For such an important part of our community history, not too much is known or remembered about the two Hammond brothers. We are not exactly sure why the Hammond brothers originally came to our part of the world from England in 1864.
John Hammond was born in 1836, and William Hammond in 1843. Both brothers were trained as civil engineers and were employed as surveyors for the government. John was also a photographer for a geological survey for the CPR. After arriving, both brothers lived their first eight years here on Hammond’s Island, now known as Codd Island, where the North and South Alouette rivers meet.
In 1872, according to a local historian, John and William bought 120 acres of unsurveyed crown land, and donated some of it for the Hammond town site when the CPR was built. In 1879 the Hammond brothers built their house on district lot 279, William Hammond’s property, on Westfield Street and Maple Crescent. In 1883, the brothers registered the town site of Port Hammond Junction, with the ‘Junction’ dropped from the name after a few years.
William returned to his home in England in 1882, where he married Francis Gertrude. They came back to B.C. with her sister, Georgina Reade, who came for a visit. Their arrival in Maple Ridge happened to be recorded in the diary of Lady Sarah Crease, who kept a fascinating account of her life in early days. She was accompanying her husband, Sir Henry Crease, Chief Justice of B.C., to Barkerville. William and his family later moved to Victoria.
William Hammond died in Victoria in 1891, predeceased by their baby boy Wilhelm in 1885. After William’s death, Francis returned to England with her other son, Noel Ridge Paley Hammond, who also was to die untimely at the age of 21. Before she left however, she returned to Hammond, where she and John donated part of William’s property for the Hammond school site.
John remained in Maple Ridge and became a fruit farmer. In New Westminster’s Columbian newspaper, John was reputed to be an excellent shot and was said to have been able to shoot a bear through the eye, so as not to ruin the hide. He also served on council and was occasionally guilty of falling asleep during meetings. John resigned from the Maple Ridge Council in March of 1885.
Stories had once circulated that John Hammond had a “mail-order bride from Boston”. As she returned to the United States after John died in 1909, local memories regarding this woman were quite dim. It was later discovered that she was not in fact from Boston. Her name was Amanda Row, and she was from Wilmington, Delaware. It is still unknown how the couple became acquainted. From their marriage record, we found they had been wed in a hotel in Agassiz with two apparent strangers as witnesses. She was 45 years old at the time, and John was 65. They lived in a home on Lorne Street that John had recently built. Sadly, John died in 1909 after only six years of married life. John’s probate document shows that he died a wealthy man, owning numerous investments as well as a good deal of real estate. Aside from leaving a small amount to a surviving sister in England, John left the bulk of the estate to Amanda. She buried John with a funeral that cost $25, and erected the handsome grave marker in the Maple Ridge Cemetery.
Another informative document was Amanda’s border crossing record in 1913, when she returned to her family home in Delaware. She was recorded as being five feet tall, with light brown hair and grey eyes.
Neither John nor William left any descendants, so it is no wonder that we have lost much connection with them until recently. Relatives of the Hammond brothers visited from England in 2006, delighted to discover the town their earlier relatives had founded. They have since provided us with far more information on the roots of this family.
The portraits shown here came into the possession of the museum from the Carr family of Port Haney. They were good friends of the Hammonds. While we are not 100% certain of the identification, these hand tinted photographs have the name “Hammond” and a number written on the back – the man’s number being one less than the woman’s. These appear to be photographer’s identifying marks. The ages of the two parties are correct and the face of the man is at least a plausible match to the only other adult picture we have.