Frank Hoffman is numbered among the pioneer settlers of Amador County and in the affairs of life he has achieved success, demonstrating the fact that prosperity is not the outcome of genius or talent but follows persistent and well directed efforts. A native of Germany, he was born in Evarsdorf, April 18, 1825, and is a son of John Hoffman, a farmer by occupation and a member of the Lutheran Church. In his family were two sons and a daughter, but the latter has passed away, and the parents both died in the sixty-fourth year of their age.
Frank Hoffman pursued his education in the schools of his native land until he had attained the age of thirteen years. In 1844, at the age of nineteen, he came to the United States, having but little money and little experience in the ways of the world. He was not familiar with the English language or the customs of the country, but he readily adapted himself to the latter and soon mastered the former. Locating at St. Louis, Missouri, he learned the butcher’s trade, and in 1850 he crossed the plains with mule teams with a company of sixty-two families journeying westward with the hope of acquiring a fortune on the Pacific slope. Mr. Hoffman’s immediate companions were three unmarried men who ate and slept together, having a wagon in which to haul their goods, drawn by two mules and two horses. The trail was marked by newly made graves of victims who had been killed by the Indians, but they proceeded on their way unmolested until they arrived at Green River, where they left their wagon and loaded their effects on their horses and mules, thus continuing the journey to Hangtown, the men covering the distance on foot. After four months and ten days upon the way they arrived at their destination. They had crossed the Mississippi at St. Joseph, Missouri, on the 4th of May and had endured the usual hardships of life on the plains. There were no bridges, and therefore all the rivers had to be forded, and they narrowly escaped being drowned in the Platte.
At Mud Springs, California, Mr. Hoffman secured a position as a butcher, and after three weeks his employers purchased fifteen head of cattle, of which Mr. Hoffman butchered four. While he was herding the remaining eleven he was approached by three men who asked him if he owned the cattle. On receiving a negative answer they inquired for the owners, and Mr. Hoffman pointed out to them his employers. They then proceeded to drive off the cattle and took with them the owners, whom it was supposed were hung, for nothing was ever heard from them afterward! Mr. Hoffman was thus deprived of his wages, except that he was given half of a beef, which he sold.
He then engaged in mining in the gulch and became associated in business with a John Hoffman, who though of the same surname was not a relative. They spent the winter together and in the spring purchased a number of cattle, which they took to Grass Valley, erecting there a little butcher shop. Our subject then slaughtered the cattle, selling the beef for thirty-five cents a pound. After a few months, however, prices depreciated there, and with William Barker and Tom Bryne he went to Mission House, six miles above Auburn, where five hundred men were engaged in building a canal. There he followed the butchering business, securing twenty-five cents per pound for his beef. When the work on the canal was almost completed he and his companions proceeded to the Mokelumne River, where he secured a claim of one hundred and sixty acres of bottom land. They cut hay on the Mokelumne Hill, and soon afterward Mr. Hodges and Mr. Bryne built a log stable and corral and engaged in the livery business. In the spring Mr. Bryne returned to the ranch and Mr. Hoffman began mining on Mokelumne Hill, taking out from eight to ten dollars per day, and on one occasion securing fifty-two dollars in a single day. In connection with his partner he planted barley, wheat and vegetables upon the ranch and the same spring cut about sixty-five tons of wild oats.
On the 1st of June 1852, they came to Jackson and purchased a lot opposite the present site of the Globe Hotel, where they embarked in the livery business. They built the stable of shakes which they split in the mountains, the building being twenty-eight by forty feet, with a corral in the rear. They hauled their hay to the town, and in the conduct of their business met with good success. In 1854 Mr. Hoffman purchased a lot on Main Street, on which a brick stable is now located, paying one thousand dollars for it. He built a two-story frame structure on the place, and there conducted a livery in connection with his partner until the following year, when the business relation was dissolved, Mr. Hoffman retaining the ownership of the stable and his partner securing the ranch for his share of the property. Subsequently the stable was destroyed by fire and a large amount of hay also was lost. In 1860 he bought the brick stable built by Judge A. C. Brown, the purchase price being thirty-five hundred dollars. He afterward purchased the lot and frame house above it and made a livery barn forty feet wide and one hundred feet in length, with a large yard in the rear. He successfully conducted the business until 1885, when he sold out, having in the meantime accumulated a comfortable competence.
In 1859 Mr. Hoffman had purchased the forty acres of land upon which he now resides, the tract adjoining the town-site of Jackson. Since then he has added to the property until he now has two hundred acres, the place being improved with large barns and a fine residence. He has also erected a number of other good dwellings and from his property investments derives a good income. He also has various mining interests and has met with creditable success in his business affairs during the greater part of his life. This has resulted from industry, economy, capable management and sound judgment.
In 1862 Mr. Hoffman was united in marriage to Miss Christina Clamm, a native of Germany, born March 2, 1836, and was a daughter of Colonel Frederick and Calina (Bauman) Clamm, both natives of Rheigonheim, Germany. They are members of the Methodist Church and take an active interest in its work and upbuilding. Mr. Hoffman has been a lifelong Republican, casting his first presidential vote for John C. Fremont. He belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and has filled all the offices in both branches of the organization. The story of pioneer life in the west is familiar to him, and he has experienced many of the hardships and trials borne by a brave band of frontier settlers who came to California when the state was in its primitive period and the work of civilization had hardly been begun. He has ever been true to the duties devolving upon him, as is exemplified in his life and honorable business methods, and thus has he won and retained the confidence and respect of his fellow men.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.