Winter travel always a trial

Published 9:21 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

I find excerpts from the letters of George A. Hormel a great reflection of both the past and present. The current erratic weather we have had lately is reminiscent of the winter of 1886 according to a couple of George’s letters. On Feb. 1, 1886, he described to his parents just how the winter weather impacted his route.

“No doubt by this time you can realize that winter has come. The past month has been a very severe one for the railroads owing to the great amount of snow we have had, and it requires only a little gentle breeze to fill the cuts so that it takes from one to three days to open roads for business. I don’t suppose railroads in Ohio or east of Chicago are traveled in that way as it is so heavily timbered that snow does not get a chance to blow and drift; out here the cuts in the road in some places have snow drifts from 15 to 20 feet high, and trains are hidden from sight when passing through there.

I travel as much by team as by rail at present and it is seldom I make a drive without upsetting from five to ten times. If we are first to go through it is necessary to have a shovel and ax with us in order to cut down fences and drive across farms so as to avoid deep drifts in the road which are too long to shovel through.”

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This letter was penned from the Fleck House hotel in Austin. The hotel was built by Alex Fleck in September of 1871 and contained a billiard room, barber shop and three bathrooms. Located at what is now First Avenue and First Streets NE, it was referred to as a “Magnificent Hotel Building” by the Mower County Transcript.

On Feb. 28 George wrote from the Union House Hotel in Charles City, Iowa. Built in 1863, the historic hotel and restaurant served as a gathering place and town center until it burned in 1987.

“Dear Mother,

After having some very pleasant weather and everyone began to think it was Spring, we are visited with another very severe blizzard and I fear the roads will be blocked again. It doesn’t hardly seem possible that it can snow so much overnight.”

In 1886 George A. Hormel was employed by Oberne, Hosick & Company and spent his time traveling from town to town buying animal hides. We have letters written on a variety of hotel letterheads. Throughout Iowa and southern Minnesota, George carried out his business and these letters allow us a glimpse into his life on the road.

History Happy Hour: Billy Sunday, Baseball Evangelist

5:30 p.m. social 6 p.m. presentation, Monday, April 9

Presented by Craig Bishop, author/speaker. Please join us as we explore the life of Billy Sunday a native Iowan born south of Ames. Raised in an orphanage, Billy eventually became nationally known as a professional baseball player, Christian minister and a friend of presidents. Sunday spent five weeks in Austin in 1906 and encouraged many, including George A. Hormel, to publically profess their faith. Free for HHH members, $5 for non-members Includes light snacks.

Pizza Ranch Tip Night for Autism Camps

4:30–8 p.m. Thursday, April 12

Support the Hormel Historic Home autism programming by dining at Pizza Ranch. Campers and their families will be onsite to describe the camps.

Stepping Out for Autism Walk

1-3:30 p.m. at the HHH Peace Garden,

Sunday, April 22

Walk — Donate — Sponsor — Support

Register at or at the Hormel Historic Home office. Deadline for walk day t-shirt delivery is April 12. Enjoy music, photo booth, Lego hunt, raffle drawings, and pizza.