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Published July 5th 2017
Do you dare to visit after dark?
Shady Verandah of the Hammond Hotel Flinders Ranges, South Australia
People seem to have a consuming interest in ghost towns in Australia. I'm not sure whether it's the stark images of desolation, a ghoulish curiosity how abandoned places come about, or a morbid fixation on the lives of long-gone people. Regardless, these long forgotten towns hold an intense fascination, and it's rewarding to discover how they came to be derelict and deserted.
Hammond was a small settlement in South Australia in the southern Flinders Ranges, formed when the huge Coonatta station was broken up for farming in 1879. Located 315 kilometres from Adelaide, this remote community north of Goyder's Line was inevitably doomed to disappear. It is now one of many ghost towns of South Australia in the Flinders Ranges.
Map of Hammond, Hundred of Coonatto in 1879 (Image:State Library South Australia)
From the earliest days, the future looked rosy. The drought of the 1860's was but a distant memory, land for farming was in short supply, and Bill Jacka built the Hammond Hotel which was supplied by Jacka's Brewery at Melrose. The Hammond Hotel served the town well, only closing its doors after 115 years in business.
By 1880 the Hammond post office was opened for business, 200 people attended the first Hammond races held by the Jockey Club in 1881, and seven years later nearly 600 people joined in the excitement. It's significant that attendance in 1888 was not as high as expected due to rain the night before and on the day. By the 1890's drought was hitting Hammond farmers hard again. Even this was not enough to suppress spirits, with the Hammond Amateur Dramatic Society holding a variety concert to benefit the construction of an assembly hall in 1891.
East West Express at Hammond Railway Station ca 1920 (Image: Lionel Noble Collection)
In 1882 the Peterborough to Quorn railway had been completed, providing a daily train service to Adelaide, and connections to Broken Hill and Port Pirie. The railway line from Peterborough through Hammond to Quorn remained in operation carrying freight for around 100 years. Even after this time, occasional trains ran from Steamtown in Peterborough to the town of Quorn, where the Pichi Richi Explorer is based.
Hammond Farmers Reaping Crops 1884 (Image: State Library SA B11944)
Hammond residents continued to work hard and the Bank of Adelaide came to town in 1883. A teller departing to another branch was frequently reported in the newspaper. The spiritual needs of Catholics were satisfied when St Dominic's Catholic Church in Hammond opened in 1907, and Catholic picnics were held annually, with the Catholic Southern Cross newspaper available from WP Case General Store. The church is still standing, although the last service was held in 2006. Like in other abandoned places, other churches also opened but are now long gone.
Abandoned W.P Case General Store in Hammond Ghost Town
The Hammond water supply dried out for months in 1911, a bad omen for the future of this ghost town in the southern Flinders Ranges. By 1924 the population of Hammond was 319 - later peaking at 600. Most landowners were farmers, railway workers or store keepers. Hammond Primary School educated the children, and a Resident Justice kept citizens in line.
The god-fearing folk of Hammond continued their hard labour through the harsh climate extremes of the desolate Flinders Ranges as the population steadily declined.
In 1948 a government survey on the marginal lands concluded: The population of marginal districts has declined 31% in the last decade, and the committee considers that further depopulation is inevitable. They were right. The decline went one stage further in 1963, when Hammond alone lost another half-dozen families. They said they could no longer afford to live there because their children needed better schooling. The following year it was announced that the school itself was to close.
Today the few inhabitants of Hammond are virtually invisible. I saw no people. No cars. No dogs barked. A chill wind blew as I foraged through the bare skeleton of Hammond and its abandoned buildings with my dogs.
Abandoned Places: Hammond Hotel on the Willochra Plain
The residents are fiercely protective of their place, with "Private Property" signs bristling on abandoned places and buildings. But as I stood at the crossroads of the main street, with roads in four directions, nobody made their presence known.
Ruins of Abandoned Buildings Near Hammond Cemetery
Today Hammond is destined to become another of the desolate ghost towns in Australia. Like other ghost towns in the beautiful Flinders Ranges of South Australia, Hammond was always borderline for farming. The loss of a regular train service to Adelaide must have been another nail in the coffin, and like the ghost town of Terowie, Hammond streets now are empty.
This Disused Railway Station at Hammond Will Never See Another Train
These buildings are not abandoned as you suggest but owned and maintained by their owners. There are residents in Hammond and the surrounding areas, just because you didn't see anyone standing at the cross roads in the moment that you stood there doesn't mean that this place is uninhabited and left to ruin. The hall is still active, as is the committee and still holds annual events. Or did your research not extend that far.
I used to stay in Hammond when I was a small child as mt fathers mate used to own the Bank of Adelaide and turned it into a Museum (this was mid 1980's).
We used to also go and visit a local Artist who lived on a Cattle Station there, his name was Charles Bannon and a very lovely fella.
Time flies but the town is as I remember it.