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.