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Hormel Historic Home: Jay Hormel had a rough start

Sept. 11 would have been Jay C. Hormel's 122nd birthday. Although that date is now significant to our nation for a different reason, I find the account of Jay's birth one of passion, fear and relief.

In his autobiography, George described the birth of his only child. He had returned from an out-of-town trip, and, in order to save the quarter cab fare, he chose to walk home. As he walked "in the September dusk after a brief absence in the fall of 1892, I wondered how things were with my wife. We expected our child within a week. The bag I carried seemed heavier than usual, for I was tired, and I almost wished I had given Johnny Mears the quarter to drive me home. As I neared the house, I felt sudden alarm for I heard someone crying. The door opened and my wife's sister ran to meet me, tears streaming down her face."

"Don't get excited! Don't get excited!" she cried.

"What about?" I asked.

"From her incoherent answer I couldn't make out whether my wife or the baby had died, or both. I rushed past her into the house and into the room where my wife lay in bed. She said weakly in response to my query that she was all right. But I noticed that there was no child beside her and no sound of one in the house. I knew enough about babies, from the arrivals of brothers and sisters at home, to prick up my ears for that thin angry wailing with which newcomers greet their entry into this sad and sorry world. I found the doctor in the kitchen, where the baby lay wrapped in a tiny bundle on top of the cold cookstove."


"Is it going to live?" I asked.

He shook his head. "I don't think so — stillborn," he said. "But we might try artificial respiration."

"For heaven's sake, get busy," I shouted.

"In response to the doctor's manipulations, the child began to move, to stretch. While the doctor worked over the baby, I hastily built a fire to heat the cold room, to warm water and blankets. Then I rushed to a neighbor's house where there was a nurse. Not long afterward my son uttered his first cry"

"I went into his mother's room. She, too, had heard his cry and was smiling wanly with happy relief."

"We named him Jay Catherwood for his great-uncle Jacob and for my best friend, and he was as vigorous, healthy, and as active as the men whose names he bore."

The emotional roller coaster of George's experience reveals his great devotion to Lillian and Jay. Fortunately, Austin had a doctor with the ability to revive Jay so he could fulfill the destiny for which he was born.

Upcoming events


Sept. 15, 4 p.m.: Board of directors.

Sept. 16:Social Concerns presented by Sarah Gilberg of the On Track Lab.As the Work-Based Learning Coordinator for the Austin Public Schools, Sara directs the exploration and assessment lab, which functions as a simulated job experience for youth with special needs. She will describe the curriculum and objectives of the program. Come learn how these young people are being prepared for their futures.

Free. Coffee and snack served.Please call to let us know you are coming. 507-433-4243

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