Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hammond, WV Part II

As we walked down the path, Aaron gave me a brief history of Hammond and what laid before us.
The History

Hammond was established in 1802 and was originally named Nuzum's Mill after Richard Nuzum who settled the area. At the time that Nuzum had bought the land, he had no idea that the area had rich natural resources and over time it would become a rather lucrative, bustling town.

In 1865, Nuzum sold 370 acres of his property, mineral rights included, to James O. Watson. Watson immediately took advantage of what the land had to offer. He built a brick factory and used the clay along the banks of the river to make the bricks. The brick company exchanged hands several times, including through the worst flood the Tygart Valley has ever seen. It never became fully successful until 1899 when the Hammond Fire Brick Company took over. At this point the property was renamed Hammond and had grown to 410 acres. The Hammond Fire Brick company took full advantage of the rich 2' thick clay seam that ran 100' below the coal seam. Both seams of coal and clay were being extracted from the earth to form a sort of co gen operation which made Hammond very successful, very quickly.

By 1903, new round kilns were built along with housing for the brick workers. By 1910, the company was making 50,000 brick a day. By 1945, it grew to 100,000 brick a day and WV became famous for its Hammond bricks. The Hammond bricks were in high demand all over the country and were bought for such structures as the Empire State Building in New York and the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. Samples of the Hammond fire brick were taken all the way to the World's Fair in Chicago and judged the best clay fire brick in the United States. Hammond had figured out how to best use the three different clays the earth had to offer and had created not only a strong, durable brick but a small empire in West Virginia. The town of Hammond quickly grew larger than the University town I currently live in.
Unfortunately, this all changed in 1952 when a major fire destroyed the brickyards. However, a few years prior the Hammond Fire Brick Company had once again exchanged hands following Hammond's death. The new owner did not have the talents Hammond had when it came to creating brick and his were not as durable. One has to wonder if the main failure of the town was due to the fire or the ineptness of the new owner. In any case, the town never recovered and in 5 years had become a ghost town. In 1965, the Southern Ohio Coal Company burnt what was left when they took over the land. This was to keep trespassers from harming themselves. And up until the 1990's Hammond continued to be the dumping ground for garbage and trash. So what fascinates me the most about what's left? Lets take a look.
Entering the Brick Yard
Apparently its takes more than flooding, fire, and the forces of the earth to completely destroy a double or triple bricked structure. This may say a lot for the Hammond fire bricks that were voted most durable at the Chicago World's Fair. Eventually these brick ruins may return to the earth but for the time being there is still a lot left to explore. Upon entering we found a lot of different brick that were stamped with town names such as Fairmont and Hammond. James was ready to pack them all out and home till he found out that they weigh approximately 15 lbs a piece.

Many walls, foundations and basements are still intact. James and I loved to run along the ruins and peek inside. Of course, Aaron reminded us that in a few more months as it gets warmer this becomes snake heaven. I can see why. I'd be a happy little snake amongst all that warm brick as well. Where one building ended another began. This was truly a brick city.
Amongst the structures, we found a beautiful arched bridge as well as a bricked street still intact.

Perhaps what was most fascinating for me was seeing where the old housing once existed for the workers. The housing had smaller foundations here and there that definitely set them apart from the large brick factory buildings. But what made them homes? ...the daffodil plants set around them. I tried to imagine the woman who had once planted her flowers, what she was thinking, and if she had thought this brick city and little bit of nature was as pretty as I did. When I return, I will be packing a small spade and a plastic bag. I want to bring some of those plants and some of that history home with me.

Our final destination on this journey ended at another breath taking beach. We took a few moments to breath in the fresh air, listen to the rushing water, and take a few more pictures.

There is still a lot more to explore but having a seven year old with us I worried about how much longer he could endure and this happening

Oh wait...


solsticedreamer~laoi gaul~williams said...

i have finally got round to catching up with your blog and it was like a big exciting history trip! i am like you~when i find odd bits of brick or pottery or old glass i start to think about where it came from, who owned it, its uses etc.

Jaime said...

We actually do have some of the bricks from Hammond in our gardens. Aaron has taken previous trips and collected them for me. He couldn't wait for me to see it. And I do exactly as you said - I love to look at the brick and wonder who made that particular one and so on.

I picked up some blue glass from an old medicine bottle while I was there and a few rocks as well.

Thanks for catching up with me.

Granny Sue said...

This was so interesting Jaime. I definitely have to go there. Your photos are excellent too. How did Aaron learn so much about the history of the town? I can see a great social studies fair project for James here.

Jaime said...

Aaron went fishing with a man who used to work the brickyards. That was a neat experience for him since he had so many questions.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

tacapollo said...

My partner and I have been down there several times. His brothers camp out there frequently on the "beach." The road getting there is hell, but it's worth the trip.
I've found most of the bricks in the river. I don't recall seeing the brick road, but there is a lot to see there. It's impossible to imagine from what remains that it was such a thriving community, but 70 years can bring a lot of changes.

Anonymous said...

im always down there but never knew where the brickyard was imm am very curious to kno???

Anonymous said...

if there is anyway to explain it i would be so gratefull

sabu said...

i live in marple stockport england, my house was built in about 1890, after doing some remedial works i found some HAMMOND BRICKS in the chimney si i googled to find this website!!

Anonymous said...

Ifound a brick marked fairmont,wv. interesting to find out where was made. I live in Braxton county,wv

Donald said...

When i was a kid my aunt lived downriver at Powell and we would walk the tracks up to Hammond. In the early seventies there were still a few derelict houses standing in Hammond.

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Patsy Dodd said...

Is this article about Hammond,WV11 from a history book? If so, where can I get it?

connie pirner said...

What are directions to Hammond? I'd like to visit.