Hofer is a Hutterite family name of wide ramifications. The Hofers originated in Carinthia, Austria. Because they were staunch Lutherans, they were exiled by Empress Maria Theresa to Transylvania in 1755. Johannes Hofer of St. Peter, together with his wife, five sons, and two daughters settled in Transylvania. There is also record of two brothers, Matthias and Michael Hofer, who left their parents and a brother and joined the transmigrants. These Hofers were strong characters, unafraid to oppose the authorities whenever demands were made impinging upon their freedom of conscience. The result, already in 1756, almost from the beginning of their settlement in Hermannstadt, Transylvania, was conflict and jail. Michael died in Hermannstadt in 1757. Matthias spent a total of 16 years (1756-1772) in this jail, composing there 30 hymns and many Biblical tracts. In the meantime the entire community in Transylvania had migrated to the Ukraine, where Matthias eventually rejoined it. Unfortunately, he was very headstrong and a man of strange ideas. Although he was highly regarded for his straightforwardness and profound familiarity with the Scriptures, he soon became a thorn in the flesh of the brotherhood, requiring midnight prayers, forbidding singing while at work, refusing to greet anybody who was not a brother, etc. Eventually he had no choice but to leave his family and the community. He wandered to Prussia, where he visited the Mennonite Elder Gerhard Wiebe of Ellerwald; Johannes Waldner in the Klein-Geschichtbuch says that in this way the contact with the Prussian Mennonites was established. Matthias then went on to Hamburg, perhaps with the intention of going to Pennsylvania, but he had no money, and returned again to Prussia, where he died among Mennonites in 1786.
Of the five sons of Johannes, the eldest son, Johannes, is also described as a headstrong man with queer ideas. In 1784, when peace could not be achieved in the colony in Vyshenka, Ukraine, he, too, left the community and went first to Sobotište, and then to Silesia. Here he proposed to the authorities the establishment of a new Bruderhof, which was welcomed. But he did not find followers, and the brethren in the Ukraine did not want to have any dealing with him. Thus he failed and soon after disappeared. The brethren heard nothing more from him.
The other Hofer sons, Michael (d. 1793), Christian (d. 1802), Paul (d. 1790), and Jacob (d. 1811), were highly regarded among their brethren, although none of them had a leading position. In the second generation of this family was Jacob Hofer, who together with Michael Waldner re-established the practice of community of goods in Hutterdorf, Southern Ukraine, in 1859; this group of Hutterites came to be known as the Schmiede Leut. One year later, in 1860, Darius Walter, a preacher, established another Bruderhof in Huttertal, where community of goods was again established anew, after it had been discontinued in Russia for over 40 years; this Bruderhof was the origin of the group called the Darius Leut. The preacher Jörg Hofer was among the first to join this new group. In 1864 more such colonies were established with David and Peter Hofer among the constituents. David died in 1868; Peter came to North America with all the other brethren.
The Chronicle tells a sad story about the family of this Peter Hofer. Three sons, David, Josef, and Michael, were called to serve as United States soldiers during World War I. They refused to compromise, and since adequate provisions for CO's did not exist, they were sent first to the ill-famed federal prison at Alcatraz, CA, and then to the no less ill-famed prison at Leavenworth, KS. There they were submitted to nearly unbelievably cruel treatment; Josef and Michael died there in 1918, while David survived.
As of 1956, Hofers were found on many Bruderhofs in Alberta and Montana, many in leading positions. One preacher, David Hofer, traveled to Europe with Michael Waldner in 1937-1938 to assist the New Hutterites (Arnold Leut) in their emigration from Germany, and also to visit the old places of their ancestors. David Hofer kept a travel report which describes the fascinating details of this trip. One Hofer family separated and started a small brotherhood of their own, called "The Hutterian Fellowship," in Brocket, Alberta. A number of Hofers moved away from the Hutterite community altogether and joined the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren; this group had one mission station in Chicago, of which D. M. Hofer was the pastor for many years. Other Hofers joined the General Conference Mennonite Church, in which there were several Hofer preachers in 1954.
One member of the family, Preacher Peter Hofer, wrote the story of the Hutterites, 1802-1877, in the Klein-Geschichtbuch, continuing the work of the original author, Johannes Waldner. Peter Hofer's work is, however, considered by some to be rather inadequate and merely annalistic.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Das Klein-Geschichtbuch der Hutterischen Brüder. Philadelphia, 1947.
Cite This Article
Friedmann, Robert. "Hofer family." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 24 Feb 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hofer_family&oldid=119533.
Friedmann, Robert. (1956). Hofer family. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 February 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hofer_family&oldid=119533.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 776-777. All rights reserved.
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