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Phillip Butler took up some pastoral leases in 1840 which eventually became known as` Coonatta Station. These leases covered an area from present day Melrose in the south, to Hawker in the north. By the mid 1850s the property was owned by Grant and Stokes who built a church and school near the homestead. Before the great drought of the 1860s more than 90,000 sheep were shorn annually.
The effects of the drought were soon forgotten by land-hungry farmers pushing far beyond Goyder's Line. By the mid 1870s Coonatto station was cut up for farming blocks followed by newly surveyed towns to house the farmers, their families and the services needed by them. Towards the end of the wheat-drive in 1879 four new towns were laid out, all named after Governor Jervois' children.
Hammond, which was made up of 112 sections, was named after his son, the Rev William Henry Hammond Jervois. His other son John was honoured with Johnburgh. Amyton and Carrieton were named after his daughters Amy and Carrie (Caroline). In 1881 the town of Bruce was also added. With the deceptively good seasons still continuing, both farmers and towns did well. When in 1882 the narrow gauge railway from Terowie was extended to Quorn, Hammond had gained a daily train service to Adelaide. Previously, wheat was transported sixty kilometres to Port Augusta.
One of the very first services at Hammond was provided by Jacka Brothers of Melrose. In 1877 Bill Jacka built the Hammond hotel and supplied it with their beer. The hotel remained in business for just over 115 years. Some of the early publicans in charge were John Liddon Fry, 1892, Jane Fry, 1903-05 and James Ferrier in 1913. Its last publican was Joe Talbot. Michael Burnett Ryan, J.P., farmer, grazier and auctioneer came to Hammond in 1878. Ryan, born in Ireland in 1853, came to South Australia with his parents in 1855 on the ship Blue Suplice and lived in Kapunda. He started his working life as a boundary rider before getting involved in farming and grazing. After his marriage to Bridget Dundon of Kapunda in 1878 the young couple moved to Hammond. He served for many years on the District Council and in 1903 was appointed a Justice of the Peace.
Before long the new town had its Methodist Church followed by an Anglican and Catholic Church. Although the Catholic Church building was slightly second-hand, it came from Willochra nearly eight kilometres down the road, it lasted much longer than the others which closed during the 1950s. The first Parish Priest was Father Doyle. Several stores opened up for business, including Tuckwells of Wilmington, Hogart Venning from Quorn and John Brett also from Wilmington.
Naturally Hammond also had its own Law Enforcement Officer. In 1894-5 it was Mounted Constable Kelly who was kept busy for most of the time. Among some of his most serious cases he had to solve was the one in January 1895. Some of Richard Richardson's chicken had disappeared without trace. Eventually Kelly solved the crime and arrested Thomas Duffy and Colin McPhail. Both were charged thirty shillings each. History has not recorded what happened to the chicken!
Race meetings were held almost from the time the town was surveyed. The first one, just before Christmas 1878, consisted of four events. The main race was won by Bill Cross' Lady Pinda. St Patrick's Day in 1895 was celebrated with a very successful race meeting with nine starters in the St Patrick's Day Handicap. During the evening most of the locals attended the ball held in the Hammond Hall. Regular attendants were the brothers Jack, Jim and Ted Mc Mahon. Between 1889 and 1950 they missed only one meeting!
By the mid 1880s Hammond had a population of seventy people living in seventeen houses. At one stage Hammond even had a cottage hospital where many babies were born and adults and children were treated by the resident doctor. Unfortunately this service was not yet available in 1896 when Annie Maloney, daughter of Denis Maloney, was severely burnt while sweeping out the kitchen of Thomas Ryan and his wife. Dr Harbison of Carrieton was sent for and did all he could but Annie had to be transported to the Port Augusta Hospital by horse and cart for further treatment.
