William J. Hofsommer has spent his entire life in Clinton County and is an honored member of one of its pioneer families. Though still a young man, he has achieved noteworthy success as an agriculturist and is now actively engaged in tilling the soil of his farm, situated on section 16, Breese Township. His real estate possessions are extensive and valuable, including the one hundred and sixty acres of improved land upon which he resides, one hundred and sixty acres in Wade Township, forty acres of timber land in St. Rose Township, three lots in the village of Breese and the store buildings occupied by Hoffman & Helwig, and the butcher and harness establishments.
The father of our subject, Casper Hofsommer was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, and was orphaned by his father's death when a boy of twelve. About 1840 he emigrated to America, and in St. Louis followed the occupation of a peddler and also drove a wagon for the William Lemp Brewing Company. Afterward he engaged in peddling between St. Louis and Carlyle, but changed his occupation in 1855, when he settled on Beaver Prairie, near Frogtown. His home was a pioneer log cabin and his land was unimproved, but prior to selling it he had materially enhanced its value by the introduction of many improvements.
At the time of settling in Breese Township in 1858, the land was all wild prairie, and neighbors were comparatively few. Mr. Hofsommer, however, has always been energetic and persevering, and soon succeeded in placing the land under excellent cultivation. After gaining a competence he retired, with his wife, to the village of Breese, where their declining years are now being quietly passed. They are now (1894) seventy-four and sixty-two years of age respectively, and are enjoying good health, notwithstanding their advanced years. In politics the father is a Republican, and in religion is a member of the Evangelical Church, to which he is a liberal contributor.
The mother of our subject bore the maiden name of Catharine DUNKEL and was a native of Almitzhausen, Germany. She had eleven children, of whom seven are now living, namely: William J., Casper C.; Catharina, wife of F. KOCH; Georgiana, who married Otto KOCH; Emil, of whom mention is elsewhere made; Reinhardt and August, of St. Louis. William J. was born in Wade Township, Clinton County, January 12, 1857, and received the rudiments of his education in the parochial schools of Breese. Later he was a student in the Christian Brothers' College of St. Louis, and also spent a winter in McKendree College, at Lebanon, this state.
After completing his education Mr. Hofsommer embarked in the mercantile business at Breese, in which he continued for some six years alone, afterward had a partner, and still later was alone. After an experience of sixteen years in the mercantile business he disposed of the stock and settled on section 16, Breese Township, where he still resides. Upon his farm he raises wheat, corn and oats, also devotes some attention to stock-raising and recently started a dairy. In 1892 he built a two-story residence, with stone foundation, handsomely decorated, conveniently arranged and containing all the modern conveniences, including a steam-heating plant. This residence is the finest in the township and one of the most elegant in the county. The furnishings are such as harmonize perfectly with the structure, being quiet yet elegant, and reflecting upon every hand the refined tastes of the family.
The lady who presides with grace over this beautiful home was formerly Miss Fredericke HELWIG. She was born in St. Louis and is the daughter of the late Conrad HELWIG, a cooper by trade and for many years a resident of Breese. Her education was received in the parochial schools of the village, and she remained with her parents until she left their home for that of her husband in 1878. Five children have blessed this union, three living, Charles, Lilly and Olga. The deceased are William and Edgar.
In religious belief Mr. and Mrs. Hofsommer are identified with the Lutheran Church, and he is a member of the Concordia Society of Breese. A strong Republican in political belief, he has served as a member of the Village Board of Breese and has held other local offices of trust. For some years he was Secretary, also for a time President of the Breese Future Coal Mining Company, in which he was formerly a Director and is now a stockholder.
Source: Portrait and Biographical Record of Clinton, Washington, Marion and Jefferson Counties, Illinois, 1894, Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, IL
Submitted by: Connie Albers
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