Recognizing the importance of water

Published 7:01 am Sunday, June 18, 2017

Water had a major influence on George Hormel’s life. The frozen variety provided both recreation for his free time and necessary material for the success of his business. In its wet form, he recognized the value of a clean and readily available supply for the health, success and protection of a community.

One could almost speculate that because of the lack of a reliable water source, George settled and established his legacy in Austin. When he learned in 1887 that one of his best customers and leading meat markets, Anton Friedrich and Son, had burned down, his future seemed to be sealed. A month after the fire, on George’s next trip to Austin, he offered to become the partner of Albrecht Friedrich in the newly rebuilt butcher shop. Had that fire not occurred, George might have continued traveling the Midwest ultimately settling somewhere else.

Once in Austin, George became a member of the volunteer firefighters crew. In 1894 he was elected Alderman and he made it a priority to help secure a water system that would appropriately serve the community. He was driven by the memory of the loss of Friedrich’s business and of his knowledge of the devastating fires in Chicago. Though the town had shallow wells and fire hydrants, the residents lacked understanding of where the water came from and the need for conserving it. A geological study determined that drilling deeper wells would give the community access to all the fresh water it needed, and residents were taught the importance of regulating their usage.

Excess water became a problem for George, however, when in 1916 the Water St. dam broke due to heavy rain. When the dam broke George’s business was in jeopardy. The mill pond supplied the water needed to operate the plant’s ammonia condenser, but if the pond drained, the machinery would stop working putting millions of pounds of fresh meat at risk. George’s brother John was able to get to Minneapolis for an emergency water pump that was installed just in time, and measures were put into place to prevent a similar disaster in the future.

For recreation George noted that he enjoyed catching black bass from the Cedar River. When the water froze he found his leisure time on the ice. In The Open Road he called himself an “ardent skater on the ice.”

The value of ice for his business was made evident to George while working in the Chicago stockyards. It was there that Louis F. Swift put into action his vision of making fresh meat available to all who wanted it regardless of the season. Swift developed ice-conditioned railcars that carried product across the nation and opened opportunities for other meat packers to share their products with a much larger consumer base.

In 1897 George invested over $30,000 to build a new cold storage plant with brick walls 17 inches thick that could hold 500 carcasses. The value of ice was priceless to him which was realized in 1902 when there was a shortage that winter.

We all know that water is vital to healthy living, but to George it had impact on many of his personal and professional experiences.

Kids Koncert: Tricia and the Toonies

2:30 p.m., Monday, June 19

Tricia and the Toonies perform family friendly fun and interactive musical comedies with a unique use of music, puppets, skits, and audience participation. Show followed by free ice cream sponsored by Belles and Beaus. Free.

Peace Garden Concert: Austin Community Jazz Band

6:30 p.m. Friday, June 30

Directed by Brian Koser, this local music favorite has an annual tradition of performing at the HHH. Join us for classic jazz and fun arrangements performed by local musicians. Featuring guest saxophonist John Paulson. Free