HHH: A family treasure

Published 10:45 am Sunday, March 24, 2013

By Holly Johnson, executive director of the Hormel Historic Home

After both the Hormels and the Deckers immigrated to Buffalo, New York they became part of the intimate German-American community.  John George Hormel and Susanna Wilhelmina Decker met there and were married on Dec. 28, 1856 — he was 26 and she was just 20.

I enjoyed reading of John and Susanna’s youth and characteristics in the following passages from In Quest of Quality by Richard Dougherty.

Email newsletter signup

“When gold was struck in California in the ’40s, John George, then 19, was eager to head west to seek his fortune.  His parents (Christian and Elizabeth) dissuaded him, pointing out the uncertainties and dangers of the long and perilous journey across the wild and unfamiliar country to the Pacific coast.  He acquiesced to their wishes, but still felt a strong wanderlust … he managed to get a manual job on a freight and passenger boat that plied the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans.”

“These were impressionable times for John. Born with a good mind, he had, in addition, the advantage of having been brought up in a home founded on solid Christian principles.  It was a broadening time in his life.  After a period when he worked as a riverboat hand and at other temporary jobs, John returned to Buffalo and found steady employment in a large Buffalo tannery.  Starting at the bottom, he learned every job thoroughly; he also studied commercial bookkeeping at night.  Because he was very active in the work of the Buffalo German Reformed Church and was looked upon by his associates as a young man of sterling qualities, he was chosen one of its elders, despite his comparative youth.”

Of Susanna it is written in Dougherty’s book, “She had learned English at school in Germany.  Subsequent schooling in Buffalo made the second language a permanent possession.  Susanna took over much of the care of her younger brothers, and steadily developed into a capable household manager.  A measure of her worth is the fact that she was engaged as a servant while in her teens in the Buffalo home of President Millard Fillmore.  She was a thoroughly reliable and mature woman for her years when she married John Hormel.”

Perhaps Susanna’s son, William Henry (George A.’s brother), writes of her the best, “When Father, as a young man, won her heart, he won the most beautiful treasure of life for all of us as a family.”

I am hopeful my sons will write something similar of me someday.

What’s happening at the HHH

Social Concerns

April 16, 10 a.m.Cost: Free

Don and Louise Barnes will share their passion and talent for gardening with us on the 16th.  Gardening “Mini” Style is the topic and you will learn about getting BIG yield from small spaces with the right type of plants and equipment.  Call the HHH to register.

Stepping Out For Autism Walk

April is Autism Awareness month so mark Saturday, April 20, on your calendars!  The 2nd annual fundraising walk will be held at Mill Pond.  All donations will help support the Autism Programming sponsored by the HHH. Walk starts at 10 and Hy-Vee will provide lunch at 12.  More information available online or by calling the HHH.  Register by April 2 to ensure your t-shirts arrive in time for the event