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Making history as we live it

History is being made and preserved every day, and based on what is happening around the world right now, I am sure the COVID-19 pandemic will be considered an historic event.

It is a difficult time, and we are all trying to adjust to the uncertainties ahead. As history often repeats itself, a time such as this, is not new.

During his late teens George Hormel spent time working for his Uncle Jacob Decker in the Chicago stockyards. He wrote about the stifling summer of 1877.

“A smallpox epidemic added apprehension to heat-frazzled tempers. Trouble broke out in Packingtown and on the docks. Police officers sent to quell the disorder were shot from ambush.” George’s uncle compared the chaos to the feeling on board a ship right before a mutiny. When George asked his uncle what he would do, Jacob Decker replied, “I’d close the saloons, clear the streets of thugs, arrest anyone inciting to riot, open soup kitchens, and talk turkey to some of these business leaders. It’s time someone took an intelligent interest in what’s going on in this town.”

In 1894, George Hormel was serving as alderman for Austin. One of his primary projects was to improve the water supply for the community. An act of nature helped him raise support for the cause. In his autobiography he wrote:

“When the water level fell in summer and the wells began to dry up, water from the Cedar River was pumped into the mains and a serious epidemic followed, quelled only after six weeks’ quarantine. Now people were as hysterically insistent upon a better water supply as before they had been stubbornly resistant. The Council was deluged with proposals to buy up all the springs within miles of Austin, regardless of expense. It is at such times of public hysteria that officials must learn to keep their heads.”

The Austin Daily Herald reported on Feb. 22, 1909, about how the disregard of a local quarantine caused issue.

“The northwestern part of the county is suffering severely from an epidemic of diphtheria, caused by neglect to properly quarantine. In this disease six weeks’ quarantine is absolutely necessary but in many cases only two week’s quarantine was required and children attending school have scattered the disease far and wide.”

Many diseases have all caused quarantines and panic in the past. We can learn from these times and from the experience and wisdom of Jacob Decker and George Hormel, and we can make the right decisions for the betterment of all.In following the guidelines of Gov. Tim Walz, the Hormel Historic Home and Event Center will be closed to the public through Friday, March 27, and will adhere to future recommendations in an effort to help stop the spread of the COVID-19.

Be wise and be well everyone.

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6 p.m. Thursday, April 2, subject to change

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