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History Book

In the 1930s, a federal program during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, appointed people to conduct oral history interviews across the country.

In Paynesville, Clarence Chisholm conducted over 100 interviews with local citizens. These selections from those interviews were printed throughout 2000 in The Paynesville Press.

Copies of the interviews were provided by the Paynesville Area Historical Society.


Voices of the Past - William Hoeft

William Hoeft, son of David and Anna (Fritz) Hoeft, was born in Repplin, Germany, on Jan. 8, 1856. He attended school in Germany until he was 14 years of age, for in that country they graduated at an early age.

David and Anna were both natives of Germany and had six children: Fredric, deceased; Herman; August; Sophie; Wilhalmina, deceased; and William.

Sophie came to America first. She married Ludwig Koepp and they settled northwest of Paynesville. When William was 15 years old, he came over from Germany with his brother, Herman.

The voyage across the ocean was made on a steamboat and it took 23 days. The boat sprung a leak and many repairs were made before they could continue on. They landed iin New York on Dec. 4, 1871, and started westward soon afterwards. They arrived in St. Cloud, Minn., and remained there several days before they were able to find a way to Paynesville where their sister, Sophie Koepp, was living.

William and Gustave Glenz and Herman Manz of Paynesville Township were in St. Cloud shopping and the two Hoeft brothers managed to get a ride back to Paynesville with them. This trip was a difficult one as there was over a foot of snow on the ground and the weather was very cold. They arrived at their destination in the evening and found that a prayer meeting was being held there. William and Heman remained for this, but after it was over, they had to walk in the deep snow to the home of their sister.

William worked at different places in the community for about five years before he purchased his first farm, which is located in section 35 of Lake Henry Township. He bought two yoke of oxen for $100 per yoke which he used to break up 20 acres of land. His neighbors had warned him not to break anymore as there would be no crop anyway for this was in 1878 when the grasshoppers were so destructive.

Nevertheless, he planted his crops, but everything was destroyed, even the greater part of his hay. William was discouraged now so he sold his oxen for $65 a yoke and went south to Texas where he remained until the following spring. When he returned, he bought two yoke of young steers and started again to improve his land.

One day, when William was working in the fields, a large caravan of wagons on their way to the Dakotas passed his farm. One of the men approached him and asked if he didn't want to trade his steers for a good team of horses. William did want to, of course, and the trade was made. Next he had to purchase a set of harnesses for his horses before he could use them.

On Oct. 24, 1878, William married Bertha A. Draeger, daughter of Fred Draeger, at Roseville. Their witnesses were Gustavus Glenz and Alvina Glenz.

Bertha Draeger was born in Germany on May 8, 1856. Her parents came to America when she was a young girl. The trip took 12 weeks to make in a sailing vessel. They came west to Minnesota and settled near Henderson where they lived on a farm. Bertha had one brother and one sister. The brother served in the German Army and died of wounds received in service. The sister came to America and later married Gustave Glenz.

William and Bertha are the parents of five children. The four living children are Emil, Adelia, Harry, and Emmett. Their son Frank is deceased.

Emil Hoeft married Tillie Glenz. They lived in Lake Henry Township and had six children.

Adelia married Emmett Nehring of Lake Henry Township. They had one daughter, Luverna.

Harry lived in Minneapolis.

Emmett married Gladys Elliott and they lived in Long Beach, Calif.

William acquired much land and other property during the time he spent in this community.

In 1911, he left his farm and moved to Paynesville, where he and his wife have made their home since with the exception of three years, 1913-1916, which they spent at Long Beach, Calif.

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