Many of our roads are named after early settlers. In this series, we are exploring early residents whose surnames adorn maps and road signs. Today, Hamm Road is featured.
Hamm Road runs east from Transit to Beattie Avenue. Early settlers on this road were Edwin Shelton, a farmer from Connecticut, and Nathan Preisch, a shoemaker and farmer from Pennsylvania. Both families had settled on this lane before 1852. Just south of the road, on Transit, was an extensive farm owned by Thomas Peirson, a Quaker farmer from England.
Around the same time, about 1850, Sebastian Hamm immigrated from Germany to Niagara County, settling in Pendleton. He worked as a mason and farmer.
His son, Jacob J. Hamm, had a much shorter move from Pendleton to Lockport. On April 11, 1891, Jacob purchased the Peirson farm on Transit Road, just south of what would soon become known as Hamm Road. His farm, named J.J. Hamm & Sons, included cattle, sheep and horses. Jacob was a well-regarded horseman.
Two of Jacob’s sons, Carl and Edward, continued the Transit Road farming tradition. Carl and his wife, Irene Gaul, took over the Peirson-Hamm farm.
On April 28, 1942, a fire ravaged the farm; the historic 40-by-60-foot barn and milkhouse were destroyed. Several cows perished in the blaze.
Carl and Irene moved northward to Burt a few years later. He became building superintendent of the Newfane Central School.
Edward, better known as Ed, was a well-known cattle and horse dealer. He owned extensive property on the north side of Hamm Road, the south side of Strauss Road, and the east side of Transit Road just south of his brother’s farm. Ed and his wife Pearl Stevenson lived on the Transit Road property.
Ed became involved in real estate and was instrumental in the early development of the Transit Road area.
Another early resident of the area was Leander Snelgrove. Leander, better known as Lee, owned the corner of Hamm and Locust Street. He was originally from Ontario, Canada; he moved to New York to serve in the army during the Civil War. Later, his son Linus then grandson William (Bill) took ownership of the land. Bill and his wife Mary Sue built their own home on the road in the 1950s. They dug the foundation themselves and lived in a camper on the property until their home was completed. At this time Hamm Road, which was still a dirt lane, was largely farmland comprised of cornfields and pasture. Often roads would be named after the family who owned the most acreage or frontage on a road. Bill once remarked if only his family owned more land, it would have been known as Snelgrove Road.
On the north corner of Hamm and Transit Road was a district school affectionately known as the Cobblestone School. (Although it was not the only cobblestone school in the town.) The school was built about 1847 after its plot was purchased by “trustees of joint school district number 9 in the town of Lockport and Pendleton.”
The school closed on June 18, 1953, shortly before the final district consolidation during the 1956-1957 school year. Many of the schools were sold to private individuals and made into homes. The Cobblestone School was auctioned off in 1954, then sold again in 1956, and made into a private residence.
Transit Road underwent immense change from a farming community to the commercial area we know now. Shopping centers and plazas were built up around the former schoolhouse. In 1995, it was demolished to make way for a Boston Market restaurant (which was later demolished.) The former school grounds are now home of the Tops Plaza.
Many thanks to Karen Sherwood, Mary Sue Snelgrove and Paul Siejak for sharing Hamm Road-related history.
If you have additional information you would be willing to share to develop a more comprehensive history on this topic or others, please contact the author.
Jean Linn is Lockport's town historian, as well as archivist and librarian at Niagara County Community College. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 716-438-2159.