Henry Hammond

Henry “Hank” Hammond, Annie Bender’s brother who came to Park County with their mother Hannah and brother William. (Photo courtesy of Doug Stiverson)

Annie Bender’s cousin George Hammond, her uncle James’s son, probably came with Annie’s mother Hannah and Annie’s brothers to Currant Creek in 1871.

Cousin George stayed in Colorado, mining near Leadville, and then had some retail businesses in Rocky Ford. Doug Stiverson loses track of George after 1910. (Stiverson is Annie’s great-great-grandson).

George’s brothers, Elijah and Henry H. Hammond, also came to Colorado. Henry eventually went on to help found the town of Delta. Elijah (Lige), settled for a time on the Bender Ranch on Currant Creek and eventually homesteaded the 31-Mile Ranch southwest of Guffey. Interestingly, today the ranch is an Air B&B and vacation rental.

Annie’s father, John Hammond, never visited Colorado and passed away, probably in Wisconsin, in 1873 or later. Annie’s uncle James did visit his children in Colorado, according to a Delta County newspaper article.

With the gathering of family and relatives in 1871 and 1872 on Currant Creek, the Bender-Hammond enclave was growing, eventually stretching a couple of miles along the creek.

John Bender went on to become a very prominent rancher in the area, South Park and Canon City. Bender was a member of the South Park Cattle Growers Association and the Fremont County Cattle Association.

The Bender Ranch (the old Moore place on Colorado Highway 9, northwest of Guffey) is one of the oldest ranches in Park County and has been in continuous operation up to the present day.

Small enclaves were popular and often became stops on the road and then towns. Families, relatives and friends homesteaded in an area together, allowing help, sharing and support for all. Homesteading and ranching are hard enough in the best of times.

With the arrival of his mother-in-law, Hannah Hammond, I’m sure John Bender welcomed the help of her two sons, his brothers-in-law, 15-year-old Henry (Hank) and 13-year-old William (Bill), building log cabins to house everyone.

The Bender Ranch must have been a lively and exciting place with stages stopping and exchanging teams of horses, incoming and outgoing mail, freight wagons coming and going, and just the general traffic along the Currant Creek Wagon Road.

Before the first official post office was established at Kester, sometime before 1877 at Job Kester Sweet’s place, there was a stage and freight stop, post office and store at the Benders’. It is listed on the 1872 general land office map of the area.

In a 1978 family history, Annie’s oldest grandchildren remembered Annie handling incoming and outgoing mail. Annie was a “very pretty small-framed woman that never walked, rather she trotted,” they remembered.

The 1870 United States Census lists only one residence between the head of Currant Creek at the pass downstream to where Freshwater Creek joins Currant Creek, that of Abraham and Sikka Scott. But the 1870s saw significant growth along the creek.

In 1872, to Anton and Catherine Artus, John Bender’s sister and husband, son Charles was born on Currant Creek. In 1874, John and Annie’s last child and first born at the ranch, Hannah Elizabeth, was born at Kester. In 1875, Emma was born to Anton and Catherine, and Julia was born to them in 1879.

Hannah Elizabeth is Stiverson’s great-grandmother. Stiverson’s grandmother Hazel Elizabeth Adams was the last family member born at the ranch, in 1902. Stiverson has been invaluable in supplying family history and pictures for these articles.

William H. Beery arrived at the head of the creek, and Job Kester Sweet, William Bainbridge White, Benjamin Reuben Dell, Olaf and Charles Davis and Peter Allstrum all settled farther down the stream in the 1870s.

In 1877 the post office moved from Sweet’s one-half mile downstream to White’s store. White’s homestead, 1882, also had the Currant Creek Pioneer Cemetery on the property.

It is interesting to note that one could not legally apply for a federal homestead under the 1862 Homestead Act until the area had been officially surveyed. Before that, squatter’s rights applied.

Squatter’s rights were a claim to public land that might be granted to a person who openly possessed and continuously occupied that land without legal authority for a prescribed number of years, according to the Random House Dictionary.

This might explain why many homesteads were proofed up, a process that took five years, sometimes a lot later than when the homesteader had arrived in the area. This area of Currant Creek was surveyed between July 1872 and October 1879.

