A Virtual Walk Through Jacksonville History

Stop 39: Plymale-Zigler-Jacobs-Hoffman-Witteveen House

From the Plymale Cottage (Stop #38), let’s go north to 305 North Oregon at the northwest corner of D Street. This is a house that has had a lot of names—Plymale, Zigler, Jacobs, Hoffman, Witteveen—reflecting its ownership and occupants over its 150+ years.

Jacobs-Hoffman House, 2021. Photo source: Carolyn Kingsnorth.

This house has two distinct sections, built roughly one hundred years apart.   The original section, now the south portion, is a one-story, wood frame structure in the Classic Revival style, believed to have been built in 1868 by Sebastian Plymale. The two-story addition at the north end was added in 1964.

Although an 1864 map of Jacksonville shows a small, rectangular structure situated at this location, the May 8, 1868 The Oregon Sentinel noted that “’Back’ Plymale had laid the foundation of a nice dwelling.” In July, the The Jacksonville Reveille Weekly reported that a dance had been held at Plymale’s new building. The following month the same newspaper commented on “The pretty building of Mr. S. Plymale beyond the bridge” which was “completed and ready for [the] occupancy of any ‘young and ardent’ lovers who desire to enter matrimonial alliance.”

Lewis Zigler.
Photo: SOHS # 28112.
Sarah Plymale Zigler.
Photo: SOHS # 5733.

Lewis Zigler, a local businessman, was part owner of this lot when Sebastian Plymale built the house. Zigler had arrived in Jacksonville by 1852 and at various times was a miner, blacksmith, proprietor of the Adams Hotel, and at one time the County Sheriff. He and his wife Sarah, Sebastian’s sister, may have been the house’s first occupants.

By 1870, Sarah’s mother Mary and younger sister Emma Plymale had joined the Zigler household which now numbered eight.

In 1873, Zigler sold half of his interest in this property to butcher John Orth, who, you may recall from Stop #22, owned the Orth Building on Oregon at California Street. Perhaps that year, but sometime in the mid-1870s, the Zigler family moved to Roseburg.

Elias Jacobs.
Photo: SOHS # 23901.

One of Orth’s tenants in his new commercial building was Elias Jacobs, a tailor and merchant, and part of the extensive network of local Fisher-Marks-Mensor-Coleman German-Jewish families. Jacobs, who also had Hebrew training and education, is thought to have acted as a rabbi for the Jacksonville Jewish population on high holy days. Elias and his wife Rosella may have rented this house from Orth and Plymale, but certainly by 1877, Elias and Rosella bought the house outright.

The Elias Jacobs family owned this home until 1901, when title was transferred to Kate Hoffman. Kate owned it and lived here until 1934.

Kate Freeman Hoffman was born in Attica, Indiana, the youngest daughter of William and Caroline Hoffman. She and her family, including her five sisters, came to Jacksonville across the Oregon Trail in 1853, when she was three years old. The Hoffmans were a prominent Jacksonville family—her father had been the first elected Clerk of Jacksonville County and the first President (Mayor) of Jacksonville’s Board of Trustees. Growing up and attending school in Jacksonville, Kate was active in the Presbyterian church (Stop #22) and at civic events, which included singing at pageants and performing recitations at celebrations and parties, many of which earned praise in the local papers of the time.

Kate Hoffman.
Photo: SOHS # 1037.

All five of Kate’s sisters “married well,” but as the youngest daughter in Victorian times, she was expected to stay at home and care for her parents as they aged. And she did. She watched as each of her sisters married, moved into their own homes and started their own families.

Kate’s father William died in 1885, and her mother in 1900, but before her mother passed, Kate and her first cousin once removed, John Horace Hoffman, began a romance. John was a local tinsmith and had served honorably in the Union Army during the Civil War. At least one sister, Julia Beekman, was concerned about the romance and wrote her son, Ben, that “Hall [John H.] is [at Mother Hoffman’s] much to [her] discomfort, but to Kate’s satisfaction…. Ma is greatly opposed to this intimacy, but they are inseparable, and were it not for decency’s sake, he would install himself there at once.” One wonders whether this sisterly concern would be so pronounced had not the possibility existed that Kate might have her own life at last, leaving perhaps Julia to care for Mother Hoffman. Ah, families!

Within a year of her mother’s death, Kate bought this house as it was then configured.  On January 15, 1902, Kate, then fifty-two, married John, who was sixty years old.   John died on January 17, 1905, only a few days after their third anniversary. Julia Beekman again took pen in hand to write to her and Kate’s sister, Florence Hoffman Shipley Whipp, “Poor Kate, she is inconsolable, talks of nothing but Hall and herself and her troubles…. We tried to prevail on her to come and stay awhile with us, but she said she would be better contented in her own home, and I do not blame her but you know, Florence, she cannot stay alone…and really I do not know what Kate is going to do…. I know nothing of her financial affairs, she does not talk with me about it.”

Julia need not have worried. Kate took in boarders at times to make ends meet, and in 1911, Mattie Boosey came to live with her as her housekeeper and companion. She also applied for and received a widow’s pension from the United States Army for John’s Civil War service. Kate had many friends and was close to her many nieces and nephews. She was active in the Oregon Historical Society, taking care to donate some of her father’s papers. In 1916, Kate was shareholder and secretary-treasurer of the Jacksonville Mining and Milling Company, which owned 40 acres of placer ground four miles west of Jacksonville.

On October 18, 1934, Kate Hoffman passed away here at her home.

The house changed hands multiple times for the next three decades until 1964 when the house was purchased by John and Elaine Witteveen. They devised the plans and constructed the two-story addition.

Plymale-Zigler-Jacobs-Hoffman-Witteveen House, 1964. Photo Source: SOHS #10541.

Elaine Witteveen.
Photo: Carolyn Kingsnorth.

The Witteveens had moved to Jacksonville that same year and opened a color printing business. John was the photographer and printer; Elaine was the typesetter and marketer. Elaine was already an established artist and her artwork was the first thing they printed. John became a key player in the establishment of Jacksonville’s National Historic Landmark District.

Elaine, a graduate of the Art Institute in Chicago, had been a founding member of the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene and served three years as a board member of the Oregon Arts Commission. In 1979, she pioneered the Rogue Valley Artists Workshop. John died in 1992 at age 83.

In later years, the house became Elaine’s gallery as well as home.   Elaine, the doyenne of Southern Oregon artists, passed away in 2015 at the age of 98.


Sources Cited:

Evans, Gail E.H.  State of Oregon Inventory of Historic Properties, “Sebastian Plymale/Witteveen House,” February 1980.

The Jews of Oregon, 1850-1950, by Steven Lowenstein, Jewish Historical Society of Oregon, 1987, pp. 30–33. 

Beekman Program Manual, Section II-80-82.

Mineral Resources of Oregon, Oregon Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1916, p. 133.

Proceedings of the Oregon Historical Society, 1901, p. 53.

Southern Oregon Pioneer Association, Resolution in Memory of Kate Hoffman, Vol. 3, 26 September 1935.

“History Trivia,: Historic Jacksonville, Inc. www.historicjacksonville.org.

With thanks to John McGlothlin for his research into John Horace Hoffman’s civil war service.


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