The most distinguished Indian resident of Cotuit was Lorenzo “Len” Tandy Hammond, also known as Little Bear, chief of the Wampanoag nation. About 1928 he succeeded the pioneer chief Red Jacket (Eben Quippish).

He was born in Mashpee in 1871, son of Rebecca C. Amos, who was daughter of the famous Baptist preacher “Blind Joe” Amos. His father Watson Hammond, was a leading cranberry grower who held almost every Mashpee town office, as well as being the first Indian to serve in the state legislature.

In 1910 Len bought the 1846 house of Capt. Ensign Nickerson at 93 School St. in Cotuit, where he lived for the next 50 years. He had earlier Cotuit connections in Cotuit. His father had drilled a ten inch well on Main St. in Cotuit for Capt. Jarvis Nickerson in 1880, a skill he passed on to his son.

Before moving to Cotuit Len worked as licensed master plumber for Cotuit plumber Victor Nickerson, who had a booming business of installing the first running water in village homes and businesses. Everyone remembered Len riding his bike to jobs around the village, and over to Mashpee.

Len inherited his father’s inventive genius, patenting a bicycle brake, and “The Economist”, “a simple, light, handy and self-cleaning” cranberry separator, which was sold for $25. Len’s greatest accomplishment was to invent the famous Victor well point. Leonard Peck describes it in his book, “For Golden Friends I Had” (2000), as a device driven down to water table to filter out sand. Mr. Peck mentions that Nickerson patented the idea, but does not credit Hammond. The well point was sold widely around the country for $300, and marketed in a cheap version by Sears Roebuck. Chief Vernon Lopez also credits Len with another device run down the side of a well pipe to shut off flow so that it didn’t freeze.

He was also an artist, achieving some local fame for his oil and watercolor paintings, and for sculpture in wood. At one time, Chief Earl Mills had an oil color portrait of Len’s son, Cecil. (I hope people who know of other examples of his work will let me know).

He was married to a remarkable Indian elder and leader. Lilian (Avant) Brown, known as Princess Wood Fawn was born in Mashpee in 1875 to John Avant and Susan Lowe, from two distinguished old Indian families. “Miss Lillie” was remembered by historian friend Ernestine Gray as a woman with a very even temper, ready to laugh, and sweet to all. She was always stylishly dressed, in latest hats and outfits, and modeled for the press in native garb. Their only child, Cecil, born in Cotuit in 1914, died tragically in a motorcycle crash in Quincy, but left Len and Lillie with three grandchildren, Brian, Hartley and Linda Hammond.

Lillie lived with Len in their School Street home until she died of complications of diabetes in 1954, at age 78. Len lived there alone until his tragic death five years later. On a cold winter night shortly before Christmas of 1959, Len lit his kerosine space heater, and it exploded, catching fire to his pants. He died in the hospital two days later of burns of the lower body.

Published in The Barnstable Enterprise 20 April 2012.

Photo of Chief Little Bear and his niece, Ethelind Pells


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