Captain
Francis W.
Hoffman


CAPTAIN FRANCIS W. HOFFMAN, United States Naval Reserve, appears to have been born in Pennsylvania around 1882. He joined the Naval Reserve in June of 1900, at the age of 18, and was commissioned as an ensign two years later. In June of 1916 he was named commander of the Second Battalion, New Jersey State Naval Militia. He was placed in command of anti-submarine patrol activities in Delaware Bay at the beginning of America's involvement in World War I. At the beginning of 1918 he was given an administrative command, and then served as an aide to the commander of the Fourth Naval District.

Francis Hoffman married around 1907. At the time of the 1910 Census he was living in the 400 block of Grant Street in North Camden, working as a painter at a chemical factory. When the 1920 Census was enumerated, he and wife Anna lived at 25 West Maple Avenue in Merchantville NJ. He then worked as an insurance salesman. 

In 1921 Francis Hoffman was recalled to active duty with the Navy, serving in dual capacities as an aide to the commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard and captain of the U.S.S. Topeka, then in use as a training ship. The Topeka (PG-35) was a gunboat that served the U.S. Navy for 32 years. She was the only Navy ship named Topeka to be built on foreign soil and the first to make a Mediterranean deployment. The gunboat had a 35 foot beam and a displacement of 2255 tons. During its era, 14 officers and 153 men served aboard her. The Topeka  participated in the Spanish American war, helped quiet several disturbances in the Caribbean, and later served as a patrol boat off of Central America during the last phases of World War I, before being sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  She was retired in 1930 and sold to the Union Shipbuilding Company of Baltimore.

By the late 1920s Francis Hoffman was living at the Helene Apartments, at the southwest corner of North 3rd and Cooper Streets. In 1928 he was promoted to the rank of Captain in the United States Naval Reserve, and given command of three battalions of the New Jersey State Naval Militia. Sadly, Captain Hoffman had passed away by April of 1930, leaving his widow, Anna and a son, Wade F. Hoffman, who were then still residing at the Helene Apartments.


From
South Jersey: A History 1624-1924


Helene Apartments

North 3rd Street & Cooper Street


USS Topeka PG-35
Click on Image to Enlarge

The first TOPEKA, a gunboat, was a combat veteran of the Spanish American War. She participated in the blockade of Cuba from July 11 to August 15, 1898. While engaged in these maneuvers, she assisted in the capture of the Spanish sloop Domingo Aurelio at Nipe Bay, Cuba, on July 17, 1898. Four days later on July 21, she took part in the action which resulted in the capture of Port Nipe and the sinking of the Spanish Cruiser Jorge Juan. She was first placed out of commission in February, 1899, at the Boston Navy Yard.

She was built under the name Diogenes by Georg Howaldt at Kiel, Germany, in 1881. She was purchased by the U.S. Navy on April 2, 1898, from the Thames Iron works of London, England. Her overall length was 250'4"; beam 35'; normal displacement 2255 tons; mean draft, 17'8"; and main battery of six 4-inch guns. Her complement in 1899 was 14 officers and 153 men.

TOPEKA was commissioned on August 15, 1900 and departed New York on September 27 on a cruise to the western Mediterranean. She returned to Hampton Roads on March 4, 1901 and underwent repairs in the Norfolk Navy Yard. On May 25, she arrived at Port Royal, South Carolina, where she first served as station ship. She subsequently became a training ship and made a cruise to the Caribbean in the late Spring and Summer of 1902. Returning to Norfolk, she sailed on December 10, 1902, for duty with the Caribbean Squadron, returning to Charleston, South Carolina, March 1, 1903. In 1904, she cruised along the coast of Panama in the wake of the revolution which separated that republic from Colombia and paved the way for construction of the Panama Canal. She then returned to Charleston and was assigned duty with the Training Squadron of the North Atlantic Fleet, conducting tests of wireless telegraphy equipment with cruises along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean until April, 1905. She then joined the Second Squadron of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet for duty in Dominican waters, protecting American lives and property during a civil disturbance in the Dominican Republic. In August, 1905, she returned to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, being placed out of commission on September 5, 1905. Thereafter, she served as a prison and station ship at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. In June, 1916, she was towed to New York.

TOPEKA was re-commissioned on July 14, 1916 and assigned duty as receiving ship at New York until placed out of commission September 14, 1916. She was taken in tow by tug UNCAS in late September and arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in late October.

Her engines were removed, and she was used for the training of recruits in the First Naval District. In May, 1918, she was towed to the Boston Navy Yard for installation of engines and fitting out.

TOPEKA was again commissioned at Boston on March 24, 1919. She departed in May to join the American Patrol Detachment in Charleston, S. C. in June. The next day she sailed for Tampico, Mexico, where she commenced patrol of Mexican waters, returning to Charleston in October. She was again placed out of commission November 21, 1919, and put up for sale. Satisfactory bids were not received and she was withdrawn from the market. In July, 1920, the Navy adopted the alphanumeric system of hull designations, and the gunboat became the PG-35. She was commissioned again in July, 1923, for use as a Naval Reserve Training Ship in the Fourth Naval District until decommissioned December 2, 1929 for the last time. Her name was stricken from the Navy list January 2, 1930.


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