Friday, September 5, 2014

A Brief History of Hammond, Louisiana, 1818 - Part 1

Blogger's Note: Near the Albany Woodworks mill lies a city with a history which tells the story of a Civil War-era South.  The railroad became a major focal point of the culture and industry that built up around it.  Here is a brief history for the City of Hammond, Lousisiana. 


The city is named for Peter Hammond, a Swedish immigrant who lived from 1797 to 1870.  Hammond arrived in Louisiana through a string of daring events.  Hammond, then employed as a sailor, had been briefly imprisoned by the British troops at Dartmoor Prison during the Napoleonic Wars.  After a brief stay in the brig, Hammond broke jail.  He managed to make his way back to the sea, his ultimate destination was New Orleans.  There he left his ship, and used his savings to buy then inexpensive land northwest of Lake Pontchartrain.


Hammond was one of the first to settled the area around Hammond in 1818.  There he started a plantation to grow trees, which he made into masts, charcoal, and other products for the maritime industry in New Orleans, which he transported first down the Natalbany River at Springfield, Louisiana. The tract of land from Hammond's plantation to the port at Natalbany River in Springfield was one of the first paths to access the area.  It came to be known as Peter's Trail.

The New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad came through the area in 1854, making the city a commercial and transport center. The point where the railroad met Peter's trail to Springfield was at first known as Hammond's Crossing. Peter Hammond is buried on the east side of town under the Hammond Oak.  It is a small family cemetery containing the grave of Peter Hammond, founder of Hammond, Louisiana, his wife, three daughters, and his favorite slave boy. There is a total of 9 graves.


From the My Hammond website:

"Legend has it that the main commercial street in Hammond's proposed historic district is the original trail established in the 1820's by Peter Hammond, the area's first settler.  The Swedish immigrant may have used this trail in transporting the lumber and tar products he produced from the virgin pine forests of the area to their marketplace in New Orleans.

Peter Hammond's isolated settlement might have remained that way had it not been for the coming of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad in 1854.  Land speculation followed the establishment of 'Hammond's Crossing' as a regular stopping point of the railroad, and brought to the area men such as Charles Emery Cate, an entrepreneur originally from N. Hampshire. Cate purchased his first parcel of land in the area in the year of 1860, and moved there from New Orleans with his family in 1862.


He chose the area to settle in at the outbreak of the Civil War because it seemed to him to be a place where he could "make his Confederate shoes and for a time feel safe from the Yankees."  Due to Cate's efforts, Hammond became the shoemaking center of the Confederacy. His operation at that time consisted of the shoe factory and tannery, built on the site of the present Post Office, and an adjacent sawmill.

It was during the war that Sarah Morgan Dawson visited Hammond, and wrote in A Confederate Girl's Diary that the town of Hammond consisted of 'four buildings, one of which is a shoe factory.'  The family home was built behind the factory, on the site of the present Cate Square Park. The main house burned down in the 1880's, but the kitchen remained and was incorporated into a house which still stands on the corner of Magnolia Street and Robert Street.


 Despite the burning of the factory and loss of much other property at the hands of the federal troops, Cate continued to develop the area. In the latter days of the war he laid out streets in a grid pattern, following the axis of the railroad. He named several of the streets after his sons, and lined them with the oak trees for which Hammond became distinctive."