OTIS, WILLIAM A. (2 Feb. 1794-11 May 1868), merchant, industrialist, banker, and civic leader instrumental in developing the WESTERN RESERVE as a trading partner with eastern markets, was born in Massachusetts to William and Philina Shaw Otis. He moved to Pittsburgh about 1818, working in ironworks. Two years later he moved to Bloomfield, Trumbull County, Ohio, opening a tavern and mercantile business, furnishing settlers with goods in exchange for wheat, produce, and ash.
Otis is credited with shipping the first Ohio wheat to New York City via Buffalo and the Erie Canal (1825), becoming a primary factor utilizing the waterways to open the Western Reserve to eastern markets. He later began shipping wool and pork, becoming a leading shipper for 20 years. Recognizing Cleveland's advantages as a port, Otis moved his mercantile operations in 1836 to the city, quickly becoming one of Cleveland's leading dealers in pork, flour, and potash. His business gave him cause to study the area's transportation problems. With the waterways opened to eastern markets, the major problem confronting trade involved getting inland goods to port, so he supported the development of good HIGHWAYS and the building of railroads, including the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati and Cleveland & Pittsburgh railroads.
Otis concentrated on iron manufacturing and was involved with the banking firms of Wick, Otis & Brownell, Commercial Branch Bank of Cleveland, Commercial Natl. Bank, and Society for Savings, serving all as president. He was a founder of the Board of Trade. Otis married Eliza Proctor in 1825, and had 3 children, Charles, Eliza, and William. He died in Cleveland and was buried in WOODLAND CEMETERY.