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John Elbert Hoffman

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John Elbert Hoffman

Posted: 1018910779000
Classification: Biography
Edited: 1019024576000
From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 516-518

Among the younger generation of business men of Huntington county, whose impress became indelibly stamped upon the commercial life of this section of the state, and whose personality was of that pleasing character that hosts of the warmest friends grew up unconsciously about him, was the late Jacob Elbert Hoffman, junior partner of the well-known mercantile firm of Larrimer & Hoffman, of Warren. For upward of a decade had he been identified with the commercial interests of the place, having become a partner of Mr. Larrimer in 1888, though he had been employed by him for some time previously as bookkeeper, his advent into the town being as the representative of the firm of Hall & Davidson, of Marion, who had been associated with Mr. Larrimer in the original purchase of the store that had been conducted some years by John VanHorn. Mr. Hoffman was born near Portland, Jay county, Indiana, October 20, 1861, his parents being Jacob and Fidelia (Lotz) Hoffman; the former died when Jacob was a lad of twelve. The family was originally from Meigs county, Ohio, settling on a farm in Jay county, resided there until after the father's demise, and then removed to the city of Portland, where the mother lived during the remainder of her life, passing to the "Great Beyond" in May, 1900, having attained the age of eighty. The only child besides Jacob was Augusta, who is the widow of Merritt Hoyt and resides in Portland. After securing the benefits of the public schools of Portland Jacob was sent to Poughkeepsie, New York, where he took a thorough business training in the renowned Eastman's Business College, in which he attained that efficiency which ever afterward characterized his business life. His first experience in mercantile pursuits was as clerk in a store at Portland for a few months, when he entered the employ of Hall & Davidson, of Marion, whose bookkeeper he soon became. His aptitude for the demands of the position and his ability and attention to his employers' interests were so apparent that he was soon given the fullest confidence of the firm. When they secured the business at Warren and needed a trustworthy employe (sic) to place in charge of their interests the choice fell upon Mr. Hoffman, the result of his management proving the wisdom of the selection. The personal relations between him and his associate, Mr. Larrimer, were such that when the latter gentleman purchased the entire business he sought Mr. Hoffman to remain in charge of the books and accounts of the business, his partnership interest dating from the purchase by Mr. Larrimer of the old Hoffman home in Jay county, his share therein being converted into the mercantile establishment. Being some ten years younger than his partner, he deferred largely to his ideas as to the general conduct of the enterprise, devoting the earnestness of an ardent nature to the complicated affairs of a general mercantile enterprise that required the employment of a dozen assistants; the growth of the business was commensurate to the extension of personal acquaintance, the trade being once obtained it was seldom turned into other channels. Fondest anticipations had not pictured so extensive a business to result in so short a time, based upon so small beginnings, but the conditions of the times seemed to be specially favorable to the founding of a modern mercantile establishment, the only essential being that men of the proper capacity and energy, coupled with the faculty of pleasing, should stand at the head of the enterprise. Ever ready to respond to the wishes of patrons, their desires being the basis of the enlargement and selection of stock, and with a warm sympathy toward every employe (sic) he won and ever retained the good will and confidence of all, no man who has ever been identified with the commercial interests of the community being more highly esteemed by a wider or more sincere acquaintance.

He was united in marriage, on October 28, 1890, to Miss Sarah Adeline Anderson, the accomplished daughter of I. J. and Elizabeth Ann (Little) Anderson, of Warren. Her father was born near Richmond, Wayne county, Indiana, August 26, 1832, being the son of William and Jane (Bracken) Anderson, he being a native of Delaware and dying when past eighty at the old Wayne county home. I. J. learned the blacksmith trade in Richmond, and engaged in business for himself at Middleboro, Indiana, where he was married to Elizabeth Ann Little on February 24, 1850, removing in the same year to this section of the state, starting a shop on the farm of Joseph Little, his father-in-law, a few miles from Warren. Joseph Little was a man well known in Huntington county, where he had resided for several years, until his death at the age of fifty-five. He was born in Bourbon county, Kentucky, being brought as a child to Preble county, Ohio, where he wedded Phebe Wagner, a native of Ohio, though of German ancestry, her mother having come from Germany and settled on the present site of Cincinnati, where she was born in 1805. Elizabeth Ann was born in Preble county, Ohio, coming to Wayne county as a child, and at her marriage was a young lady of twenty, a remarkably vivacious girl, her choice for a life companion falling upon the young smith, with whom she has now lived for more than half a century. Her mental vigor is but slightly impaired by the passing years, her memory of the events of fifty years ago being as clear and vivid as that of most people in middle life. In 1853 Mr. Anderson and wife came to the village of Warren, setting up a shop, and from that time till three years since did he continue most persistently to operate the same line of business, becoming the most widely known smith in the county, and is said to have been the oldest in actual service in the county at the time of his retirement. Few men now living having done more to the advancement of the growth of the region, he has now retired from the more severe labor, taking the comforts that are assured by his former business success.

Five children were born to this worthy couple, the eldest being Orlando, a druggist of Hartford City; Corella, the wife of Oscar Christman, a farmer of Salamonie township; Phebe Jane, wife of William Garretson, a commercial traveler of Huntington; Sarah Adeline and John Edwin Anderson, late editor of Tipton. Mrs. Hoffman was born in Warren, and when quite young entered the employ of S. A. Pulse as a sales-girl. She is the mother of one son, Elbert Anderson Hoffman. Her husband was ardently devoted to the home circle, his greatest pleasure in life being in the companionship of his wife and boy, the cares of business being alleviated by the attentions of her with whom his own life was so closely interwoven. After close application to demands of an extensive business, his nervous system began to show the effects of too constant and confining work, release from the strain being sought some three years since by a change of scene and thought, resulting in much improvement; but the benefit, however, was but temporary, the disease having become too well established for permanent cure, and a complete prostration of the nervous system resulted; but the end of all came July 3, 1899, giving rest and peace to a mind naturally of the brightest and to a heart incapable of a small deed; and thus a noble soul passed to the shores of a more peaceful land "beyond the waveless sea."

Being held in the highest esteem by all, more especially by his brethren of the Masonic fraternity, he was borne to the last resting spot by the lodge, which conferred upon the remains of a most honored and respected brother the beautiful and impressive ceremony of the order, symbolic of the building of that "House not made with hands eternal in the Heavens." Thus lived and died on of the best beloved men who have lived in Warren. A man whose profession of religion and membership in the Methodist church was the outgrowth of the teachings of his respected mother, for whom he had ever evinced the greatest filial affection. His life abounded in good deeds, though when done it was free of all ostentation, the recipient feeling that as much benefit was done to the giver as to the receiver. Free from all acts of littleness, his was a mind that strove for the better and nobler features of existence in this life. His view of life being expressed in the words of the immortal bard that--
"We live in deeds, not in years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.

And he whose heart beats quickest, lives the longest;
Lives in one hour more than in years do some
Whose fat blood sleeps as it slips along their veins.
Life is but a means unto an end, that end,
Beginning, mean, an end to all things--God.
The dead have all the glory of the world.

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