Christian Hoffman.To have accomplished so notable a work as has Christian Hoffman, in connection with the milling industry of Kansas, would prove sufficient to give precedence and reputation to any man, were this to represent the sum total of his efforts; but Mr. Hoffman is a man of broad mental ken, strong initiative, and distinct individuality, who has made a lasting impression in the field of enterprise mentioned and has been a most potent factor in the commercial, religious, and social life of Dickinson county, where he took up his residence in 1860. He is the founder of the thriving little city of Enterprise, which has grown up around the industries which he fostered, and chief of which is the extensive flour mills of C. Hoffman & Son, the original plant being the first built west of Manhattan, and of which Mr. Hoffman has been the controlling owner since its establishment in 1869.
Christian Hoffman was born in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Aug. 1, 1826, son of Lenard and Agatha (Rohrer) Hoffman. He acquired his education in the schools of his native land, became an apprentice at fifteen, learning first the baker's and later the milling trades. In February, 1855, he came to the United States, locating at West Bend, Washington county, Wisconsin. He secured employment as a carpenter's helper, learned this trade and assisted in the building of several sawmills. In 1857 he came to Kansas and continued to follow the carpenter trade, residing in Leavenworth. In 1860 he was joined by his father and family, which included his mother, brother and a sister, who had migrated from Switzerland to Washington county, Wisconsin, in 1857. The entire family left Lawrence and journeyed up the Kaw river in search of a suitable location for farming, and finally selected and took up homesteads nine miles south of Abilene. They were among the first settlers of Dickinson county, and the township in which their homesteads were located was named by Mr. Hoffman, New Berne, in honor or the capital city of his native land. Lenard Hoffman died in 1874, his wife having preceded him, in 1861. They were the parents of the following children: Matthew, born in 1824, a resident of Los Angeles, Cal.; Christian is the second in order of birth; Lenard, Jr., born in 1834, formerly of Dickinson county and now residing in Switzerland; Michael, born in 1837, who died in 1908; and Appolonia, the wife of Christian Rohrer, banker and capitalist of Lawrence, Kan.
Christian Hoffman initiated his commercial career in 1868, when he purchased the water power rights at Louden Falls, on the Smoky river. There he built the first flour mill erected west of Manhattan, and began its operation in 1869. Its capacity was sixty barrels per day and the river furnished power. This venture, at that time one of considerable magnitude, required nerve and a comprehensive knowledge of milling, the former of which Mr. Hoffman possessed, as proven by the undertaking, and the latter he had acquired while an apprentice in the baker's and milling trades. In choosing a name for the town which was to grow about his mill, Mr. Hoffman selected the name of Enterprise, which had been suggested by one of the workmen as typifying the spirit of the founder. During the forty years in which the name Hoffman has appeared on Kansas flour the capacity of the mill has grown from sixty to 1,200 barrels per day and its products have been marketed in every state of the Union. The business has been operated under the firm name of C. Hoffman, C. Hoffman & Son, and the C. Hoffman & Son Milling Company. In 1904 the Hoffman Elevator Company was formed and operated in connection with the millthirty-two elevators, with a combined capacity of 500,000 bushels, and was situated along the Kansas lines of the Union Pacific and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railways. During 1911 a merger of several of the largest and best known mills of Kansas was promoted. It had in view a saving in the buying, operating and selling costs of the business, the standardizing of brands, and a combined capacity which would permit of a successful export business. The plan was received with favor by Mr. Hoffman and the properties of the C. Hoffman & Son Milling Company and the Hoffman Elevator Company became a part of the Kansas Flour Mills Company, incorporated Dec. 4, 1911, with a capital of $9,000,000, and of which the grandsons of Christian Hoffman are officersE. V. Hoffman is second vice-president in charge of sales; Ralph W. Hoffman is a vice-president in charge of maintenance; and Thad L. Hoffman is assistant to Vice-President J. B. Hupp, in charge of the grain department, and he is also manager of the Hoffman mill and elevators. Mr. Hoffman is president of the Dickinson County Bank, of Enterprise, and was one of the organizers, in 1894. He is the owner of choice farm lands and has extensive mining interests. He is a director in the Arizona & Southwestern Mining Company, of Kingman, Ariz., controlled by Kansas capital. Mr. Hoffman is a true lover of Kansas and American institutions. He has always taken an active interest in the questions of the day and has been a consistent advocate of the principles of the Republican party. He was elected treasurer of Dickinson county in 1865, and reëlected in 1867. In 1872 he was elected to the legislature and served one term, refusing to become a candidate for renomination. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, has served as trustee for many years, and has been a generous contributor to its support.
On April 30, 1850, Mr. Hoffman married Miss Elsbeth Seun, who died in 1868, leaving a son, Christian B., who is associated with his father, and for many years was office manager of the Hoffman enterprises. He is now living in Kansas City, Kan. On Nov. 3, 1886, Mr. Hoffman married Miss Anna C. Herman, born in Switzerland. They are the parents of five children: Walter L., born in 1888, is a student in the liberal arts department of Kansas University; John C., born in 1889, is a student in the law department of Kansas University; Elsbeth U., born in 1891, is a student in the domestic science department of the Kansas State Agricultural College; and Arthur H., born in 1892, and Alma D., born in 1895, are students in the Enterprise high school. Mrs. Hoffman is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church and active in its affairs and charities.
Mr. Hoffman has been an ambitious and tireless worker, conservative in his business methods, and of unswerving integrity. He has accumulated one of the large estates of Kansas, an estate which represents the brain, pluck, and energy of one man, who, with his peculiar natural tact, has been able to see the propitious moment and avail himself of it. Few men attain the age of Mr. Hoffman, that of eighty-five, and retain practically unimpaired their mental and physical powers. He is one of the grand old men of Kansas, one whose life work has met to great extent the fullness of his ambition. He is rich in the possession of a well-earned popularity, in the esteem which comes from honorable living, and in the affection which slowly develops only from unselfish works.Pages 512-514 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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