Select Hoffman Miscellany



Here are some Hoffman stories and accounts over the years:


Martin Hermanzen Hoffman

Martin Hermanzen Hoffman was undoubtedly the first Hoffman to step ashore in America.  He was in fact born in Estonia (then part of Sweden) in 1624, the son of Hermann Hofman.  At the age of 33, he set sail for New York, then New Amsterdam and a Dutch colony.

His first marriage, to Lysbeth Hermans in 1663, ended within the year.  But his second marriage in 1664, to the Dutch woman Emmerentje Claesen de Witte, produced three children and the line continued through the youngest son Zacharias who settled in Ulster county.  Eleven generations of this family were tracked in E.A. Hoffman's 1899 book Genealogy of the Hoffman Family.


William Hoffman's Paper Mill

William Hoffman had learnt the craft of paper-making in Germany, near Frankfurt.  He had come to America with his wife Susanna in 1765 and, ten years later, had started a paper-making enterprise in Baltimore county close by the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania (at Gunpowder Falls where he could harness the water power).

Almost all of the paper on which Continental money was printed during the Revolutionary War was printed by William Hoffman at this mill.  A marker there today commemorates the event:

"The first paper maker in Maryland was William Hoffman.  In 1775 he built his first mill on Gunpowder Falls a quarter of a mile upstream from the present Hoffmanville bridge.  In 1776 Congress adopted watermarked paper for its currency.  Hoffmanville Mills manufactured this paper as well as writing and wrapping paper."

The business lasted more than a hundred years at this location, being handed down to William Hoffman's son and then to his grandson.


Henry Hoffman in Illinois

Henry Hoffman lived in Jo Daviess county, Illinois after his arrival in the state in 1854.  He worked on the early railroads and that may have been how he came to know a Bavarian woman who lived in Peru, Lasalle county in central Illinois.  In April 1858 Henry went to the Lasalle county courthouse where he obtained his naturalization papers and a marriage license for himself and Mary Donner.  They were married two days later.  Henry was nine years younger than his bride.

They had no children.  Mary died of a heart attack in 1872.  Her funeral (which Henry did not attend) was recorded in the German language records of the St. John's Lutheran church in Massbach and she was buried in the Elizabeth City cemetery.


The Hoffman Jewish Family from Lithuania


The Hoffmans lived in the village of Pokroy and were traders of fruit, vegetables, chickens, and geese.   On the outskirts of Pokroy lived a Baron Von Roc, a German nobleman who administered the area.  He had a whole court with a mansion for himself, living quarters for all his servants, and stables for his horses.  The Hoffmans supplied the Baron with fruit, vegetables and chickens and it was the Baron who gave them their surname as "man of the court."

The first recorded Hoffman was Chayim Hoffman.   His family later emigrated to South Africa.  They are to be found today in America and Israel as well.


ND Hoffman in South Africa

The pioneer of Yiddish journalism in South Africa was the professional belletrist Nehemiah Dov Ber Hoffman who in 1889 brought the first Hebrew-Yiddish typeface to the land.  Moving from the Cape to the Transvaal in 1890, he founded South Africa's first Yiddish weekly, Der Afrikaner Israelit, which lasted six months. Returning to the Cape, Hoffman started a second weekly, titled Ha-Or, which lasted from April 1895 to July 1897.

Hoffman's volume of memoirs, Sefer Ha-zikhroynes (published in 1916), was the first full-length Yiddish book to be printed in South Africa.  It described the author's experiences in Europe, America (in Hebrew), and Africa.  He was the first writer to record the eastern European immigrant response to life in South Africa.  His account of the hardships experienced by the traveling Jewish smous was the first appearance in South African Yiddish literature of what was to become one of its major themes.  His Yearbook of 1920 contained important information about country communities.



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