The land of Mattapoisett, being part of the original Plymouth County, has a deep and rich history rooted further back than the first Thanksgiving. Some explorers’ records of the area date back to the early 1600s, with many European settlements speckling the landscape throughout that century.
One of those settlements belonged to the Hammond family, a lineage that runs complete with the history of the town.
“The Hammonds are one of the oldest families of the original Plymouth Colony,” said Seth Mendell of the Mattapoisett Historical Society. “When they came down, they settled down along the Mattapoisett Neck area of town.”
But the history of the Hammonds does not begin in Mattapoisett. According to genealogical records compiled in Burke’s Landed Gentry, Vol. I, “The family of Hammond is of considerable antiquity in England, and it probably may have derived its origin from a branch of the Norman House of St. Amand.” The first known instance of the family could date back to the days of William the Conqueror in 1066, when the name may have been “Hamon” or “Hamond.”
It wasn’t until almost 700 years later that the Hammonds would establish themselves as one of the first families of Mattapoisett.
The first definite historical reference to Mattapoisett dates back to 1640-1641. Governor Bradford had surrendered the majority of the land of Plymouth Colony to free men who were looking to establish European settlements in the area. Mattapoisett was divided into 16 parcels of land, three of which were immediately purchased and settled by the Dexters, the Barlows and the Hammonds.
“I think the Hammonds were actually the first to purchase their land near the river,” said Mendell.
Branches of the Hammond family had been established in the New World dating as far back as 1607 in areas near Virginia and Maryland. In 1632, William Hammond arrived in Boston and settled in Watertown. Two years later, the rest of his family immigrated to America.
That same year, another part of the family settled in Massachusetts, consisting of Elizabeth Penn Hammond, widow to William of London (who never set foot in the New World), and her children Benjamin, Elizabeth, Martha and Rachel. While nothing is known about her three daughters, Benjamin would eventually beget the specific branch of the family that ultimately settled Mattapoisett.
Benjamin Hammond chose to settle in Sandwich, where he met and married his wife, Mary Vincent, in 1650. They would go on to have several children, among them: Samuel, John, and Benjamin, Jr.
In 1680, Benjamin’s sons Samuel and John relocated from Sandwich to Rochester, which encompassed the present-day town of the same name, as well as sections of Mattapoisett and Marion.
It was at that time the Hammond family purchased their parcel of land in what was known to the Native Americans as “Mattapoisett,” a word that was said to mean “a place of resting.”
The Hammonds did anything but rest once they established their homestead. Samuel would go on to become a founder of the First Church of Rochester, located in what is now Marion.
In the process, he settled four of his own sons in the area: Seth, Josiah, Barnabas and Jedediah. The land was once owned by Hugh Cole of Swansey, who purchased it directly from “King Philip,” or “Metacomet,” as he was known to his Native American brethren.
Samuel’s brother, John, eventually became a public official, acting as representative to the Province Court.
“The Hammonds really got the ball rolling in town as far as getting things established,” said Mendell.
Benjamin Hammond, Jr. was appointed official special surveyor for the town of Dartmouth in 1723 and was responsible for over half of the 500 drawings of the lands of Rochester, compiled into a single volume that is still available at the Plymouth County Courthouse. It is this Hammond and his family who are the namesakes of Hammondtown area of Mattapoisett.
In the 20th century, though, the Hammonds have played quieter roles in their communities and have spread to all corners of the country.
“My grandfather came over [from England] around the early 1900s,” said Bill Hammond of Lakeville. “He was a glassblower out in Sandwich most of his life.”
“We have relatives in Boston, out in Ohio, and California, I think,” said Cape resident Carol Hammond. “We even have a chef in the family who lives on Nantucket.”
In the grand scheme, members of the Hammond clan dot historical records of all sorts. From sea captains to farmers, town clerks to Revolutionary War figures, the Hammonds have played vital roles in the formation of Mattapoisett as a settlement and were pivotal in the creation of its history.
By Eric Tripoli