Otto Hellwig and 2nd wife, c. late 1860's

Otto Hellwig family

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Otto W. Hellwig was born around 1800.1  (Almost all of what we know of Otto Hellwig is from the notes of his great-granddaughter, Charlotte Alexine Ritter (1903-1971).)2  His first wife, whose surname was Dill (or Ziegler)1 was born in Hebenshausen, a small village at the extreme northeast end of the state of Hesse, Germany, where she now lies buried.  His second wife’s surname was Kimmel.  We know of eight children, seven by his first wife and the eighth by his second.


The Otto Hellwig house in
Melsungen, Hesse, c. 1860's

Children of Otto Hellwig

1. George Hellwig
2. Otto Hellwig
3. Eleanor Hellwig, b. ~1829
4. Elisabeth (“Elise”) Hellwig
5. Dorothea Hellwig
6. Justus Wilhem Hellwig,
      b. 18 Dec. 1835, Hebenshausen 1
7. Christopher
8. Carl Hellwig

An 1853 letter from Otto to daughter Eleanor
in Detroit

We know that Otto moved his family from Hebenshausen to Melsungen, about 25 miles southwest, after son Justus was born, so this move was made after 1835, and may have had something to do with Otto's job.  He worked for the government.  Since Hesse was ruled by an Elector from 1813 to 1866 (when it was annexed by Prussia), Otto would have worked for the Electorate.  He superintended: 1) construction of the first railroad in this part of Germany; 2) a project (apparently)3 to alter the course of the river Fulda; and 3) the construction of a bridge over the river Fulda, in Melsungen.  And he built a three-story house for himself at one end of this bridge, with a store in the bottom story (thus assuring his store a steady flow of traffic).  Considering the degree of responsibility required for these projects Otto must have had extensive training in engineering.  In addition, he served as “Bahnmeister” (Roadmaster), a government position, until he retired, after age 70 (around 1870).

Melsungen, c. 1900?

Otto’s children began leaving Germany as early as 1852.  We know that Eleanor arrived in New York City in June of 1852, at age ~23, and settled in Detroit, Michigan, where she married and raised a family of six children.  And we know that “Justus Hellwich” arrived in New York City two years later, in July of 1854, accompanied by a “Georg Hellwich” who may have been his brother.  Both were from Oberjossa, a village about 25 miles south of Melsungen.  Justus settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where he married in 1863 and raised a family of seven childen.  Justus may have shown up in the Baltimore city directories as early as 1860 (and perhaps earlier—the period 1852 to 1859 is not available online), as William Hellwig, tobacconist.  He was certainly there by 1864, as William Hellwich, baker, 340 West Pratt Street.

Click here to see Sophie Hellwig's confectioner's recipe book

A brooch painted by Mina Elise
(Hellwig) Ritter depicting the bridge
and house in Melsungen

There was a George Hellwig in Baltimore, too, who had a grocery store at 155 South Fremont Street from 1860 or earlier until 1879; but we do not think this was Justus’s brother.  Charlotte Ritter’s notes tell us that Otto’s son George was a top draftsman in Leipsig for the firm Hartmann & Sons, and (later?) had a position in Bohemia (now Czech Republic) Austria with “Bohemia Central—North Road.”  If the Georg Hellwich who accompanied Justus to America was Justus’s brother then he soon returned to Germany.  Or it might be that that Georg was a cousin.  There were numerous other Hellwich/Hellwig/Helwig in Baltimore, some of whom could have been related to Justus.

Christopher Hellwig also went to America—we don’t know when—and settled in Ashland, Kentucky.  He may have been a Christopher Hellwig in Baltimore in 1865.  He had four daughters and two sons.  Whether any others of Otto’s children went to America we don’t yet know.

Justus visited Melsungen in 1872.  Otto was still alive, but died not long after Justus left, the same year, apparently.



1.  Otto’s middle initial, ‘W,’ is mentioned in only one place that we know of so far, the Baltimore city death certificate for son Justus W. Hellwig, for which Justus’s son Otto J. Hellwig was the informant.  Otto J. also gave “Miss [or Miso] Ziegler” as the name of the mother of Justus W.  Justus W.’s birthdate, too, is from this source.

2.  See Hellwig family notes by Charlotte Ritter.  Charlotte was a granddaughter of Justus, so her notes are centered on that line.

3.  Charlotte’s notes on this project are not clear.  In item 2 (notes on Justus W. Hellwig) she wrote: “Superintended transplanting River Fülda roadbed – an engineering feat,” and in item 7 (on the back of the picture of Otto and his second wife) she wrote: “Superint[end]ed relocation of the river Fulda.”

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