It matters not the path we fare,
Just so we share
It’s windings thru the everywhere
With one who cares.
And blest with lifetime’s best I’ll be
(I mean it too!)
If that dear one who cares for me
Is always You.....


- Verse from a card given by Ed Seidell to Martha Hofacker on Valentines Day, 1927.


The Hofackers of Germany

During an August 14, 1976 interview with Gertrude Thoma, sister of Martha Hofacker, she indicated that her father, Joseph Hofacker, was born in Braeunlingen, Germany. She mentioned that a Karl Hofacker, her cousin, still lived there.

It was not until ten years later that Thomas and John Edelmann, during the trip in May, 1986, undertook the task of locating the Hofacker family in Braeunlingen. While in Stangenroth, a phone call was made to get general directions to the city, and Thomas and John left in a rental car to find Karl and his family.

In spite of the limited German vocabulary at their disposal, the two managed to locate the post office in Braeunlingen, and made telephone contact first with one Karl Hofacker (the wrong one!), and then finally, with the correct one. Plans were hastily made to meet after dinner.

This was a most impromptu visit--the Hofacker’s in Braeunlingen had not been forewarned of the visit at all. However, the families were very excited to learn of the American contact, and this initial visit began a lasting and fruitful relationship.

Karl and Maria Hofacker

One of Joseph’s brothers was Friedrich Hofacker. He and his wife, Berta had two children, Mathilde and Karl. Karl married Maria Zoller, and the two had four children: Friedrich (Fritz), Bernhard, Maria-Helene, and Hubert.

Fritz is an engineer, Bernhard a butcher and smoke house owner, and Hubert has acquired the farming operation that has been in the Hofacker family for many years.

As part of this initial visit, Fritz agreed to investigate the Hofacker lineage by researching the church records of Braeunlingen and other nearby Black Forest towns. His efforts resulted in our coming to learn of the earliest known ancestors, in the persons of Joan Michael Hofacker and his wife, Anna Friedler. Records for these individuals coincide with the Catholic Church’s official decrees instigating record keeping. Records prior to the early 1600’s were not generally kept, except perhaps by the occasional over-zealous pastor.

Braeunlingen, Germany

At the time of the early Hofacker ancestors, Braeunlingen was a member of a diocese in Austria. This is obvious from the many Austrian falcon insignia found in the churches dating from the period. As can be found in many such small towns in southern Germany, Braeunlingen was once a completely walled city. Today, however, only the main tower and a few historical remnants of the wall remain intact.

Since 1305, Braeunlingen has been a Freistadt. This means that its citizenry were free of the usual feudal obligations of servitude to an overlord. This occurred infrequently throughout Europe only when the populace could collect and pay the substantial fee required to gain "free city" status with the local nobility. The local duke in the case of Braeunlingen resided in a small palace in Donaueschingen, near the site of the springs (Donauquelle) which feeds the Blue Danube river. At this time, Braeunlingen was in Austrian territory.

However, historical records from the 16th century relate the story of the nearby duke refuting Braeunlingen’s free city status, and therefore, attempting to retake the city by force. The Buergermeister at the time sent a messenger to the nearest Austrian militia, and they in turn agreed to defend the town if necessary from the designs of the local duke. The defense was successful, and the status of Braeunlingen was never again challenged. Braeunlingen came under the control of Wurtemburg in 1805, and the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1806. A motto above the main city entrance states in essence, that "... just as we were loyal to Austria, so to will be loyal to Germany."

The Hofacker line, however, does not originate in Braeunlingen. Joan Michael Hofacker (Joan is an early form of Johann) lived his entire life in Stuehlingen, a town smaller than Braeunlingen, and somewhat to the south. His children and grand-children also lived in Stuehlingen. By about 1770, most of the Hofacker descendants had moved to Braeunlingen, and there they remained.

