Settled comfortably between two major cities, Atlantic City and Philadelphia, is Hammonton, the Blueberry Capital of the world. Close enough to catch a glimpse of the city action, yet far enough to immerse oneself completely in the wilderness of the Pine Barrens; Hammonton truly is the Hub of South Jersey. A beautiful, close-knit community where many wonderful families and individuals uphold their values and strive for a better future, though never forgetting their roots or the long journey it took to make Hammonton what it is today: the place we love and call home. This is our story.
In 1812, the area that would be Hammonton was mostly wilderness, with the exception of a saw mill. The saw mill was run by William Coffin in agreement with its owner, John Coates. Coffin bought out Coates and then partnered with a man named Johnathan Haines. Together they built a glass factory and established themselves as a merchant stop on the road from Camden to Leeds Point and along the Mullica River.
Hammonton is named for one of Coffin’s sons, John Hammond Coffin. What began as “Hammondton” later evolved into what we have today, minus the “d”. (FYI: Coffin’s other son Edward Winslow Coffin went on to found, you guessed it: Winslow!) Hammonton remained a tiny settlement until two men from Philadelphia, Charles K. Landis and Richard J. Byrnes partnered and began selling land. The first home from these land sales was built on what is now Central Avenue.
On July 1, 1854, the Camden and Atlantic Railroad ran its first train between Camden and Atlantic City. The arrival of the Hammonton Railroad Station in 1858 brought more settlers and Hammonton grew in size and industry. The settlers were from mostly English descent. Blacksmiths, brick layers, carpenters, farmers, and more joined together and contributed their skills to help one another, and the town, prosper. The new settlers were from varied religious backgrounds. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Catholics established their places of worship. Recreational activities were held at the Hammonton Lake Park and, like today, the town hosted a waterfront July 4th celebration.
Originally a part of Mullica, Hammonton officially became a town in 1866. The Hammonton Town Council was established. That same year, Hammontonians hosted The Grand Strawberry Exhibition, which drew visitors from as far as New York and put Hammonton on the map for agriculture. Strawberries and Sweet Potatoes were the two biggest crops. Blueberry farming didn’t begin until much later. During this time, Hammonton was home to four schools, though each was only one room! Clearly, Hammonton has been focused on education from the beginning.
In the early 1860’s Hammonton received a large influx of Italian immigrants. In 1875, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was celebrated for the first time by twelve individuals who formed a small procession in front of a home on Pine Road. With the construction of St. Joseph’s Church in 1887, the celebration grew. The Mt. Carmel Society received its charter in 1905. The late 1800’s brought us our first town hall, protected us from fire with the establishment of Hammonton Volunteer Fire Company No.1 and Independent Volunteer Fire Co. No. 2, and had everyone talking with the arrival of Delaware and Atlantic Telephone and Telegraph Company. The Hammonton Electric Light and Power Company brought us light.
The early 1900’s paved the way for concrete sidewalks, a water plant, the introduction of the gas industry, and a completed sewer system. The manufacturing industry made great progress. William B. Kessler, Inc. was just one of the many garment manufacturers that kept town residents stepping out in style. Arena Auto Service, Bruno Oil Company, and South Jersey Laundry were founded. Hammonton Public Schools and St. Joseph’s organized their P.T.A’s. We organized our Police Department and founded the V.F.W., the Hammonton Rescue Squad, and the Hammonton Branch of the Atlantic County Library. The Rivoli Theatre on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and Third Street was showing motion pictures. We crowned our first Peach Queen and again everyone was talking. This time it was through New Jersey Bell Telephone.
By 1950, Hammontonians had laid the foundation for a promising future. In the decades that followed, we continued to expand economically with the openings of Whitehall Laboratories, Deer Park Baking Company, and several banks. Although some of these companies have since moved on, Hammonton continues to be a promising location for business. St. Martin de Porres established their parish. Agriculturally, blueberries became the big crop. The town’s first Blueberry Festival was first held in 1953. We even crowned a Blueberry Queen! And this time when everyone was talking, it was on the first dial service!
Our lives are centered around and shaped by our community. What began as a tiny settlement around a saw mill has grown into a thriving town. Today Hammonton is home to two wonderful schools, several places of worship, a multitude of successful businesses, a blueberry festival, and a feast. Our people come from diverse backgrounds, yet we share a commonality: we are proud to be Hammontonians. Together we will look to the future and strive to make Hammonton better than ever!