Wendell P. Hammon (1854-1939) was a gold-dredging company executive, fruit grower, electric railroad builder, hydroelectric power project developer, and millionaire businessman sometimes called the "Dredger King." The former company dredger town of Hammonton and nearby Hammon Grove Park are named for him.
Hammon was born to Marshall M. Hammon and Harriet S. Cooper Hammon in Conneautville, Pennsylvania, in 1854. He left school without a degree to come to California in 1875, finding a job as a salesman for a fruit-importing company. In 1877, he left the company to start his own plant nursery. He planted a large orchard near the Feather River just outside what is now Honcut and devoted most of the next ten years to fruit-growing. He was one of the first in the Sacramento Valley to cultivate fruit on such a large scale, so he had to develop his own means of delivering the fruits to markets.
When Hammon had a well dug on his ranch, the diggers handed him some flecks of gold that had come out with the dirt. Hammon immediately began to investigate the development of machines that might separate the gold from the dirt. He discovered that a new type of dredge had recently been built and used successfully on the East Coast. After obtaining mining rights on about one thousand acres in addition to his existing property, he founded the Feather River Exploration Company with Thomas Couch in 1898 and began dredging. By improving the dredging machinery as he proceeded and soon manufacturing his own dredgers, he became the first successful gold dredger on the West Coast. Dredging the mine tailings left behind by the placer miners made him a millionaire and the executive of the largest gold-dredging corporation in the world. His corporation included the Yuba Consolidated Gold Fields Company, the Calaveras Dredging Company, the Natomas Consolidated Company, the Powder River Gold dredging Company. In addition to his dredger mining operations in California, he also mined to a smaller degree in Arizona, Idaho, and Oregon.
In addition, Hammon's ranch was the largest single producer of oranges and olives in Butte County. His orchards in Palermo were nourished with ditches that diverted water from the Feather River Middle Fork. He sold over 400 tons of olives and over 150 carloads of oranges each year, employing more than 150 people during the busy season.
Wendell Hammon's wife, Gussie Kenney Hammon, was born in Placerville and was the daughter of a prominent gold miner there. The Hammons had three children. Their daughter, Georgia Hammon Hendricks, died in 1915. Their sons, Wendell C. Hammon and Glenn A. Hammon, joined the family mining business.