Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
History of Tompkins, Schuyler,
Chemung, Tioga 1879
Page 274 - William Hoffman
Mr. Hoffman at first carried on the hat business here. His first little
shop, in years long gone by, was just where Hubbell’s furniture store now
is. A little case contained all his stock in trade, -a half-dozen hats
and as many caps, maybe, -made for rough service, for what else would the
rough pioneers wear? That same little hat case which, perhaps, was the
foundation of his after-success, is treasured by revering descendants among
the precious heirlooms that he left behind, -sacred mementoes of his earliest
struggles, and eloquent of his worth.
|William Hoffman was born in the town of Northumberland, county
of the same name, in the State of Pennsylvania, Sept. 7, 1780. He was of
German parentage, and inherited from them much of that industry, self-perseverance,
and energy which led him in early life to strike out for himself, afterwards
leading him to success and position, where first was naught but danger,
trial, and discouragement.
In the year 1799 young Hoffman made a trip on foot from his home to
the then "far west," Geneva, where he worked at his trade, as a hatter,
for a few months, and in the fall of the same year returned home.
In the spring of 1800, placing his scanty effects in a boat, he struck
up the beautiful Susquehanna into the quieter waters of the Chemung, -not
then as now, their banks free and open, with cultured fields and busy villages
teeming into varied life scattered along, -but, rather, the little boat,
with the young man’s all, cut its almost unfrequented way, propelled by
the strong arm of hopeful youth, amidst comparatively untried scenes, into
the very primeval solitude of the wilderness itself. Reaching the Chemung
valley, he selected Newtown (now Elmira) for the scene of his future struggles.
He was absolutely poor, but full of that ardent hope and invincible determination
of spirit which have ever been the marked characteristics of his life.
Possessed of a good trade, a strong and vigorous constitution, industrious
habits, frugality and temperance, incorruptible integrity, and deep, unchanging
love of country that constitutes the true American citizen, he boldly looked
the world in the face, and earnestly commenced the struggles incident to
But while the most careful attention was given to business and personal
prosperity, the best interests of the little community of which he had
become a member were by no means overlooked or forgotten. To his energetic
and self-sacrificing efforts, in common with the noble spirits who acted
in unison with him, the county, as such, owes its existence. The first
church in Elmira was erected by his assistance and determined public spirit.
He was ever noted for his liberality in aiding to erect public buildings,
and was ever a true and steadfast friend in works of local improvement.
The greater portion of his life was devoted to agricultural pursuits. His
extensive farm might be said at one time to have been a "model one," and
was patterned after by others. He introduced in this county what came to
be known as the "Hoffman Corn," which was peculiarly profitable of culture
hereabouts. The farm owned by Mr. Hoffman forms, in 1878, a part of the
beautiful city of Elmira, extending from what is now Walnut Street far
above the old family homestead on Water Street. He was poor when he took
it, and it was not until many years of the hardest labor and untiring industry
that he was able to pay for his land, which he originally bargained for
at higher rates than did most of his neighbors; but with an honesty that
characterized his whole life, he eventually fulfilled every requirement
upon him. For more that a half-century Mr. Hoffman contributed to the growth
and development of the county, and took a leading part in its success.
He was a wise counselor, and ardent worker in every good enterprise, a
stanch friend, and a strong supporter of good morals and religious institutions.
He married Peggy Smith, sister of the late Dr. Uriah Smith and Solomon
L. Smith, March 28, 1805, who died Nov. 11, 1805, leaving an infant daughter,
Peggy Smith Hoffman, born Nov. 11, 1805. March 2, 1809, he married Sally
Smith, of Southport, who was born Feb. 3, 1786, in Orange Co., N. Y., and
was brought, when only three years of age, by her parents to Chemung County.
The mode of moving from one place to another in the pioneer days was so
different from that nowadays, that this instance will quite well illustrate
the contrast. The children were placed in baskets, one being suspended
on each side of the horse, and in this novel way Mrs. Hoffman was brought
to her new home, where she grew to womanhood, was married, and raised a
family of children. She did her part well; was a woman exemplary in all
her ways, and instilled into the minds of her children all that makes true
manhood and womanhood. She died Dec. 7, 1865. Their children are by this
marriage: John S., born July 2, 1811; Jacob, born July 28, 1814, murdered
by the Cayuse Indians, in Oregon, Nov. 29, 1847; William, Jr., born April
6, 1817, died Nov. 11, 1876; Joseph, born Aug. 16, 1819; George W., born
Feb. 9, 1822; and Col. Henry C. Hoffman, born Jan. 14, 1827.
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