“Imagine being a 60-year old male in 1932. The stock market crash of 1929 has left you without a job and no money. Therefore, being down on your luck and wanting to find work and food, you hop on a railroad car and head west for hopefully a better life. As you enter Minnesota, you hear of a camp located in a town called Fairmont. The word is other men have set up a camp between two lakes where the fish is abundant. You also hear that offering your labor services may give you a meal and possibly a place to sleep in a barn located on one of the numerous farms.
When you hop off the railcar there are markings along the way that tell you which house(s) to stop and ask for food. Houses are uniquely marked that have a dog or a “kind woman.” You never knock on the front door, but rather humbly knock on the back door. You are simply looking for food and a place of shelter.”
Hobo signs from book written by John Larsen.
Come to Fairmont and travel back in time by visiting the Hobo Camp which is located near Heritage Acres and in between George Lake and Sisseton Lake. It was strategically placed near the railroad tracks that run between the lakes. Hundreds of hobos stayed here during the 1920-1950s and were a common sight. Most were downtrodden looking for food, conversation and a place to sleep.
path to Fairmont hobo camp
Start the trail by locating the Fairmont Hobo Camp and Nature Trail, which is east of Heritage Acres on Lake Avenue. There is off-street parking available. Follow the path leading to a floating pathway underneath Lake Ave. and the railroad tracks. As you walk, look off to your left where you will see a sign describing the Hobo Camp. Most importantly, look directly behind the sign on the lake bank and you will see a couple of silhouette hobo figures hauntingly standing where the camp was located.
Stop and imagine what life was like years ago for those that chose the life of a hobo. How desperate and humiliated they must have felt asking strangers for a meal all because life handed you an unfair shake.
Next? Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the beauty and serenity as you continue your walk through the Nature Trail. As with any hiking trip, I always bring a good water bottle and one that I can use for short or long hiking/camping trips.
Fairmont has many hidden treasures. Many aren’t aware there are five lakes located within city limits and numerous more within the county. Fishing is bountiful and boating grand. I know that exploring nature will be at the top of my list this summer. For more information about Fairmont and what the area has to offer, please check out Visit Fairmont.
What are some of your favorite, off-the-beaten path historical sites?