May 2, 2009

Randolph County History

Daniel E. Hoffman
Stone Cutter For The Ages

 by Fred A. Lawson

Daniel E. Hoffman was born in Lebanon County, PA in 1838.  He was raised in an ultra- conservative Lutheran environment and his father died when he was 10 years old.

n 1854 at the age of 16 years, he was encouraged by his relatives to enter the ministry.  After considering and dismissing that vocation, he fled Pennsylvania, heading east, and settled in Buffalo, New York, taking up the marble cutting trade.

Fate Lends A Hand

In 1856 Mr. Hoffman, enroute to Ft. Wayne by stagecoach, was forced into a layover in Winchester by a freak snowstorm.

The young man must have been impressed by the small Indiana town because in 1857 he returns

A Deal Is Struck

In 1857 Daniel returned to Winchester and quickly gained employment with John Ludy. Mr. Ludy’s expertise was cutting marble, stone and sculptural work.  He was also in the business of installing  slate roofs.

For nearly a year the young stonecutter, worked for Mr. Ludy for room and board only. In 1858 a deal was made and Daniel took over the business.

Friend Sends A Gift

Daniel Hoffman had not been in business very long when a friend, also in the stone cutting business, arrived in town.  The associate was from a firm in Buffalo, New York – his first home after Pennsylvania.  The man advised Daniel to stay in Winchester.

Several weeks after the visit a freight car arrived filled with granite - a gift from the associate at the Buffalo firm. The freight bill was $35.00. He borrowed the money to pay the freight bill from Moorman Way, who at the time owned most of Winchester.

The First Big Job

In 1858 the Hoffman firm was hired by the McIntire Family to cut and place a 12 foot monument in the Maxville Cemetery, located 6 mile west of Winchester. Due to muddy roads, it took almost two days to get the monument and equipment to the cemetery.

Daniel Hoffman Takes A Bride

In 1862 he married Angeline Carter, daughter of county pioneers Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Carter.   They constructed a home at 538 S. Meridian St.  To this union, five children were born, but only two survived infancy.

The Our Jonnie Tombstone

The Our Jonnie Tombstone is arguably the most noted fixture in The Old Winchester Cemetery at the end of Western Avenue.

Daniel Hoffman’s work was more than business when he cut and set the tombstone.   He was The Uncle Of Jonnie Carter who died in 1862 at the age of 5 Years, 7 months and 18 days.  Jonnie was the son of Levi Carter, owner of the Winchester Wagon Works.  The tombstone was the basis of the movie Now And Then released in 1995.

In Great Demand

After The Civil War, the Hoffman firm cut and set monuments at Shiloh, Gettysburg, Stone Mountain and Chickamauga. The Chickamauga monument stands forty feet high and honors The 84th Indiana Volunteers  (Co. A was Randolph County). The Monument was commissioned By The Federal Gov. at a cost of $3600.00.

Fountain Park Cemetery

The Hoffman firm cut and set the Ashel Stone monument in Fountain Park Cemetery. The monument is 30 feet high and was constructed in 1880 at a cost of $2600.00.

The Wysong monument which is 35 feet high was constructed in1882 at a cost of $3000.00.

A Monumental Career

Over a career that spanned more than sixty years, Daniel Hoffman cut over 8,000 monuments and tombstones.  This does not include all the footpath markers, fence posts, steps and slate roofs his firm cut and set.

Daniel E. Hoffman died in 1923 at the age of 84 years.  His son Riley H. Hoffman took over the business.

Daniel E. Hoffman’s work can be found in almost every  cemetery in Randolph County. He signed his work “D. E. Hoffman” usually in the lower right hand corner.

Once you find a few of his tombstones you will develop an eye for his work. The Our Jonnie marker, made of marble, with a child lying on top, as if asleep, was remarkable in that it withstood the neglect and abuse of time as well as the elements and yet it was still readable.  Daniel E. Hoffman possessed true artistry and a respect for the value of his work to the memory of those who have passed on.


Many thanks to Monisa Wisener, Curator of the Randolph County History Museum who continues to inspire me.

The facts of the story were found in the Tucker Book - 1882 History Of Randolph County, the 1914 History Of Randolph County and a 1927 article in the Muncie Star.