Tales of Pioneers
Wm. Hoffman, a Conscientious Public Officer and Citizen
Who Helped Make History in the Early Days of Southern Oregon.
Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Hoffman and family, among the first and most highly respected pioneers of Southern Oregon, arrived in Jacksonville in the fall of 1853, after an arduous six-month trip across the plains by ox team. In these days of high-powered cars a chauffeur considers 200 miles a day a mere bagatelle, but the men and women who followed the star of empire westward in the '40s and '50s were well satisfied when their battered "schooners" covered a tenth part of that distance in the same time.
Mr. Hoffman and family arrived in the valley in troublous times. They were just getting nicely established on a donation land claim known as the "White House," about four miles from Jacksonville, which Mr. Hoffman had taken up, when the Indian War of 1855 broke out. In response to a night alarm the family hurried to an improvised fort, located somewhere between the Gore and VanDyke places, where, with a number of other families, they remained six months, at times in hourly expectation of an attack by the Indians. At the close of the war the family removed to Jacksonville, where they resided for many years. Following is a brief biographical sketch of Wm. Hoffman, compiled and published in the Table Rock Sentinel in 1872:
"Mr. Hoffman was born in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, September 7, 1801, and resided at different points in the state of Maryland until he attained his majority, when he became connected with a packing establishment in Cincinnati, from where he returned to Baltimore and engaged in the grocery business. Subsequently moving to the western part of Maryland, he became interested with his brother in general merchandising at Uniontown, and afterwards in the same business at Boonesborough, remaining there several years and then pushing west in 1835 to Attica, Indiana. In 1836 he was married to Miss Caroline B. Shafer of Boonesborough. Mr. Hoffman was elected recorder of Fountain County, Indiana, in 1840 and retained the position until 1853. In that year he crossed the plains with his family, coming direct to Rogue River Valley by the route leading through Modoc County. Arriving here in the fall of '53, Mr. Hoffman took a donation claim four miles east of Jacksonville, his place being known as the 'White House,' improving and tilling his farm until 1855, when he was elected auditor of Jackson County under the territorial laws. In June 1858, after the adoption of the state constitution and pending the act of Congress admitting Oregon into the Union, the state election was held, and at that time Mr. Hoffman was elected county clerk of Jackson County. He was re-elected in 1860, '62 and '64, and in 1866 was defeated by his opponent, W. H. S. Hyde. This position held so long by Mr. Hoffman was filled by remarkable ability and correctness and enabled him to become familiar with land matters in Jackson County. Repeatedly declining a nomination from his party, Mr. Hoffman retired from public life, and in 1861 went into the hardware business in Jacksonville with Henry Klippel, the co-partnership expiring by limitation in 1873. After that date and almost until the time of his death in 1885, Mr. Hoffman was occupied as Notary Public and land agent. He was a steadfast member of the Presbyterian Church and, since the war of the rebellion, had been a Republican. Among the pioneers of this county his name for integrity was for many years a 'household word.'"
That Mrs. Hoffman shared with her husband the respect and admiration of many friends is shown in the following extract from a tribute published in 1900, the year in which she died.
"It is perhaps safe to say that Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Hoffman did as much, possibly more, than any other two persons in Southern Oregon in bringing order out of chaos, molding and refining society and planting Christianity on a solid and enduring basis among the people of the valley. Mrs. Hoffman came to Jacksonville at a time when hardship and privation were the common lot of all, and it was through the trying period from '53 to '55 that her self-denial and devotion to duty marked her as a woman of sterling character and capable of any sacrifice. The world is better for the love of such as 'Grandma' Hoffman; and those who follow in her footsteps will live in the hearts of the good and be called 'blessed' among men."
Jacksonville Post, July 10, 1920, page 1
Last revised July 3, 2011