The 1872 map lists Beery’s 39-Mile Ranch House near the pass, a store at Bender’s Ranch, two houses and a school at the townsite of Kester (never platted) which was later Hank Hammond’s homestead (Annie’s brother) 1894. The witnesses for the proof of Hank’s homestead were John Bender, Martin Bender, W.J. Hammond (Bill) of Balfour, and W.F. McClure of Fairplay.

The old Rowe map lists that same site as the Kester Post Office and stage station, saying that it later became the Henry and William J. Hammond homestead and Hammond Post Office. Since there were so many Hammonds in the area, Kester was often referred to as Hammond.

Interestingly, although there were a lot of Hammonds there, the only Bender to come to Colorado was John’s sister Catherine Bender Artus and her husband and children. They moved to South Dakota, though, in 1881.

John’s brother Martin Andreaus Bender remained in Wisconsin, married Henrietta Laper in 1860, and had 11 children between 1861 and 1883. Sadly, one died at only five days old in 1876. Andreaus died in Wisconsin in 1894 and is buried there, along with John’s parents Johann and Anna.

Hannah Hammond, Annie’s mother, proofed her homestead in 1881, and son-in-law John proofed his first 160 acres in 1882 and his second in 1892. Bender also had a 40-acre parcel on the south side of White’s where 34-Mile Creek (nonexistent today, just a dry gulch) joined Currant Creek. The 1892 homestead is where Bender built the ranch house that still stands inhabited today, known as the Moore place.

John and Annie’s son Martin proofed his homestead in 1901, and their daughter Hannah Elizabeth proofed her homestead in 1903. Hank Hammond, Annie’s brother, acquired three more 160-acre parcels, a homestead in 1921 and two in 1925 as homestead stockraising.

Despite the United States financial panic of 1873, a plague of locusts in 1874 and a plague of grasshoppers in 1876, the South Park cattlemen and the haying industry survived, and by the 1900 census, the population in the upper Currant Creek area had exploded.

There were then eight residences between Beery’s homestead at the pass and Scott’s at Freshwater Creek. These included the Benders, Hammonds, Anton Artus, Nathan Munn, Leander Smith and family, Job Sweet, William White and Reuben Benjamin Dell.

In 1880, John Bender is listed as a stockraiser and his brother-in-law Anton as a farmer. Registers of voters on Currant Creek in 1880 include John Bender, Anton Artus and William White, with the election held at White’s place.

The 1880 census had Annie’s brother Bill Hammond living with their mother Hannah next door to Annie and John. Annie’s brother Hank was living in Gothic, now a high-altitude biological laboratory, located near Crested Butte, but he returned to Currant Creek by 1885.

Lige Hammond, Annie’s cousin, was living at John and Annie’s ranch in 1880. In February 1886, Lige married Miss Ida Lloyd in Kester with John Bender officiating. Lige proofed up his homestead in 1892, the 31-Mile Ranch, which was adjacent to his father-in-law, William C. Lloyd’s, homestead, 1890, on the side of Baldy Mountain, southwest of Guffey.

William Lloyd (1832-1929) and wife Jane Prichart (1847-1907) headed west in a prairie schooner from Nebraska City, Neb. in March 1866, when their first child Ida was but nine days old; what a journey that must have been.

The Lloyds spent some time in the Denver area and four years in South Park before heading to Leadville at the height of the boom days there.

By 1870 they were in Saguache County and 1880, William was listed as a watchmaker in Canon City. In the 1885 Colorado census the Lloyds were in South Park.

William and Jane’s son, William Albert, 1878-79, was the first and youngest recorded burial in the CCPC. Interestingly, William C. was the last and oldest recorded burial in the CCPC. William’s wife Jane and daughter Margaret were both buried in the CCPC.

Lige and Ida lived in the Black Mountain area southwest of Guffey on their 31-Mile Ranch homestead from the late 1880s until after 1910. This homestead is where the original Currant Creek Wagon Road crossed 31-Mile Creek between 1860-1880.

Lige discovered some copper on his father-in-law’s ranch in 1906, but nothing came of it.

In 1920 Lige and Ida went to Canon City, and Lige became a prison guard. Lige died in 1928 and Ida died in 1951. Both were buried in the Lakeside Cemetery.

Lige was a member of the Elk’s Club, and he and Ida are considered among the 100-200 pioneers of Fremont County.

Meanwhile, back on Currant Creek … to be continued.

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