Henry Hammond of Fillmore County

Henry Hammond, a native of Indiana, went first to Illinois; afterwards coming to Nebraska, and in the fall of 1870 filed on a claim; taking the North West quarter of Section 4. He went east to Nebraska City, where he worked during the winter, and settled on his homestead in the spring of 1871; having only a yoke of oxen and five dollars in money with which to start the new life. Like most of the pioneers he met with many hard experiences, and had many reasons to be discouraged; but he held on with faith and confidence, until finally successful, raising a worthy family and living to an honored old age; the satisfactory results of years of honest toil. Most of his compeers have passed on to their reward.

About one year after he homesteaded, he was married to Catherine (Kate) Drummond, sister to “Pat” Drummond, her sister Margaret being married to Michael Sweeley. These all homesteading about the same time and in the same neighborhood.

In the winter after their marriage they received word that Mrs. Hammond’s sister was very sick; so they set out that same night to learn more about her condition and to give what help was necessary. Having stayed overnight they returned the next morning to find their house had been robbed and burnt down, and they were left with nothing but what they had on. There was abundant evidence that the house had been robbed as well as burned, for several half burnt articles were found in parts of the room out of their proper places, and the fire had been so clever as to completely burn (?) several good sized chunks of meat, without completely burning the wood cask in which they were packed. The culprits were never definitely located; though it was never thought likely that anyone had come all the way from Florida, or any other outlandish place to commit such an outlandish deed upon the struggling poor.

Because of this misfortune many people advised them to give up and return east, but they decided to remain and fight out life’s battle on the claim: believing the day would come when they would have something to call their own.

During that winter he would haul firewood for eight or ten miles having this to do often in the severest weather with no better clothing than his overalls to protect him from the cold. Their daily fare during that time was mostly milk and corn meal, varied only by a change to corn meal and milk. They were thankful to possess a good cow for whose contributions to their bill of fare they were very grateful; the story of which suggests to us the title of an old English book by Leah Richmond, “The Annals of the Poor,” for which Mr. Hammond who is a veteran of the Grand Army of the Republic, said he thought, “The Army rations in war time were never more limited than in this case.”

During the great blizzard, many people in the neighborhood were suffering with the measles, and Mr. Hammond lay sick with the disease at that time. This snow found its way into their house through a crack in the north side of the roof, so gently and imperceptibly, yet definitely accumulating; that by morning there was a wagon load on the floor, the beds were covered, and quite a quantity of water (melted snow) lay in the hollow places of the pillow where the sick man lay. The fires were out and no firewood could be found anywhere, Mrs. Hammond never felt more hopeless or discouraged in her life, but the good Samaritan was soon upon the scene; Michael Sweeley came to the rescue with his arms full of kindling, and in other ways helped to bring about a better state of things. He afterwards had to dig through five feet of snow to recover the Hammond hogs.

A very acceptable and entertaining visitor to the Hammond home in these early days was a little neighbor girl named Jenny Crooker, she was always full of good cheer, and ever considerate of the wellbeing of others. Mr. Hammond had, owing to the unfortunate fire, to wear an old coat a long time and undoubtedly it was none the better for the wearing. On one occasion Jenny with her sister, Grace, was visiting the Hammond home, and Grace, probably for fun, suggested that Mr. Hammond needed a new coat. Jenny instantly defended her friend by saying, “The coat is all right, and so is Henry!”

Many other thoughtful sayings and actions might be recorded regarding this little girl, who, though she lived but a few years; did not fail to have a mission of cheer and kindly service, which makes her memory dear and should be a source of inspiration to those with whom she was acquainted. “Go thou and do likewise!”

The grasshoppers were just as considerate with the Hammond farm as with any in the district. After their visit, sixty rows of corn stalks contained only half a bushel of corn, and it was with perfect satisfaction that Mrs. Hammond hindered them from devouring a quilt that was hanging on the clothes line. A remarkable thing regarding the grasshoppers was their a surviving a heavy hail storm, although they lay so thick everywhere, and the hail came so thick and fast that it could be scooped up by the pail full, it seemed that the hail had not killed one grasshopper. But it was not a “Survival of the fittest.”


Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties, by G. R. McKeith, Press of Fillmore County News, Exeter, Nebraska, 1915.

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