Nick Huffman (Hoffman), evidently referring to the year 1862, wrote: “in the spring we all went on the boat (steamboat International), with Capt. Barrett, Pilot John K. Swan, and the usual crowd of rousters. We run by day, and chopped wood by night, as the Indians did not allow any woodchoppers to stay on the river, and so the boat had to get its own wood. The Indians owned the whole country then. It was steamboating under difficulties as the Indians were inclined to be hostile and took everything from the settlers. The whole crew soon gave out and had to quit.”
The first officers of the county (Grand Forks) were: …Nicholas Huffman (Hoffman), sheriff…
Nicholas Huffman (Hoffman) first came to the Red River Valley in the spring of 1860. He was probably a native of Germany, but had likely resided in one of the middle western states before coming to the valley. While living, he furnished the Red River Valley Old Settlers’ association with a record of his life and experiences from the time he came here down to the termination of the siege of Fort Abercrombie at which he was present in August and September, 1862 (“Nick Huffman’s Story, published in The Record Magazine, October 1896). Unfortunately he never finished his narrative so as to cover the period of the first occupation of the Dakota
side of the river at Grand Forks. He finally died by his own hand, in East Grand Forks, on or about August 19, 1896. In the fall of 1868, Huffman (Hoffman) and August Loon built a log shack in the timber on the river bank a half mile above the point where Red Lake river enters Red river. They were the first white men to reside in the present county (Grand Forks).
The first marriage ceremony that occurred in the community was of that sort that takes place before witnesses, wherein Nick Huffman (Hoffman) was married to a halfbreed woman in the spring of 1871, W. C. Nash officiating.
According to the recollections of R. M. Probstfield, Nicholas Huffman (Hoffman) was born in a small village of Rhenish Prussia, in either the county of Malmedy or of Montjoie, district of Aachen (Aix la Chapelle) about the year 1839. The family of which he was a member, came to this country in 1854 and settled in St. Anthony, Minn. After the siege of Fort Abercrombie, in 1862, Huffman (Hoffman) went to St. Cloud, where he spent the following winter. Returning to the valley in the summer of 1863, he worked for David McCauley. In the spring of 1864, he came to Georgetown, and worked for a firm who had leased the International of the Hudson Bay company so as to transport the company merchandise between Georgetown and Fort Garry. The winter following 1864 to that of 1865 he was in partnership with Reuben Messer who kept a trading station at Georgetown, buying furs of the Indians and trappers. The winter of 1865-66 Huffman (Hoffman), Messer and others were in the region of the Coteau des Prairies trading with the Indians, and the party barely escaped perishing of starvation and exposure to storms. From that time until he entered the employment of W. C. Nash, he remained around McCauleyville and Fort Abercrombie, working for David McCauley and others.
During Huffman’s (Hoffman’s) residence in the valley, Mr. Probstfield knew him intimately as a close friend, and the following brief tribute to his memory, from the pen of the latter, is worthy of permanent record: “A nobler, more disinterested, tender-hearted, and scrupulously honest fellow, I have never known. He was a deep and independent thinker, but so unostentatious that most of those who knew him superficially, took him for a coarse, illiterate, common-place fellow. He was, in fact, a precious diamond in the rough, unground, uncut, and unpolished, as society would express it. His memory will ever be dear to me.”
The spelling of his name in this work has been according to the form used in connection with “Nick Huffman’s Story,” Record Magazine, Oct. 1896; but Mr. Probstfield informs us that the correct form was Nicolaus Hoffman.
History of Grand Forks County with Special Reference to the First Ten Years of Grand Forks City
H. V. Arnold
Larimore Pioneer, Larimore, 1900
A $25,000 Lump. Messrs. Wm. Lindsay and A. T. Gurd, two wealthy capitalists of Petrolia, Ontario, who have been prospecting in Grand Forks for a few days past, have purchased Nicholas Hoffman’s farm of two hundred acres, located southeast of town, for $25,000. The property will be surveyed, platted and put on the market at an early date. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Tuesday Morning, April 11, 1882, Volume 1, Number 138, Page 4)
The 1885 Dakota Territory census shows Nicholas Hoffman (age 40) married to Bella (age 30) with the following children: Lizzie (age 10, daughter), Fred (age 9, son), Josie (age 7, daughter), Hezzeman (age 4, son), and Teresa (age 3, daughter).
In 1868 Nicholas Hoffman and August Loon, who had the contract for carrying the mail between Fort Abercrombie and Pembina, built a log hut on the river bank near the spot where now stands the residence of Hon. B. C. Tiffany.
Grand Forks and North Dakota Manual for 1885
William L. Dudley
Plaindealer Book and Job Rooms, Grand Forks, 1885
N. Hoffman, farmer and stock-raiser, Section 15, P. O. Grand Forks, was the first white man to locate in what is now known as Grand Forks County, having come here in 1869. He visited the site of the present city of Grand Forks as early as 1863, at which time he was engaged in the very hazardous business of carrying the mail from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina. When he settled here he was accompanied by Mr. Gus Loon, who is still a resident of the county. Mr. Hoffman was for a time with the Hudson Bay Fur Company, and while employed by that company decided to locate in northern Dakota. He has been very successful; has a fine farm, a palatial residence, and is one of the solid men of the county. (Andreas Historical Atlas of Dakota, A. T. Andreas, Chicago, The Lakeside Press, 1884, Page 254)
BY HIS OWN HAND
Disheartened by His Troubles Grand Forks’ Oldest Settler, Nick Hoffman, Commits Suicide
Shooting Himself in His Office While Discussing Business Affairs
Yesterday afternoon (August 5, 1896), Nicholas Hoffman, the oldest settler in Grand Forks, committed suicide by shooting himself on account of business reverses.
