a few years after he arrived. In 1910, they lived at 750 E. 52nd Street—just over three miles away from where he was killed in 1919. Five other individuals are listed as “roomers” at the same address, suggesting that William and Ada Otterson, like many working-class homeowners, took in boarders to cover their mortgage costs.

On the evening of July 28th, Otterson was a passenger in a car that passed the riot at the Angelus apartment building on 35th Street. The Chicago Commission report claimed that Black men at the scene were stopping cars and throwing bricks. Newspapers reported that police responded with disproportionate force to these acts. As the car turned onto S. Wabash Avenue, Otterson was hit on the head by a brick thrown from the crowd and immediately lost consciousness. He died of a skull fracture at the age of 34. The Commission listed Otterson’s death as being due to “mob violence” and placed him in the same category of deaths as Eugene Williams.

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