Although a post office had been operated by J. Moller since 1878 at Coonatta Station, this was later removed to the Main Street in Hammond where W.L. Hudson was appointed Post Master in 1880. Four years later Telegraph facilities became available with Money Order facilities in 1891. Arthur George Martin, born in 1868 at Moonta, started working for storekeeper Tuckwell & Son at Hammond in 1887. He stayed with them for the next fifteen years. Although by 1894 Ryan operated stores in both Hammond and Eurelia, it did not stop Martin from opening a store in 1904. Martin married Rosalie Blanche Jacka of Hammond, had five children and did well in business. He became very involved in local matters. At various times he was Auditor of the District Council, secretary of the Hammond Institute, president of the Literary Society, Sunday School Superintendent and Lay Preacher for the Methodist Church.
By 1888 the population had increased to 90 and the number of houses to 23. The Hammond hotel was run by William Jacka, H.P. Clark was the stationmaster, R.L.Richardson the postmaster and Annie S. Miller tried to do her part in educating the local children. Three years later the population had grown and now amounted to well over a hundred. Now the postmaster was C.H.Tuckwell and the hotel was kept by Mrs J.Jacka. The Bank of Adelaide was managed by Henry Vernon Eyre and the law was enforced by Police Trooper John James.
During the 1890s the Hammond District Council was formed, meeting in its own Chambers or in nearby towns included in the district. At its 1 November 1897 meeting in Bruce councillors present were, Twopenny, Gum, Hudson, Cole, Walters and Kelly. They were informed by the clerk that an agreement with the Commissioner of Railways had been signed for the construction of a level crossing at the Moochra railway station. At this meeting the Council also granted slaughtering licenses to T.W. Metcalf of Pinda and W. Brewster of Willochra.
It had not been a very good year for the farmers. In October 1897 it was reported that the harvest would be a total failure and people started to wonder how they could survive another year. During the past year a large number of farmers had received assistance from the 'Drought Distressed Farmers' Fund' but this fund was now running very low. It was felt that the government should start some public works, especially anything to do with the conservation of water, to provide employment and at least some income. It is most important that people should be kept on the land.
A Provisional school was opened in 1885 with on average twenty children attending. Not all of them were well behaved children. On 19 November 1886 John Martin, aged ten, was charged by Mounted Constable Thomas, with having placed obstructions on the railway line. Luckily the driver spotted it in time and no harm was done. With an increase of farmers in the district and residents in the town, attendance figures slowly grew until by 1903 it reached 55 students. During the first ten years the school had many teachers including Ellen Wynne, Sinclair Ganson and Edward J. Nettle. Most of them stayed for a year or so only. Nettle was an exception. He served the school and community from 1895 until 1908. He was replaced by Thomas Moten who also remained for a long time. He instructed the children from 1909 until the end of 1916.
By the turn of the century Hammond was a thriving town and had survived the drought of the 1880s and depression of the 1890s. It had three stores, Tuckwells, Brents and Hogart & Venning. There was a butcher, baker, saddlery and a blacksmith operated by David Baker who employed thirty men. Between them they made buggies, drays, ploughs and repaired any other implement used on the farm or in the town. Not all were successful though. Francis Fels, who had operated a store and saddlery at Melrose and Hammond for some time, was declared insolvent in 1893.
The start of the new Century was marked by drought and dust storms. In 1901 Rev H.W. Doudney reported that the Church at Hammond had been damaged by a 'terrific dust storm which had blanketed the whole northern district in total darkness'. Both the vestry and watertank were blown away and later found in a paddock more than four kilometres away. However on 20 November 1907, C.H. Schiller was the first wheat farmer to deliver that year's harvest to J.E. O'Donoghue, the agent for W.R. Cave & Co.
From its early days Hammond was active in many different sports. At times it played cricket, football, basketball, athletics and tennis. Teams visited nearby towns to take part in sporting carnivals. These carnivals were enjoyed by young and old. It often meant a trip over dusty roads by horse, or bullock wagon, for both players and their supporters. After a long day the return trip was made in the dark arriving home during the middle of the night or just in time to milk the cows.
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