02 May 2023


Lost Capitol Hill: William Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover

Last week I wrote about ChatGPT’s attempt to tell the story of J. Edgar Hoover’s great-grandfather William Hoover. Today, I will report what we really know about him.

William Hoover was born in June 1804 in Washington, D.C., the son of William Hoover, who himself was born in Pennsylvania. The younger William Hoover married Elizabeth Huff (or Hough) from Loudoun County, Virginia, on October 6, 1832. This union was blessed with an eleven children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. The oldest of these children was named John Thomas; he was born in 1834.

William Hoover first appears in the public record in the 1846 city directory. He is listed as being a ‘victualler’ and his address is given as being what is today the 1400 block of 7th Street NW. Coincidentally, that is the location of a Giant supermarket today.

William Hoover seems then to have switched gears, as he next appears as an assistant commissioner for the 3rd and 4th Ward. This job tdoes not seem to have been too taxing, as he is mentioned only once in the papers, in a request for proposals to trim and gravel 6th street. Or this could be an entirely different William Hoover – there were several of them in Washington at the time. And this is exactly where ChatGPT fell down, finding a “William Hoover” and assuming he was the one that was being asked about.

J. Edgar Hoover in his early years at the Bureau of Investigation (LOC)

But back to our William Hoover: in 1858, he had moved one street to the east, and was working as a messenger for the Post Office. He seems to have continued working in this manner throughout the Civil War, but in the 1870 census, he is listed a being a butcher. The city directory continues to state that he was a messenger. There was a butcher named William Hoover, as well, but he seems quite unrelated.

In the same 1870 census, John T. Hoover lives just a few doors down from his parents, he in turn has a son named Dickerson Hoover.

The 1880 census shows him to be a retired butcher. He still lives at 1222 6th Street NW, with his wife and two unmarried daughters. Sadly, the following year, his wife died and was buried in Congressional Cemetery next to those three of her children who had died young.

Three years later, and just shy of his 80th birthday, William Hoover passed away. A notice in the Washington Evening Star, which gives only the barest details of his passing, seems to be the only record of this event. He was buried in Congressional Cemetery next to is wife.

And that is the unsatisfying story of J. Edgar Hoover’s grandfather. If you want to learn more about a great-grandfather of the FBI director, click here – John Hitz was the grandfather of J. Edgar’s mother.

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