Historical records matching Edden Hammons
About Edden Hammons
First part of Article MT070 - from Musical Traditions No 10, Spring 1992, "Edden Hammons, Portrait of a West Virginia Fiddler"
Although he died some thirty years ago, Edden Hammons has not been forgotten. He is considered by many to have been one of the finest traditional West Virginia fiddlers of all time, and tales of his musical exploits and eccentric lifestyle flourish among the inhabitants of mountainous east central West Virginian, where he lived from about 1874 to 1955. As Fleischhauer and Jabbour's study The Hammons Family  has revealed, Edden was just one of an extremely dynamic mountain clan that migrated into West Virginia from Kentucky at the advent of the Civil War. Like nearly all of the Hammons men, Edden's father, Jesse, was a renowned 'woodsman', as he was labelled by a 1900 federal census taker, and vivid descriptions of his lifestyle and exploits survive in both memory and print. To neighbour and journalist Andrew Price, old Jesse epitomised mountaineer life.
In West Virginia, the fur [far] Mountains are the ones that rise to majestic heights and are clothed in the sombre hues of the spruce. Some idea of this wilderness can be obtained from the experience of Jesse Hammonds, a patriarchal hunter and trapper living in this forest.
When the war clouds began to lower on his house in the fifties, Hammonds refugeed from Kentucky, seeking a safe retreat, and settled on Williams River, and for thirteen years not a stranger darkened his door. The great Civil War was fought without his knowing anything about it. The county, Webster, in which he lived, formed an independent government, neither recognising the North nor the South, and elected a governors and is still referred to in State conventions as the 'Independent State of Webster'.
Old Jesse raised a large family of sons, who took to the woods and lived the life of the Indian. Their wives and children raised a little corn, but the men pride themselves on the fact that they never worked and never will. They know the woods thoroughly and are the best of hunters and fishers, dig ginseng and find bee trees. They are a thorn in the flesh of the sportsmen, for they kill to sell, and last year when the headwaters of Williams River showed good results from the planting of a hundred thousand Government trout, they spent the summer fishing for these small trout to sell to the lumber camps. They owe their immunity to the fact that they have held possession of the lands of a big land company and know the corner trees and would be invaluable were its titles ever attacked.
Like the Indians the Hammonds of Bug Run have been forced on until they are now located in the fringe of woods in the south side of the tract and can go no farther.
I one time saw Neal Hammonds kill a deer. We were walking down the river from our camp at the mouth of Tea Creek deer hunting. Just as we reached the stand at the Big Island a fawn jumped into the river in a panic of fear, fleeing from its stepfather, no doubt, and once on the other side the little fellow hit the runway as fair as if a pack of hounds were after it. I took no action, but Neal threw his rifle into position and shot the top of the fawn's head off as it ran. It fell dead and proved to be an unusually large buck fawn.
The Hammonds are not educated, except in woods lore. They may know that there are such accomplishments as reading or writing, but these they have never hankered after. Yet one of the boys, Edn, is a great musician. His artistic temperament has made more or less a dreamer of him and detracted from his ability as a bear hunter. He takes to the calmer joys of fishing and 'sang' digging, and he repudiates the idea that his name is Edwin or possibly Edmund and gravely informs you that his name is simply 'Edn, an' nothin' elst'.
Edn's first attempt in music was with a fiddle made from a gourd. He progressed and he secured a store bought fiddle and there is no disputing the fact that he can draw exquisite harmonies from this. He has composed several melodies and he has given them names, the most notable one being called 'Hannah Gatting fish!' He explained the music to me one time and I must confess that it seemed as real to me as any high grade composition. I recorded it, one day when Edn came to my house on a blank wax gramophone disc and have reproduced it often since, down to the resounding patting of the violinist's foot on the floor. A man from Pittsburg told me it was very fine and expressive, and that he believed it to be an entirely new and original piece of music. 
- 1. Carl Fleischhauer and Alan Jabbour, eds. The Hammons Family: A Study of a West Virginia Family's Traditions (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1973).
- 2. Pocahontas Times (Marlinton), July 5, l906, p.l,
The rest of this considerably longer article available at the original website.
Additional webpages, with thanks to Delford Chaffin: