Mystery on Uncle Henry’s death solved

Published 6:03 pm Saturday, June 21, 2014

I have written a little of the Decker family history in previous articles, but a small mystery was recently solved that I hope you find interesting.

Ludwig and Emma Decker were the parents of Susanna Decker, who became George A. Hormel’s mother.  Susanna was the oldest of five children and the only girl. She helped her mother care for the boys and they grew into beloved uncles to Susanna and John Hormel’s children. Susannah honored her brothers by naming three of her own sons after them: Albert, Henry and Herman Decker became uncles to Albert, Henry and Herman Hormel (and all the other kids).

Henry Hormel mentioned his Decker namesake in his manuscript “One Generation Under the American Flag.” Hormel wrote that in 1861 when the Civil War broke out “sorrow filled the hearts of all true Americans.” He indicated that his Uncles Henry and Herman enlisted “for the preservation of the union,” and that 13 year old Jacob tried but his mother “interfered” and brought him home.

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Hormel didn’t say much about Henry Decker’s service during the war but he did mention that Henry was killed in a train accident while returning home. He wrote that John Hormel, George’s father, tended to the necessary affairs following the accident and that “Uncle Henry (Decker) had been given the very kindest of care and attention.” A settlement of $2,000 was given to the family by the railroad.

No details were given of the accident in Hormel’s writing, but Steve Rowe, the Hormel family member responsible for much of our historical information regarding the family, has recently discovered what happened to Henry Decker.

The Nov. 1, 1864, Indianapolis Journal headline read “Fearful Railway Accident: Two Trains on the Lafayette and Indianapolis Railroad Come in Collision — At Least Fifty Persons Killed and Wounded.”

A passenger train carrying more than 500 people, many of them soldiers, had collided with a cattle train near Lafayette, Indiana on Oct. 31, 1864. Surprisingly only 28 people were killed and 25 wounded. A cemetery headstone near Indianapolis honoring those who died in the accident lists an H. S. Decker. Our documents had never listed Henry Decker with the “S” initial so Steve was not convinced this was his ancestor.

However, the Decker family research recently compiled in Germany confirmed that Henry Decker’s full name was Henry Simon or Simon Heinrich. In 19th century Europe it was not uncommon for names to be switched around so H.S. Decker was most likely also known as Simon Heinrich or Henry Simon.

Until this find, it was unknown if the H.S. Decker listed on the headstone was indeed George Hormel’s uncle.  We are now convinced that George’s uncle Henry Decker died in that tragic accident in Indiana.

Free Peace Garden Concert

July 1, 6:30 p.m.

The Austin Community Jazz Band will perform for the third year. Led by Brian Koser this group of local musicians will entertain with traditional jazz favorites.

Free Peace Garden Tour

July 8, 10 a.m.

Vicki Trimble will guide us on a lovely walk through the HHH Peace Garden identifying the various plants and features. Call 507-433-4243 to register.

 Business After Hours for Austin Chamber of Commerce Members

July 8, 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Join us for a picnic in the Peace Garden. If it rains the event will be held inside the banquet hall. We will have music, drinks and entertainment.