For some time Mr. Hoffman’s business had been in bad shape, with little prospect of improvement, and recently the well known banking firm of Rollins & Son, of Boston, who where his creditors to the extent of $5,000, decided in order to protect their large interests to foreclose the mortgage held by them on the brewery property in East Grand Forks, owned by Mr. Hoffman. In order that the business might be continued with unnecessary loss to Mr. Hoffman, an application was made to Judge Ives for the appointment of a receiver. Judge Ives granted the application and named W. H. Pringle as receiver of the real estate during the process of foreclosure. A chattel mortgage for $23,600 covering the stock on hand, horses, etc., was also foreclosed.
Yesterday afternoon Mr. Pringle visited Mr. Hoffman at his office, accompanied by Attorney J. P. Foote, of Crookston, the legal representative of the banking company. The papers were served on Mr. Hoffman and he discussed with Messrs. Pringle and Foote the advisability of his making an assignment, which Mr. Pringle suggested, in order that Mr. Hoffman might save as much as possible out of the property. He objected to making an assignment, and discussed the affairs of the brewery with much feeling, appearing quite despondent. Mr. Foote returned to the city before Mr. Pringle had concluded his arrangement with Mr. Hoffman, and the latter continued their consideration of the best methods of taking care of the property in order that Mr. Hoffman might realize as much as possible. Mr. Hoffman finally stated that he was willing to make an assignment and even to turn over everything he had. While they were talking Mr. Hoffman stepped into an adjoining room, leaving the door ajar. Mr. Pringle asked he what kind of foreman he had at the brewery and Mr. Hoffman replied, “He’s a first-rate man.” Just then Mr. Pringle was startled by hearing the report of a pistol in the other room and Mr. Hoffman walked to the door connecting the two rooms, staggered, and fell against the wall, dead. A bullet hole in his breast and the still smoking revolver told the story too well. The revolver with which the unfortunate man ended his life was held so close that his clothing was blackened by the powder and the missile penetrated the large blood vessel near the heart. Death was almost instantaneous.
Coroner Dwyer was at once notified and soon arrived. A coroner’s jury was empaneled including Thos. Campbell, Wm. Tier, C. A. Brown, Dr. Stacy, P. A. Havrevold and Joseph Lobsinger, and an inquest commenced at once. After viewing the remains and hearing a number of witnesses the jury adjourned to the city hall, where last evening a verdict was rendered to the effect that the deceased met death by his own hands.
The remains were removed to the residence near the Grand Forks college, where the funeral will take place tomorrow.
Nick Hoffman, as he was familiarly known, was the oldest settler in Grand Forks. Thirty years ago in company with August Loon he was engaged in carrying the mail between Fort Abercrombie and Pembina, traveling with dogs and sledges in the winter and with ponies in the summer. Their “half-way” stopping point was where now stands the city of Grand Forks, but at that time untouched by the hand of civilized man. In 1863 they built a log cabin on the river bank, where now stands the residence of Judge Corliss, and ever since that time Mr. Hoffman has been a resident of Grand Forks. He was always a genial, pleasant and, outwardly at least, as happy and contented a man as could be found and the last person to think of as taking his own life. But Mr. Hoffman has had his share of trouble.
Mr. Hoffman leaves a widow of French-Indian extraction and two grown up daughters and two sons who have caused him considerable trouble by waywardness. With the growth of the city Mr. Hoffman accumulated considerable property and ten or twelve years ago was worth probably $50,000 or more. He made some poor investments, and loaned considerable money to two young men to start a brewery on the East Side. He was finally obliged to take an interest in the concern to protect himself and finally purchased the entire property, borrowing money to do so. A want of business management, together with the general business depression made the property a losing investment for him, and he became deeper and deeper involved, until he had practically lost his all.
Grand Forks Daily Herald
Thursday Morning, August 6, 1896
Volume 15, Number 239, Page 4
FUNERAL OF NICK HOFFMAN
The last sad rites over the remains of Nick Hoffman, Grand Forks’ first settler, took place yesterday. The service which was held at the house was conducted by Rev. Wm. Gill, of St. Paul’s church, who is the absence of a Catholic clergyman read the Episcopal burial service. A very large concourse was present at the funeral, including many of the early pioneers of the Red River Valley from other places, who knew Mr. Hoffman in the early days. The funeral cortege which followed the remains to the cemetery was one of the longest ever seen here. At the grave a brief service was conducted by Judge McLaughlin, and the mortal remains were then consigned to their last resting place.
Grand Forks Daily Herald
Saturday Morning, August 8, 1896
Volume 15, Number 241, Page 1