Karl and Anna Hofacker

On May 5, 1864, Karl Hofacker, son of Mathaeus Hofacker and Maria Karl, married Anna Muenzer. Refer to Chart 5-1 on Page 5-7, Descendants of Karl Hofacker.

This union brought forth the following children: Joseph, Ferdinand, Mathilde, Friedrich, and Luise. Luise married Josef Wintermantel, and remained in Braeunlingen. The family eventually owned a hotel in the town. Luise and Josef had three children, namely Paula, Theresia, and Gustav. Paula and Theresia never married, and have lived together for many years. They are very energetic ladies, with a very jovial disposition. Their brother, Gustav, a soldier of the Third Reich, was killed early in WWII.

Joseph Hofacker, the Emigrant

As a family of farmers, stone masons, and lumbermen, the Hofackers were not well off financially. Since Joseph was the oldest, his father agreed to set aside money to allow him to emigrate to America. There, he could start a new life for himself. According to his niece, Louise Ferrante, Joseph first lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania, during which period of time his sister, Mathilde, came to visit. As a gift, her father Karl permitted her to visit Joseph in America for having successfully graduated from a school in Switzerland. But after living in America for a few months, Mathilde did not wish to leave, and met Lorenz Krauss, who she later married. Unfortunately, it was seven years before Mathilde traveled again to Germany; her father died two weeks prior to her return. This information is contained in a letter from Louise Ferrante, dated January 12, 1983.

Mathilde and Lorenz had the following children: Louise, Helen, and Carl. Louise married Vincent Ferrante and the couple resided in New Jersey with their three sons, Vincent, Reynolds, and Albert. Vincent worked for Bell Telephone Co., Reynolds is the director of at George Washington University near Washington D.C., and Albert was a hair stylist in the Ferrante home shop. Only Reynolds is still living. Mathilde died in 1974.

Joseph and Mary Hofacker

In time, Joseph moved to Newark, Ohio. There, he later met Mary Knussi. There is some confusion in regard to Mary. Her oldest surviving daughter, Gertrude (Hofacker) Thoma, related during an interview on August 14, 1976, that Mary emigrated from Switzerland at the age of 18-20 with her mother, Maria, and half-brother Alfred Knussi. More detail was provided by Gertrude’s younger brother, Frank. He indicated that Alfred was born first, and that subsequently, the father (surname Knussi) died. While still in Switzerland (possibly Berne), Maria gave birth to another child, Mary, though the father was explicitly not revealed.

Mary was a dress maker at the time of her immigration. She and Joseph were married on April 24, 1894. They subsequently had the following children: William (1895-1897), Carl (1896-1954), Ferdinand (1898-1992), Gertrude (1900-1996), Leo (1902-1990), Mary (1905-1987), Martha (1909-1993), and Frank (1911-). William died at the age of 2 of what was then known as "Summer Complaint" (dysentery). Carl and William both had the disease, but only Carl survived.

Sometime in 1912, Joseph undertook a relatively far-fetched plan to raise Pecans near Terra Haute, Indiana. Responding to an advertisement in a local magazine, Joseph visited the pecan farm in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, and came back quite impressed and intrigued by the opportunity afforded him. The family sold most of their belongings (except the farm itself) and traveled by boat to their new home. The farm was in the vicinity of the confluence of the Wabash and Ohio Rivers. Unfortunately, as the result of severe mosquito infestation, many members of the family contracted malaria. The doctor in the area recommended they return to Ohio, and within three weeks, the effort was abandoned, and they all returned to the farm in Perry Township, near Newark, to begin their lives anew.

Mary died on January 6, 1935 at the age of 64 of throat cancer. On the day of her funeral at Blessed Sacrament Church in Newark, Ohio, it was announced that her brother Alfred had died.

