Holly Johnson: A glimpse of George Hormel and his time on the road

Published 6:02 pm Friday, November 13, 2020

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The following letter from George Hormel to his mother dated Nov. 16, 1886, gives us a glimpse into his life on the road.

For seven years, George traveled from his home base in Des Moines and had regular stops along the way before he settled in Austin. This letter was penned in Hampton, Iowa, from The Cannam House which was described on www.iagenweb.org as “one of the best houses in northern Iowa” in its day and for being “a popular place of resort for commercial men and pleasure seekers.”

I find it fascinating to follow along on George’s route and learn about the communities through which he traveled. Hampton, Iowa, is 100 miles north of Des Moines and 40 south of Mason City. Based on his writing, George traveled this route regularly. I am not sure I agree with his assessment of winter, but to each his own.

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“My Dear Mother

  No doubt it will be sometime before I will receive an answer to my last letter as I just left Des Moines and it will be 15 days before I will arrive there again…    

  SNOW!  Snow- the beautiful snow.  I wish Liz could be out here now and see one of our good old Iowa blizzards.  It would make her think of home sweet home.  Up to this morning at six o’clock we had such beautiful weather and today the ice froze and we are having a good one at present.  Can’t hardly see buildings across the way.  Some say the winters are bad here, but I must say I like a good real cold winter.  I feel better there than in a [undecipherable text] winter as the atmosphere is so much lighter and dryer.

Excuse brevity this once.

With kind regards to father and my brothers and sisters.

I am with love

Your Son

Geo A. Hormel

Will be in Austin, Minn next Sunday and here at Hampton the Sunday following.”

Currently, Hampton has a population of around 4,500 people and there are about five hotel or motel options. If I were to visit there today, I would plan a stop at the historic Franklin County Jail.  In operation from 1880-1988, the building has been preserved and is now available for those interested in getting a firsthand experience as an inmate.  It also serves as a unique Airbnb.

I am guessing when George Hormel visited Hampton, he avoided going to this now historic attraction.

Upcoming Events

History’s Sweet Reads Book Discussion, Week 10

5-6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 16

“The Open Road,” Autobiography of George A. Hormel

Sponsored by the Hormel Historic Home and Sweet Reads Book Store

Join virtually. All sessions recorded so participants can join at any time. Pre-registration required on the website or by calling the Hormel Historic Home. $5 per session. Register at www.hormelhistorichome.org

Holiday Open House Tours

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20

Three ticket options $7-$15. Tour, Enjoy Music, Take Home a Treat