George Hoffmann inducted into The Randolph Society

George and Dora Hoffmann, 1902
George and Dora Hoffmann, 1902

The Randolph Society Foundation Board is pleased to announce that Dr. George Hoffmann, a dedicated physician who devoted his life to caring for the people of Randolph County in their most vulnerable moments, will be inducted into the 2022 class of honorees.

George Hoffmann was born in Maeystown in March 1871. The son of a large German immigrant family, he was educated in Monroe County’s schools, and he learned the mercantile trade while working at his father’s store. Though he initially intended to become a merchant himself, he quickly learned that his real passion was medicine. After beginning his studies to become a pharmacist, George decided that becoming a doctor was a better use of his skills. He graduated from St. Louis College of Physicians and Surgeons with a medical degree in the spring of 1896, establishing his first practice in Campbell Hill.

After the tragic early loss of his first wife, Lena, George married Dora Ebers in Bremen. The couple had four children, settling first in Jackson County before moving to Chester in 1909. There, George established a thriving and innovative medical practice on State Street, while still continuing to regularly pay calls to patients throughout the surrounding rural areas. The challenges of traveling on muddy and often impassable roads would later lead him to advocate for both the adoption of the automobile and for upgrades to local infrastructure. His work to secure improvements on Route 3 between Chester and Waterloo helped the project to reach the attention of the governor. For George, the result was worth the effort. ” I have spent lots of time on this job,” he told one reporter, “but if the road is built in the spring I feel that I am well repaid for the work.”

George never lost the entrepreneurial spirit he had learned from his father. While seeing his patients, he also invested in real estate and became an active member of Chester’s business community. He was elected as president of Buena Vista Bank, while also serving in a similar capacity at the local shoe factory. He also acquired numerous properties throughout the region, including a coal mine in Willisville. The trust he earned from his fellow citizens also allowed him to become an effective advocate for public works projects, including efforts to stem the growing tuberculosis crisis during World War I. He was also passionately dedicated to educating the public about the need to modernize local water systems as a way to avoid outbreaks of typhoid fever.

In 1918, following the death of the head physician at Menard Penitentiary, Governor Lowden appointed George to take over the role. He arrived on the job just as the Spanish Influenza pandemic was beginning to sweep through the county. A horrific flu outbreak at the prison was one of his earliest challenges in his new position. He also continued to tend to patients outside the prison walls. His heroic efforts to treat the Louvall family on Kaskaskia Island during the pandemic—including a harrowing journey across the river and then along miles of muddy island roads to reach them—caught the attention of a Chester Tribune reporter, who wrote that George deserved “great credit for the humanitarianism he displayed” in caring for the ailing and dying members of the family when others were too afraid even to enter their home.

During his lifetime, George was lauded as “one of the finest physicians and surgeons in Randolph County,” as well as “a particularly capable businessman.” He established a family legacy that lasted long after his own time. Two of his sons, Ebers and Omer, followed in his medical footsteps, opening a dental practice and a doctor’s office in Chester. One of his daughters, Marie, also became a beloved member of the community, teaching physical education to children in Chester’s schools for decades.

After a full day of work in his Chester office in January 1934, George died at his home of a heart attack at the age of 62. Citizens from Chester, and patients across the entire region, mourned the doctor who had cared for them and their families for more than three decades. George’s dedicated and extraordinary care for his patients, and his civic-minded advocacy for all of the members of his community, provided an example for those who followed after him—and helped to leave the world a better place for the future. Even today, those of us who drive on solid roads and drink clean water can thank Dr. George Hoffmann for his efforts to make Randolph County a safer place to live.

Click here to read a more detailed biography of Dr. George Hoffmann.

Roscoe Misselhorn inducted into The Randolph Society

Roscoe Misselhorn
Roscoe Misselhorn

The Randolph Society Foundation Board is pleased to announce that Roscoe Misselhorn, a talented local artist who honed his craft and shared his work in Sparta for more than seven decades, will be inducted into the 2022 class of honorees.

Roscoe Misselhorn was born in Sparta in January 1902. From a young age, Roscoe discovered that he had an interest in and talent for art. Even as a kid, he would later reflect, “more than anything else, I wanted to draw.” He dropped out of school before graduation and went to work in a Sparta department store while also drawing sketches and cartoons for the Sparta Plain-Dealer. His work caught the attention of executives at Meyer-Both, a news syndication company out of Chicago. They hired him to do weekly political cartoons to be printed in papers all over the country, paying him $5 for each cartoon.

In 1926, Roscoe married Ruth Tritt in Sparta. She encouraged him to develop his talent at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. He studied at the school for two and a half years, discovering the thrill of working as part of a community of artists. He left the university in 1928 to work in advertising, but the school would later award him an honorary bachelor’s degree in art. While he loved St. Louis, he ultimately decided to make Sparta his permanent home. He told the Southern Illinoisan in 1959, “For a home, I prefer a quiet place, where when you meet someone on the street, you probably know him and he knows you.”

Roscoe began a career as a commercial artist, painting signs and murals, and in his down time, he started to develop his own personal artistic style. In 1930, he would produce the first of a series of pencil sketches that would become his trademark. The subject was the covered bridge over Mary’s River, which his grandfather, Wilhelm Misselhorn, had supposedly helped to build. The county’s landscape would provide him with endless inspiration over the next half a century. Rolling hills, historic homes, farms, rivers, bridges—the entire world of Randolph County seemed designed to be captured by Roscoe’s pencil.

The public responded enthusiastically to Roscoe’s work, and eventually he was able to leave his sign painting business behind. He published a series of books featuring drawings he’d done both at home and in St. Louis, including Misselhorn’s Pencil Sketches of St. Louis and Misselhorn’s Pencil Sketches of Missouri. His work was exhibited in museums in St. Louis, and then across the country. One wood engraving, “Ohio River Fish Boat,” was shown at the Carnegie Institute and the Library of Congress. Prints of his work became sought after, and he began producing notepads and postcards with his sketches of landmarks in Randolph County, Carbondale, Cairo, Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis, and New Orleans.

In 1951, Roscoe began teaching adult extension classes in drawing, as well as working with pastels, oils, and watercolors, through SIU Carbondale. Over the next three decades, he assembled work for a proposed book of sketches of Southern Illinois. When the project struggled to find a publisher, his work ultimately found a home in Sparta. Roscoe and Ruth established an art foundation, to which they contributed more than 4,000 pieces of his original artwork, as well as a collection of art books valued at $50,000. The foundation then helped coordinate the restoration of the Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio Railroad Depot on Second Street in Sparta, which was reopened in 1992 as the Misselhorn Art Gallery.

The new foundation and gallery ensured that the legacy that the Misselhorns built would remain accessible to art lovers for generations to come. The Southern Illinoisan praised the city of Sparta for helping to fund the project, writing, “The community of Sparta showed that it cares about its art and its architecture.” The foundation has helped to extend that care by awarding scholarships to young artists, encouraging the continuation of Sparta’s artistic legacy. Roscoe died in 1997, five years after the gallery’s opening, but the museum has continued to support both his work and the work of other artists over the past three decades.

In the years since Roscoe sketched many of those landmarks and landscapes in Illinois and Missouri, many of them have been lost or changed significantly. Today, Roscoe’s work provides us with both a moment of beauty and a window into the past. In 2010, foundation trustee Terry Waldron told the Southern Illinoisan, “The reason I think he’s important, especially for a Midwest artist, was what he chose to draw. The stuff he liked is the stuff that’s not around anymore. The historic value of his work is what’s important.”

Click here to read a more detailed biography of Roscoe Misselhorn.