Carl moved to San Diego, California, and died from a cerebral hemorrhage there in 1954. Ferdinand died in 1992 after many years of residence at the Arlington Nursing Home, in Newark, Ohio. He never married, and lived at his father’s farm until old age and alcoholism took its toll. In his youth, "Freddy" as he was known, was a school teacher, an amateur poet, and also worked at the town liquor store. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the enticement of "playing the numbers", which was a common though illegal form of gambling. Whether he simply lost considerable money, or was never paid his winnings is not known, but he ended up in considerable debt. At one point, his father lost a team of horses worth about $800 to creditors as a result of Fred’s indebtedness. Additional money was borrowed from the Thoma family (Ernest, Gertrude, and Ernest’s sister, Freda. This situation contributed to the enmity that eventually separated the once close family.

Gertrude married Ernest Frederick Thoma on November 8, 1923. They had two daughters, Dorothy and Alma. Alma married James Smith, Jr., on June 14, 1947. Alma and James had four children, namely, James Patrick, Robert Edwin, Sue Ann, and Mary Jane.

Though she was the oldest daughter, Gertrude survived longer than all her siblings, except for the youngest, Frank. On December 5, 1996, Gertrude died, after several years of progressively failing health. She is survived by her two daughters, both of whom still reside in Newark, Ohio.

The fourth child, Leo, married Mary Braid on August 30, 1931. They had one daughter, Judith Ann, who married Paul Gorius. Leo died on December 26, 1990, in Newark. He is survived by his daughter and wife, Mary, at the time of this writing.

Mary Louise Hofacker, the fifth child, married John Norbert Thornton on October 8, 1934. Mary and John had five children, namely, John Joseph, Mary Louise, Carol Ann, Marcella Bernadette, and Richard Thomas. John J. married Barbara Wolke, and they reside in Columbus, Ohio. Mary Louise married George Utz. Carol Ann married Jerry Buddendeck, of Dayton, Ohio.

An interesting anecdote is that Jerry’s brother, Virgil  of Bellbrook, near Dayton, has a son named Alan Joseph Buddendeck. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, this distant relation befriended John Edelmann while the latter was a director for the Music Ministry, at the University of Dayton. Alan wrote an article for the Dayton Daily News regarding the musical endeavors of John, and the family connection between the Thorntons and the Buddendecks was subsequently discovered when the article was read by John’s mother, Martha. She inquired as to whether Alan Buddendeck was related to Carol’s husband Jerry. Indeed he was, and thus did the Thorntons and the Seidells reunite (albeit a bit indirectly!), after many years of separation.

The last two children of Mary and John Thornton were Marcella Bernadette, who died at the age of 3 months, and Richard Thomas who married Linda Jean Nickles; they reside in Newark.

Joseph and Mary’s sixth child was Martha Hofacker.  On June 29, 1927, she married Charles Edward Seidell, also of Newark, Ohio. Additional notes regarding the marriage of Ed and Martha can be found in the referenced Seidel family history.

The seventh child was Frank Joseph. He married Lillian Irene Russel on June 21, 1932 in Kentucky. Though they remained in Newark for a number of years, Frank distanced himself from the Newark Hofacker families, and in so doing, steered clear of many of the inter-family quarrels that visited the family through the years. By February, 1940 Frank had settled down in Emlenton, Pennsylvania. From there, the family subsequently spread throughout the country. Frank and Irene had five children: Chauncey Franklin (St. Louisville, OH), Nancy Lee (Emlenton, PA), Linda Joan (Cool Ridge, WV), Kathryn Jean (Norwood, OH), and Marilyn Kay (Westfield, IN).

In 1985, Irene died. Frank remarried in 1986 to Audrey May Hovis. In April 1995, Audrey died, and Frank married again on October 7, 1995 to Mary Katharine Mills. This was a rather momentous occasion, as all of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren from both Mary and Frank were present. Though the couple no longer maintains a farm, Frank still shears sheep when the opportunity arises, and they presently live near Emlenton, in Parker, PA.

Hofacker Family
A partial family picture on the occasion of the death of Karl Hofacker, c. 1954


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