George Arthur Hammond
George Arthur Hammond (poet, dramatist, and postmaster) was born on 30 October 1817 at Upper Kingsclear to Archelaus Hammond Jr. and his wife Elizabeth Close. His grandfather, Archelaus Hammond, was a pre-Loyalist who settled in Gagetown. In the 1780s the family lost their land in Gagetown to Loyalist settlers and moved to Upper French Village, Kingsclear (Rigby n.p.). Archelaus Hammond Jr. was a very religious man who was strict with family discipline (Family Histories n.p.). This upbringing influenced Hammond, and is evident in his disciplined nature and preoccupation with God and Christianity.
Hammond was involved in his community and tried to accommodate and serve the community as much as possible. He opened a general store that he ran on his own for fifty-five years and in his later years worked in partnership with his nephew Hebert Smith. Near his general store he built a hall with a tower and bell which he opened to the public for community gatherings. He was also the first postmaster in his small area, which became known as “Hammondville.” He kept this position for over fifty years (“Forgotten” n.p.). He was also one of the founders of the First Baptist Church at Kingsclear and an active member, acting as the treasurer and clerk for over twenty-five years (“Geo. A.” n.p.).
Hammond had less than a “common school education” and devoted the little spare time he had to educating himself. He learned the Bible by heart and was considered one of the most knowledgeable biblical students of his time (“Forgotten” n.p.). His knowledge and interest in the Bible became the basis for most of his writing. In his later years he became versed in Hebrew (“Forgotten” n.p.). Hammond was also interested in genealogy; he put together a family history, which unfortunately has not been found (Family Histories n.p.).
Hammond’s writing was marked by his own ontological theories. For example, he believed that the English were actually descendants of one of the lost tribes of Israel. He reportedly read in a newspaper that Queen Victoria had been presented with an olive tree by a friend in Jerusalem and after it was transplanted at Windsor Castle it produced twelve blossoms (“Forgotten” n.p.). He connected the twelve blossoms with the twelve lost tribes of Israel and used the idea as the theme for a poem he wrote at the time of the Queen’s Jubilee in 1887 (“Forgotten” n.p.). In his poetic drama The Crowning Test, which takes place in twelve scenes, his interest in the twelve lost tribes of Israel appears at the end of the text in a dialogue between Adam and Eve:
ADAM. In twelve proud cities of the teeming earth,
In twelve rich temples, twelve apostles sit,
Judging the Twelve vast Tribes of ISRAEL. (92)
In his play Jassoket and Anemon: A Ramble, his scepticism of science arises when he questions how biologists come up with their theories. In the first scene Jassoket describes a biologist as being “stuffed with crude dreams” and Anemon wonders if the biologist’s “visions and imaginary flights occur while he is sleeping” (Jassoket and Anemon 13). This indicates that Hammond views science as something subordinate to creation.
Hammond was inspired by Gutenberg’s struggle to print the Bible in Latin using moveable type and set to work collecting second-hand parts to create his own printing press (“Forgotten” n.p.). His press was “built of wood with a bed covered with sheet zinc, and resting on supports about three feet in height. The ink was supplied by a hand roller and impressions were taken by means of a wooden lever” (“Forgotten”). Using this press Hammond produced ten volumes of poetry, each book bound by hand (“Forgotten”).
Three consistent preoccupations in Hammond’s writing include Biblical allusion, nature, and death. L.M.B. Maxwell wrote that “Hammond’s morbid philosophy was lightened by his sense of beauty in nature” (31). Hammond’s allegory, The Lake of Tears, is an example of this. The allegory is about a boy who has fallen ill and is eventually ripped from his mother by death. At first the mother is gripped by grief and denial but then finds peace and acceptance in knowing that it was God’s will for the boy to die and he is now safe in heaven (A Triad 10-57). In these lines he uses metaphor and simile to compare death and nature:
And the wind—wild Harper! Plays.
He is wandering among tree tops boon,
And sings in a world of strife;
Playing a mournful, mournful tune
About death and the future life:
How the rich leaves pass, how we must pass,
Pass like the flowers and the leaves. (16)
Hammond perfectly captures the mother’s state of grief in these lines:
Great drops obscure the mother’s eyes,
More blanched her bloodless cheeks;
She sighs—no words can tell those sighs,
She weeps—that weeping speaks. (20)
Hammond imagines the lake of tears allegorically as the “sea of gathered tears, where the dead and the dying meet,” and then he gives a further description of it:
This is the sea of human tears,
Where pride takes down its sail,
When the pale low sun of wasted years,
Is hid by the misty veil. (24)
Hammond did not receive any major awards for his writing, nor did he attempt with much vigour to sell his books. He preferred giving his books away as gifts (“Forgotten” n.p.). His dedication to his church, however, was commemorated with a stained glass window (Family Histories 11).
The name of Hammond’s printing press, “Lahstok,” was the aboriginal people’s name for the River St. John (Maxwell 31). That name was the only indication in his writing of the homeland to which he was so dedicated. He spent his long life of ninety-two years in Kingsclear where he died at his home on 12 August 1910. Hammond had no children and was survived by his widow Emily Smith (“Geo. A.”).
St. Thomas University
bibliography of primary sources
Hammond, George Arthur. The Crowning Test: A Drama. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstoq Rustic Press, 1901.
---. Eighteen Basic Questions, Also, An Inquiry. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstoq Rustic Press, 1905.
---. Final: Various Poems. Kingsclear, NB: n.p., 1908.
---. The Harp. N.p.: n.p., 1869.
---. Jassoket and Anemon: A Ramble. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Publishing House, 1896.
---. The Pillar of Witness. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Publishing House, 1899.
---. Rayon: An Idyllic Vagary. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Publishing House, 1898.
---. The Recluse: A Canzonet. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Publishing House, 1893.
---. A Serenade. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Rural Press, 1888.
---. Starborn, The Conjurer. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstoq Rustic Press, 1903.
---. The Stork, Flying Eastward. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Rural Press, 1887.
---. A Triad. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Rural Press, 1888.
---. The Two Offerings: A Drama. Kingsclear, NB: Lahstok Pub. Co., 1890.
Bibliography of secondary sources
Family Histories Collection. N.d. TS. MC 1/ Hammond. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.
“A Forgotten New Brunswick Poet.” Telegraph Journal 5 May 1936. Microform. F3867. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.
“Geo. A. Hammond Has Passed Away: Death at Kingsclear of One of Best Known Men on the St. John River.” The Daily Gleener 13 Aug. 1910. Microform. F2924. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.
Maxwell, L.M.B. The River St. John and Its Poets. Sackville, NB: The Tribune Press Limited, 1947.
Rigby, Ann. General Inventory: Manuscript Poems of George Arthur Hammond. 1981. TS. MC 263, Acc.M70.50. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.