Contra Costa County











     The history of California abounds in instances of men who came to the state without capital, and from its fertile soil, supplementary to their own energetic efforts, accumulated a competency.  Such an instance is afforded in the life of Ferdinand F. Hoffman, who for years held a high position among the ranchers of Contra Costa county and at his death was mourned by all.  Though of German birth, he was a loyal son of his adopted country and showed a patriotic devotion to the welfare of the state.  To him, as to thousands of German youths, America afforded an opportunity for success that the institutions of Germany rendered impossible.  A native of Rhenish Prussia, he was born April 12, 1827, and received the excellent educational advantages for which the schools of Germany are famous.  Following the usual custom he left school at fourteen years in order to learn a trade, and for a few years thereafter was apprenticed to a shoemaker, in which way he acquired a thorough knowledge of that occupation.  From boyhood he displayed high aspirations.  His tastes were in the direction of agricultural pursuits, and military affairs had no fascination for him.  Hence when the time came for him to be drafted into the German army the idea was repugnant and he determined to leave the country in order to escape a duty to him disagreeable.  In 1847 he crossed the ocean to the new world, a step for which he always was grateful.  From the start he proved himself a typical American, proud of our nation's institutions.  In a short time he acquired a knowledge of the language, after which his progress was rapid.

     After having worked at the shoemaker's trade in New York City for six months, Mr. Hoffman went to St. Louis, Mo., and followed the same occupation.  In 1850, having saved a sufficient amount to defray his expenses across the plains, he joined a train of emigrants and came to the far west, arriving at Georgetown August 3, 1850.  For a short time he followed mining and then went to San Francisco, where he was interested in the boot and shoe business.  During 1858 he went to Martinez, where he formed a partnership with his brother, William, in the tannery business.  Three years later he disposed of his interest in the tannery and with another brother, Christian, purchased a quartz mill in Eldorado county.  However, the venture proved unsuccessful, and he was obliged to seek another field of employment.   About that time he came to Contra Costa county and embarked in the sheep business in Ironhouse district.  In 1861 he bought land near the present site of Byron and built a house.  The first crop raised on the land was barley, of which he had ten thousand bags from the virgin soil.  Later he made a specialty of raising wheat.  Land adjacent to his property was for sale at low figures, for people considered it almost worthless.  With keen foresight he recognized that the land could be made a source of profit and his savings were invested in such property until he had acquired nine hundred and sixty acres.  The wisdom of his judgment has been proved in the fact that the land produces large crops of grain of the finest quality.  Eventually he erected a comfortable residence and substantial barns, which surrounded by fruit and shade trees, form a homestead of which a man may well be proud.  Here the last days of his useful life were busily passed, in the discharge of his work as a rancher and his duties as a citizen.

     Pre-eminently(sic) of a domestic disposition, Mr. Hoffman's happiest hours were passed in the companionship of his wife and children, and all of his labors were impelled by a desire for their well-being.  His wife, whom he married  January 20, 1870, bore the maiden name of Eliza Nolting, and was born in Prussia.  During her childhood she was orphaned by the death of her parents, William and Amelia (Meyer) Nolting, and afterward was brought to California, where she was reared by an aunt.  Of her marriage four children were born, namely:  William Walter, who married Olive Wills and has two children, Ferdinand W. and Thelma; Emily; Byron, who married Bertha McIntyre; and Clara.  Since the death of Mr. Hoffman, which occurred October 12, 1899, his widow and children have remained on the ranch and have worked in harmony for their mutual welfare, the sons having the entire charge of the estate.





Transcribed 2-8-16  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Page 979. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library