Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

German immigrant was mayor from 1899-1901

Citizen Staff Writer


Citizen Staff Writer

As Gustav Anton Hoff drove his eight-mule freight wagon across the desert from California 125 years ago, bound for Tucson, he probably didn’t picture himself, 20 years thereafter, as the mayor of the Old Pueblo.

More likely, he was concentrating on his sales pitch in preparation for selling the load of flour, coffee and other commodities he was hauling to the merchants of Tucson as a freighter and agent for German Fruit Co.

He was born in New Carbe, Germany, and came to the United States at age 16 with his father, settling in Texas. He later moved to California where he worked in the freighting business out of San Bernardino from 1874-1877 and later as a clerk in the wholesale grocery business.

He was married to Alice A. Ford in Capison, Calif., in 1880. Mrs. Hoff, born Dec. 28, 1856, grew up in St. Louis. Her father died before she was born, and she and her mother traveled by wagon train to California.

Following her marriage, she arrived in the Old Pueblo by train in 1881, a year after the rail link between California and Tucson was completed, and the couple rented a small house near the new depot.

He worked for C. Seligmann & Co., which later became A. Goldschmidt. When that firm closed, he established Hoff Brothers, merchant brokers for produce. Later, he became a traveling salesman for the grocery department of L. Zeckendorf & Co.

In 1892, he, in partnership with A.V. Grosetta and L.G. Radilovich, established Tucson Grocery Co., wholesale and retail. Apparently successful in that venture, he was a co-founder of Tucson Hardware Co., five years later, selling buggies and windmills and describing himself to prospective customers as “Hoff of Tucson.”

In the latter part of his life, he was employed as secretary of the Tucson-based L.H. Manning Co., which had stores along the Southern Pacific Railroad line from El Paso, Texas, to Portland, Ore.

Hoff was active in civic affairs, serving as treasurer of Tucson Board of Trade, secretary of the Citizen’s Building and Loan Association, member of the Pima County Central Democratic Committee, a member of the Territorial Legislature and the City Council, and, from 1899 to 1901, as Tucson’s mayor.

He was described as a progressive citizen and elected official, even enduring the derisive nickname “Petticoat Hoff” during his time in the Legislature because of his sponsorship of a woman’s suffrage bill.

He accumulated several mining interests, as well as properties in Tucson, and was known for his keen wit and proclivity for telling amusing stories.

The Hoffs bought a house at 127 W. Franklin St., on July 23, 1887. The house, which still stands, was converted to law offices by attorney Richard D. Grand and partners in 1980.

(Grand, who plans to open an office near Oracle and Ina roads, closer to his home, is offering the building for sale for $900,000 – a substantial markup from the Hoffs’ purchase price of $2,000.)

The earliest known owners of the house, believed built before 1880, were Isadoro Oragon and his wife. Subsequent owners were Joseph Neugass and William A. Scott Jr. (Sept. 6, 1880); William and Jane Morgan (Sept. 18, 1881); John S. and Florida Carr (June 29, 1882); and John G. Goodman and his wife (May 21, 1885).

Two of the previous owners, Neugass and Carr, had dealings with four of southern Arizona’s more notorious figures: Wyatt and Morgan Earp, John H. “Doc” Holliday and William “Curly Bill” Brocious.

Neugass served as justice of the peace in hearings in the Oct. 27, 1880, Brocious’ fatal shooting of Tombstone town marshal Fred White. The Earps testified that the shooting was accidental, occurring as White attempted to disarm Brocious, and charges against him were dropped.

Carr served as foreman of the March 1882 grand jury investigating the Tucson slaying of Frank Stilwell near the Tucson Rail Depot. Holliday, Wyatt and Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson were indicted in the killing.

Hoff died Feb. 18, 1930, in Tucson, and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery. Alice Hoff lived in the Franklin Street house until her death, at age 106, in March 1963.

Paul L. Allen may be reached at 573-4588 or pallen@tucsoncitizen.com. For more history coverage, go to www.tucsoncitizen.com/history.

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