Franz Otto Kaufmann

On December 4, 1938, the patriarch of a rather large Kaufman family in Little Rock, Arkansas, Franz Otto Kaufmann, died at the age of 82 (84). He was living with son Edward Robert on 12th Street Pike (Kanis Rd) in Little Rock at the time of his death.

Not much is known about his life in Germany. He was born September 17, 1856 (1854) in Linda, u. Ronneburg, Sachsen, Deutschland (Linda, Saxony, Germany) and was baptized September 26, 1856. Baptismal records indicate his father is Johann Gottfried Kaufmann and mother as Christine Pilling. It is said he served five years in the German army before immigrating to the United States. There is a discrepancy with his birthday. All official records in the US his birthday year is 1854 but on German records the year is 1856.

Otto enlisted in the US Army on January 11, 1881 Fort Hamilton (NY). He had just arrived on the SS Main from Bremen, Germany on January 8, 1881 at the Port of New York. He served at Fort Hamilton until he was sent to the Little Rock Barracks, December 9, 1881. He was promoted in rank twice. First to Corporal on December 26, 1882 and then to Sergeant on September 23, 1883. He lived in what is now the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History while serving.

Upon arrival in Little Rock in 1881, he was spotted by a young French girl, Lena Harveil, who saw him getting off the train and she turned to her parents telling them that he was the man she would marry. Her father was not too happy about it though since he did not like the military. On February 21, 1885 Otto and Lena were married by Father Felix Rumpf, of the Arkansas Catholic Dioceses, soon to be the first pastor of St Edward Catholic Church which was across the road from the barracks. Her parents were devout members of St Edward until their deaths in the 1920s.

Now this is where family history and verifiable facts do not agree. Otto Frank Kaufman, Jr told his descendants that his parents married in 1884 and that he was born January 10, 1885 at the Little Rock Barracks. County records show that they actually were married over a month later. Otto, Jr’s Delayed Birth Certificate, signed by mother Lena does have 1885 as his birth year.

On January 10, 1886, Sarge, as he preferred to be called, was discharged and moved his small, but growing, little family to a place on 7th Street before buying a farm in the Sand Hills (Arch Street Pike/Granite Mountain) area of Little Rock.

At least once a week vegetable crops grown on the farm, that the family did not use, were loaded onto a wagon and Lena, with help from a couple of the kids, took the vegetables to be sold to markets and some of the residential residents in the Quapaw Area of Little Rock. Lena would start the long trip to Little Rock before daylight and wouldn’t return to the farm until after dark. Back then it took hours to walk into town instead of the twenty minutes by car it takes today.

The kids that stayed at the farm would have to work the fields while Sarge sat on the porch and supervised. He had a whistle that he’d blow to let them know if he saw them doing something other than working. At the end of the day he would tell each one how many times they stopped working even if it was a just few seconds to rest their backs. The little kids that were too small to work the fields still had chores to do like feed the chickens or gather fire wood. They would also find and tie twigs together for kindling. Otto and Lena had 13 children with 9 reaching adulthood.

Otto was about 5’9” in height, slender build, fair complexion, with light brown hair and grey eyes. He walked with a cane in later years though it was thought that it really wasn’t needed. He treasured his Army days and would talk about it for hours if you let him. His children and Lena called him Papa but to everyone else he was Sarge. He spoke German and English and Lena spoke French, broken German and broken English. Otto officially became an US citizen on October 20, 1919, 38 years after his arrival in the US.

If you visit the MacArthur Musuem be sure to say hi to Sarge you might just get an answer back. 👻