Hoffman, Jan (1841-1898) Niedamowo Parish, the son of Albrecht Hoffman (1807) & Katarzyna Maryanna Czerwonka (1805-1863), married on 8 October 1865 at St. Mikolej, Niedamowo to Anna Onasz (1846-1929), Lubań, the daughter of Ferdinand Onasz (1825) & Katarzyna Minchaus (1822-1896). Jan was a tailor with a background in weaving and was also an officer in the Prussian Army. Anna’s father, Ferdinand/Friedrich Onasz, was French being one of Napoleon’s soldiers left behind in the retreat from Moscow. Her mothers’ family found him by the wayside and nursed him back to health later to marry their daughter. Both Jan & Katarzyna’s parents also came from a background of weaving. Family—; Lubań; Max (1865-1936), Stary Wiec; Michal (1867-1946), Małżewko; Franciszek (1869-1954) & Maria Berta (1872-1953). From Małżewko they left for Hamburg where they set aboard the Palmerston on 29 July 1872 arriving at Port Chalmers, Dunedin, on 6 December 1872.
Listed aboard were—Johann Hoffmann 31, Anna 24, Max 7, Michael 5, Franz 2 & Maria 3mths. When they arrived in New Zealand Johann threw his war medals into the Port of Otago saying “This is my country now”. The family was sent south to Scroggs Creek on contract work with Brogden & Sons to lay the southern railway through the Taieri. Soon they moved to Waihola where they had two more children—John (1874-1874) & August (1875-1929). Here Johann purchased sections 20 & 21 of block 11 in Nore Street. The family then moved south to the settlement of Germantown, where they joined other Poles working on the railway. Here Johann & Anna had a further seven sons—Joseph (1876-1937), John (1878-1953), Thomas (1880-1949), James Luke ((1882-1948), Adam (1884-1919), Alexander Paul (1887-1945) & George Frederick (1890-1957). The reserve contained some 40 acres, and it was open to the general public to apply to the Land Board for a prospecting licence. If successful in locating a seam deemed to be profitable to work, the prospector could peg off two acres, which was the maximum for one man. The rental for each claim taken up was one pound a year. John Hoffman had one such pit delivering coal to Gore and also sold it to settlers who came to the pit. The coal delivered to Gore was charged from 8s to 12s a load, which represented about a ton. While working their claims, the first generation of Hoffmans did some shearing, and Johan was also successful as a road contractor. While carrying out the latter, they formed and graveled the road from the Pinnacle Road crossroad to the front of Mr. A Middlemass’ property in Gore. John found plenty of demand for his skills as a contractor with the buildings, roads and bridges required as the young colony grew and developed. The 82’ Freeholders lists John as owning land to the value of £90 at Gore. With a wife and 12 children to provide for, it seems unlikely that John had much time for sport or relaxation, but his sons excelled individually at cycling, wrestling, athletics, music and dancing, and collectively at tug-of-war. The tradition to excel as sportsmen and sportswoman has continued through successive generations to the present day.
The Hoffman brothers got on very well together, and there was a great bond between them. Around Sep 1884, John got into difficulties with his creditors, so the family devised a plan to get around this: One family had a large family of mainly boys, who were contractors and who got into difficulties with their creditors. The creditors put a private bailiff in charge of all stock, implements and the house. The boys worked out a scheme to get rid of the bailiff, and a distress warrant, by filling the said bailiff with beer, which must have been doped, because it put him into a deep sleep in a small outhouse. While he was asleep they hitched up the horses and carried the house and everything intact – cattle, horses, and implements – onto a section inside the town boundary, a mile from the poor bailiff. When he woke up the next morning, sitting in the outhouse, lord of all her surveyed, which was the coal reserve minus all fittings. The reaction of the bailiff’s employer would have made interesting reading. The law did not allow a distress warrant to be followed onto other property. Annie Hoffman was naturalised as a New Zealand Citizen on 29 May 1901 residing in Gore. Her Grandchildren recalled piling into the dray to travel to Gore to visit the Hoffmans. It was a very exciting trip. They played cards, often crib. Anna spoke of her grandsons, Tom and Alec, as her little German kilties when they dressed in their kilts and played in the pipe band. Anna lived with her daughter Mary in Roxburgh in her declining years. Daphne, her great-granddaughter, remembers Anna way up high in a brass bedstead with thick feather mattresses and surrounded by pillows with frilled pillowcases; all snow white. John Hoffman died on 4 April 1898 aged 58 years.
