The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Herbarium (NCU) has found a single specimen collected by Freed Hoffman, but
as we continue to catalog our collection, it is likely that we will find
Other herbaria which curate specimens
collected by Freed Hoffman include BRY (Brigham Young University), CM
(Carnegie Museum of Natural History), USU:UTC
(Intermountain Herbarium), OSU (Oregon State University), NY (New York
Botanical Garden), MO (Missouri Botanical Garden, UCSC (University of
California, Santa Cruz), UCD (University of California, Davis), and UC
(University of California, Berkeley).
Freed Hoffman’s papers are in the University
and Jepson Herbaria Archives at the University of California, Berkeley.
Photo courtesy of
Shari Brown; date unknown
John L. (1960) Freed
Hoffman 1880-1959. Madrono
The botanical career of Mr. Freedom W. Hoffman, who died at his home near
Guerneville, California, 13 November 1959, spanned a fifty-year period. Freed was born at Knights Landing, Yolo
County, 30 January 1880, where he lived until he went away to school at about
the age of 15. As his mother was of French descent, Freed learned, as a
child, to speak French and he retained his fluency in interest in this
language throughout his life. Following his graduation from Chico Normal
School he studied art in New York City for several years. Upon his return to
California he began a teaching career in which he achieved considerable
success for something over a decade.
On 24 August 1907, Freed married Jemella Gertrude Peugh. Throughout the 47 years of their married
life, Jimmy regularly accompanied Freed on trips into the remote that
country. In the early days such trips were made with burro or mule, while
later a Jeep served a similar purpose.
While at Berkeley soon after his marriage,
Freed became principal of the LeConte to which he
often referred in his later years as the first Junior High School in
America. At about this time Freed
studied with Professor Setchell and Professor
Gardner in the Botany Department at the University of California at Berkeley. He mentioned to me several times Dr.
Gardner’s offer of a teaching assistant ship which, while attempted him, was
rejected in favor of a teaching position at San Francisco Normal School.
I first met Freed and Jimmy at their home
near Guerneville in the early summer of 1941.
Freed had sent some interesting specimens of Streptanthus to the Herbarium
at the University of California at Berkeley, for identification. In order to meet the collector and see the
population of plants, I drove to Guerneville.
From the beginning of our eighteen-year friendship I was charmed by
Freed. His slow, patient, deliberate
approach to problems made a real impression on me.
Because I was interested in Streptanthus
and its distribution in relation to serpentine soils, because I enjoyed being
with Freed and Jimmy, and because I could collect abundant fresh flowering
material near Guerneville for class use, I went back to the Hoffmans’ several times during the summer of 1941. On one occasion Freed and I spent several
days beginning the construction of a cabin on a remote hunting claim, which
Freed had proven to be still part of the public domain in 1910 and 1911 even
though it had previously changed hands several times in land deals. Careful
search of land office records and many weekends spent surveying had finally
enabled him to file on the quarter section as a hunting claim. Its chief
value lay in the existence of a spring not far below a ridge top. Freed and I hunted deer, fruitlessly, in
the early mornings and the early evenings. During the day we began a cabin to
replace the old one built by Freed in 1911.
As we leisurely cut and notched the sill logs, Freed recounted,
interspersed with discussions of the Pythagorean theorem, his reasons for
leaving teaching to become an orchardist.
Freed Hoffman was a man with very
considerable artistic talent. His oils and watercolors with which their home
and guest cottage were hung made a lasting impression on all who saw
them. The intricate wood carving on
the massive lauan loom which he built for Jimmy was
still another evidence of his creative ability. As a carpenter, stonemason,
botanist, botanical artist, Freed’s accomplishments
were of professional quality. Certainly his abilities as a teacher were
equally great. Yet he resigned his teaching position, left a career for which
he seemed well fitted, and still in his 30s, took over the management of the
extensive orchards owned by himself and Jimmy near Guerneville.
With brush and palate, with hammer and saw,
with pruning hook and picking basket and ultimately with plant press and
seedbed, Freed found that he could see and sense the results of his labors
almost immediately, while in teaching often many years passed before results
were evident. Freed had the patient
sensitivity that would lead him to cut down his fruit picking speed by half
in order not to discourage completely a youngster during his first day on the
latter, but he simply would not wait for many years to be greeted by a former
pupil, now mature man, who might say, “You probably don’t remember me,
Professor Hoffman, but you taught me geometry…”
With the realization in 1941 that
serpentine outcroppings often supported unusual populations of plants, Freed
began a series of botanical trips which eventually brought his collections
over the 4000 mark. Among his collections from remote and little-known
serpentine areas is the type specimen of Haplopappus ophitidis (J. T. Howell) Keck. An Allium
collected by Freed is likely to be the type of the new species. Especially in
the genus Streptanthus,
in which he published two new species in 1952, Freed’s
numerous collections have greatly increased our knowledge of variation in
When World War II ended and gasoline, as
well as new vehicles, became readily available, Freed purchased a Jeep in
which he and Jimmy traveled widely in search of serpentine and “Streps.” Jimmy’s
death in June, 1953, following their return for an extensive collecting trip
in the Southwest, was a blow from which Freed found it almost impossible to
recover. A trip to the Piedmont of
North Carolina to visit Jimmy’s relatives and the thoughtful solicitude of
friends finally restored in Freed his former interests.
On 7 April 1955 Freed married Blanch Lenora
Griden, who survives him. Blanche’s lively interest
in Freed’s botanical studies and her devoted care
during the trying time of Freed’s stroke and his
lengthy and arduous convalescence have endeared her to those of us who came
to know her through Freed.
Freed’s ties with professional botany were primarily with
members of the California botanical society and the personnel of the
Herbarium at Berkeley. He corresponded
rather regularly with Bacigalupi, Carter, Kruckeberg, McMillan, Mason, Morrison, and others
interested in serpentine, Streptanthus, or both.
His collections, his watercolor sketches, especially off Streptanthi, and his full luminous notes on various
sections of this genus are on deposit in the Herbarium of the University of
California at Berkeley.
PUBLICATIONS (incomplete list):
Hoffman, Freed W. (1952) Studies in Streptanthus: A new Streptanthus complex in