A personality to make people smile

Published 7:01 am Sunday, March 13, 2016

Do you recognize anyone in this photo?  I received the picture from Steve Rowe because he wanted to highlight the smile of the second man from the left. The smile belonged to Ben F. Hormel, George Hormel’s youngest brother. Ben was Steve’s great-grandfather. Of the picture he says “I think the photo really captures his [Ben’s] personality. If this photo doesn’t make someone smile, nothing will.” Another of Ben’s descendants recalls hearing Ben talk about his fishing trips up north with all his buddies as depicted in the photo.

Steve’s mother, Betty, was able to identify the man on Ben’s left as Charlie Fox, a lifelong friend and fishing companion of Ben’s. The two apparently met very soon after Ben arrived in Austin in 1891. Ben and Charlie were also connected by family as Ben’s brother, John, married Charlie’s sister Meta on June 12, 1912.

You may recognize the Fox family name as the Fox Hotel was operated from October, 1894 until 1965 by members of the same family, and I have had the good fortune to meet a couple who are still in town. According to “Mill on the Willow A History of Mower County, Minnesota,”

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“In August of 1893, Charles F. Fox, Sr. and his wife Ida, and their family settled in Austin with the intent of building a new hotel.  The site for the hotel was at 501 N. Main St.”  The family had two daughters, Katherine and Meta, and two sons, Charles Jr. and Irvin.  Mill the Willow reported that “The hotel quickly gained a fine reputation for excellent food that was maintained through its entire history.”

Following the death of Charles Sr., Irvin and Charlie continued operating the hotel and added a wholesale candy and tobacco business. Irvin doubled the size of the hotel and successfully operated it until his death in 1938. At that time his son Robert stepped in and made several improvements over time, including the adding of an automatic elevator in 1954.

Knowing that Ben and Charlie were such good friends, I am sure there were social events that might have introduced their respective siblings, John and Meta. Here I am guessing, but with Ben and John’s older brother, George, living just a block away from the Fox Hotel, there may have been socializing at more than one location. Austin had many fine families who contributed to the business, cultural, and economic history of the community, and the Fox and Hormel families were two of them. They just happened to be also connected through marriage.

If you recognize anyone in the picture, or have stories to share about what part your family played in Austin’s history, please contact me at 507-433-4243 or holly@hormelhistorichome.org.

History Happy Hour — Austin’s Vocal Music History

5:30 p.m. Social, 6 p.m. Presentation, Monday

Take a look at the historical growth of choral opportunities within the public school system.

Presented by Brian Johnson, AHS Choir Director

Featuring the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Free for members of the HHH, Mower County Historical Society, and Friends of the Library. $5 for non-members.

 Art (and Music) for Autism

6 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, April 1

Local musician and artist, Jesse Smith, will entertain with guitar music before leading participants in the creation of an Atmospheric Perspective in watercolor.  Snacks will be provided and a cash bar will be available. All proceeds benefit the HHH summer programming for youth on the Autism Spectrum. Cost is $25 and registration is required at the Hormel Historic Home. Call 507-433-4243 or register at www.hormelhistorichome.org