“By the death of Mr John Hoffman, which occurred at his residence, East Gore, on Sunday evening, the district loses one of its old identities. Mr Hoffman came to the colony from Germany 25 years ago, and has since resided in or near Gore, pursuing the avocations of farming, contracting, and lignite raising. Some eight weeks ago he had to take to his bed, suffering from Bright’s disease, and he succumbed, as stated, on Sunday evening. The late Mr Hoffman leaves a widow and twelve children-11 sons and a daughter-nearly all of whom are grown up.” 05 Apr 1898, Mataura Ensign. Annie died on 19 January 1929 aged 82. Both are buried at the Gore Cemetery.
Max Hoffman married on 16 May 1888 at Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Gore to Leonore Dowaloska (1872-1939) Košice. Family; Mary Jane (1889-1889), Maximillian (1889-1889), Margaret Ann (1890-1961), James (1892-1960), Annie Ellen (1894-1968), Frances (1898-1983), Maximillian (1899-1899), John (1900-1901), Eileen (1901-1985), Thomas (1903-1976), Maxwell (1905-1976), Ernest William (1907-1976), & Frederick (1911). Max, a labourer & contractor, was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 8 November 1922. He died on 10 September 1936 aged 71 and is buried at the Gore Cemetery.
Michael Hoffman married on 12 February 1890 at Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Gore to Margaret Annie Boyle. Family; James (1890), Mary (1891), Theresa Anna (1894), Margaret Gertrude (1897-1984) & John Michael (1901-1957). Michael was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 17 November 1923 and worked at times as a miner, railway employee & blacksmith. Margaret died on 3 July 1945 at Invercargill and Michael died on 20 March 1946 aged 79. Both are buried at the Invercargill Eastern Cemetery.
Frank Hoffman married on 16 May 1900 at Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Gore to Georgina Richardson (1881-1964). Family; George (1901-1902), Francis (1902-1977), Georgina (1904-1990), Mary Jane (1907-1912), Myrtle (1909-1998) & Lylia (1911-1996). Frank, a labourer, was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 31 October 1922. Frank died on 16 October 1954 aged 84 and Georgina died on 18 October 1964. Both are buried at the Gore Cemetery.
Maria Bertha (Mary) Hoffman, as the only girl in a family of boys, did a lot to help her mother. She was an excellent cook and a first class seamstress. She fell in to the Taieri River as a little four year old but never lost her fear of water. She married on 22 August 1894 at Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Gore to James Lamb (1864-1945) Scotland. Family; James (1895-1982), Mary Anna (Mame) (1898-1977), John (1902-1935), George (1905-1933), Thomas (1906-1980), Alexander (1908-1942) & Dennis Joseph (1910). James drove a horse and cart around the Gore region and later had the Goldfields Hotel in Roxburgh but bad debts forced them to leave. He then worked on John Ewing’s claim near Dumbarton till he retired. Mary took in washing and sewing to help supplement their income. James died on 5 August 1945 and Mary died on 29 January 1953 aged 80. They are both buried at the Roxburgh Cemetery.
Pobόg-Jaworowski, J. W, History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand, ed. Warsaw; Chz “Ars Polonia.” 1990, pages 22 & 196.
Archives New Zealand, Passenger Lists, 1839-1973, FamilySearch.
Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara O Te Kawanatanga; Land Records.
Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, St Mary’s Church, Milton; Baptism Register.
Hoffman Darcy, Dunedin, Hoffman – A brief history for the second family reunion, Gore (1991), also supplied family information photos, documents.
Lubiszewo Tczewskie, Niedamowo, & Wysin Parish Records, Pelplin Diocese, Poland.
New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs Naturalisations, Births, Deaths and Marriages.
New Zealand Government Property Tax Department, from the rates assessment rolls, Return of Freeholders of New Zealand 1882, published 1884.
Compiled by Paul Klemick (2021)