John Hoffmann truly was a Northside pioneer. At the turn of the 20th century, the well-known rancher played an integral role in the education of children who lived in Northwest Bexar County.
Hoffmann was born in 1855, grew up near Castroville, Texas, and attended the French Settlement School on the Medina Lake. He married his wife Julia in 1878, and they began raising their family ( which would eventually include 10 children ) on the Medina Lake ranch owned by Hoffmann's late father.
In the late 1800s, Hoffmann purchased a 1,700-acre ranch on Culebra Road for about $6 an acre. Hoffmann and his wife moved there in part because they wanted their children to receive an education, and fortunately, the ranch already was home to an established one-room school. Hoffmann donated four acres to the school and later helped the school expand to two rooms.
The school, called Culebra, would eventually become one of the original 11 schools that consolidated in 1949 to create what is now the Northside Independent School District.
Hoffmann and his wife were major benefactors for the school, providing water, wood to heat the school, and room and board for the teacher. Many of the students walked long distances to the school, and at the end of the day, they stopped by at the Hoffmann home for a snack before their long journey home. If a student became ill, he or she was sent to the Hoffmann home to recuperate. And, at holiday time, Hoffmann chopped down a large cedar tree for the school Christmas party.
Hoffmann was an avid rancher who opened his home and land to anyone who needed a place to stay on their way to the livestock market in San Antonio. Ranchers came from miles around to use Hoffmann's dipping vat, which eradicated ticks and flies that preyed on cattle. When Hoffmann died in 1919 at the age of 63, his funeral was one of the largest ever held in Bexar County.
The ranch was eventually sold in 1960 but the land maintains a strong connection to education and Northside ISD. Taft High School, which opened in 1985, and Briscoe Middle School, which will open in 2010, both are located on the former ranch. And now, the Hoffmann name will be forever linked to the land with the opening of John Hoffmann Elementary School on what was once one of the ranch's pastures
John Hoffmann leaves a legacy of generosity and commitment to education that will be instilled in students for generations to come.