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Samuel H. Hammond, an educated lawyer, found himself entrapped by the mysteries of the North Woods; The Adirondack Mountains.

His books are meticulously written, entertaining and thoughtful. However, a lack of renderings such as sketches, engravings and photos allowed people to pass over his books.

The following is a rare sketch in a Hammond book. It was done by Nathaniel Orr who sketched many North Woods scenes before his death.

 Deer Goring Man and DogDeer Gores Man as Dog Protects

The confusion of stag, man and dog, all embroiled together was well thought out by Nathaniel Orr. But this story is not about Orr; it is about Hammond and his books, and his observations of the North Woods before the Civil War.

I have two of his books stored in my favorite library; that old tin tea cabinet that I got from one lodge or another. It had a few dings on it and the red paint was peeling off. But you could still see the hand-lettered word “TEA” on the lid. I had no idea why they no longer wanted it. I sure had use for it. It keeps the mice out of my treasured books, pictures, maps and fancy engraved advertisements.

Here, let me dig the older book out. I liked this book but then I read the second one and found I could not make up my mind which one I liked more.

It is sort of like those two sisters, you know, the daughters of Pineaux the guide? They were both pretty and liked to flash their eyes when Pineaux was not watching. I liked them both.

Here, here is Hammonds first book.

Book Front

See right there at the bottom? 1855. That was when he wrote the first book. I liked the way he described what he saw.

In this book he wandered around the northwest corner of New York State before he got to writing about this area. But see how nice he starts out with Ausable Forks?

Page 298 Ausable Forks jpeg

Hammond caught the whole village on one page. You could almost smell the iron forges and see the “bloomers” whose task was to make those puddled blooms of iron. I could smell the horses and hear the teamsters driving them. He even shows us how the lumbermen tucked their trousers into their boots so that the black flies and the ticks and the twigs and the wood chips could not find a path to their boots.

Who, besides Hammond, could find a way to let us hear the lumberman’s axe “waging war and hurling” the pines to the earth. He captured the chips flying and the crashing of those old virgin pines through the underbrush and to the forest floor.

And look here on the next page. He has those lumbermen driving their logs on the river.

Page 299

I was starting to get an idea that old Hammond liked the people as much as the woods. He has a heart for the poor minor who has been digging iron from morning until night. I think I am correct about that because I have the advantage of knowing about his next book.

He minces no words about the clear cutting of the area between the Ausable and the Saranac Rivers. And if that wasn’t enough the “great forest fire” finished it off.

Page 300

We have to get to Hammond’s other book to understand what I tried to tell you earlier. You know, the part about him having an interest in the people as well as the woods.

Before I dig out that book, which was written two years later, let me tell you something about old Hammond.

I need a pipe full before we get into that. Hand me that old leather sack. I keep some tobacco in there that I bought from a “sport” at Jock’s Lake. It has a nice aroma that I think you might like. Very pungent. Trouble is – – – it bites my tongue. I only use it a few times a week before I go back to the stuff I grow myself.

You seen my matches? – – – Oh, yeh, there. Thanks. Once I get this stuff lit it usually stays lit.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, Hammond. He came from Hammondsport on the canal. His old man was the mayor. Young Hammond, he wasn’t born there; just grew up there. Went to school in Plattsburgh and then learned law in Angelica.

Angelica must have been a fine place back then. There were generals and French ladies living there.

What French Ladies? Well I never met any French ladies other than the Pineaux sisters. But I have it on good authority, old man Smith himself, that a royalty from France lived there. Madame D’Autremont or something like that came to America at the start of the French Revolution. She lived in Chenango County for a short period and then moved to the “French Asylum” in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Then after her son returned to France with some high placed fellow called Tallyrand.

Interesting story but I drifted again didn’t I. Sorry.

Where was – – – yes, Hammond. Well he did good by his father; made him very proud. Young Hammond learned the law and did a lot of cases in central New York. Was an editor for a newspaper for some time. Very busy fellow that Hammond was. Finally retired in Watertown.

That second book of his – – – I know I have it here. Probably at the bottom of the tea cabinet. Yep, there it is. I know I didn’t lend it out. I don’t lend out anymore. Not since that city slicker newspaper guy ran off with one of my “Seneca Ray Stoddard” books.

See? Just like I said. Two years later; 1857.

vr030005

So what was I saying about Hammond and his second book. Oh yes. He loved the woods and the sounds and the people at work. He seemed to be amazed about the work that they did. But then in his second book he got a little philosophical. Started wondering about what made people tick. Why did John do this and Joe hardly did anything? Those were the type of questions he was asking.

I was always amazed at how he asked the questions. I kept a few cigarette papers in the pages that I wanted to go back to. Yes, there is the spot right there.

page 273 blog ready

Here is where I think that Hammond is laying his own thoughts on Spalding’s shoulders. I think that that these are Hammond’s thoughts. Why? Because of the length and breadth of the conversation that Hammond relates. See how it continues?

page 274 blog ready

So here is where Hammond leaves the beauty of the North Woods and enters its mysteries. Oh yes, there is the mystery of the wolf’s howl and the clouds that cover the moon, the mystery of why the loon cries out for companionship, the mystery of another set of footprints in the sand along a stream. But the mystery of man and what he makes, or does not make, of himself seems to dwell in Hammonds mind.

page 275 blog ready

You can see why Hammond became a prosecutor. He had to seperate good from evil.

And Hammond goes on for several pages.

My fondest wish is to have read all the books and all the newspapers and spoken to all the great men who have entered these woods. I have read some and spoken to some. One of them told me that Hammond was ahead of his time.

When I asked that man why he would say such a thing he pointed out the section where Hammond, or someone Hammond alludes to quoting;

“Or were men thrown lose upon the currents of life, to take their chances of good and evil, to be virtuous or vile, according to the influences upon which they were floating, to be fortunate or otherwise, as the means of the advancing themselves drifted within their reach.”

The same fellow told me about another European named Kierkegaard and how he thought that the most basic man was also a gem in disguise. It is almost like Hammond was saying the same thing about “his men” as they were bathing and cursing and shouting in their joy of simply being human beings.

Anyway a city fellow dropped in to say hello to me the other day. He had a New York Times newspaper with him. He thought I would like to read the following about Hammond’s death.

Parital obit NY TIMES

You see! Hammond was a great fellow but seemed to like everyone, intelligent or dull, good or evil, well-read or ignorant. He just liked people and he liked to study them.

Of all the city people that came to visit me I still have regrets that Hammond was not one of them.

I guess if he didn’t even get out on the city streets of Watertown I could not expect him to visit me in the depths of the North Woods.

Tahawas and Tomosky c

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