Memorable Manitobans: Heinrich H. “Henry” Hamm (1877-1962)

Educator, municipal official.

Born to Gerhard Hamm and Anna Knelsen on 5 September 1877 in Chortitz, Ukraine, South Russia near the Djneper River, he got his primary schooling there. In June 1892 his parents came to Canada with their eight children. He reminisced later:

With other immigrants we landed in the harbour of Quebec below the citadel on the St. Lawrence River. This imposing view lay unfolded before the eyes of a fourteen year-old school boy on this beautiful summer day and made an everlasting impression on his mind. So this was Canada the beautiful! What would it have in store for me? This picture unfolded was compensation for the loss of the beautiful Djneper River in whose waters we youngsters were so much at home. In due course we landed in Morden, Manitoba, and were taken in by farm friends nearby. I was anxious to learn the language of the country and I worked for an English farmer in order to make a living and at the same time to gain my object. Later on I was fortunate in being able to attend the Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna under Professor H. H. Ewert, taking all subjects as set out by the curriculum of the Department of Education and then some.

He attended the Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna for training as a teacher around 1894. He taught for a year at Neuanlage, two years at Hoffnungsort School, three years in Edenthal School, replaced teacher Benjamin Ewert for a year in Edenburg School, and then taught for three years (1904 to 1907) in Altona School. For four years starting in 1908, he became was a clerk and bookkeeper with the E. Penner & Company store at Gretna for over four years and then in January 1913, he was appointed Secretary-Treasurer of the Rural Municipality of Rhineland at Altona. He held this position through the First World War and part way through the Second World War, until his retirement in February 1944. In 1919 he also became secretary for the village of Altona, a position which he held until 1935. After living for a year in Ottawa, he became the first Mayor of Altona after it incorporated in 1946, and he served in the position until his retirement in 1949.

He was active in Sunday School work in the Altona Bergthaler Church. He wrote a history of the Municipality of Rhineland called Sixty Years of Progress. His love of literature and world history and his love of travel at home and abroad went hand in hand. He says “I have seen Canada from the Land of Evangeline to Nutka Sound on the Pacific, not once but half a dozen times, impressed by its vastness, its treasures in forest, fish and game as well as agriculture. I am proud of being a Canadian Citizen.”

He retired from public life in 1949, and died on 17 March 1962, at Altona. He was survived by two sons (Otto and Ben), a daughter (Neta), and six grandchildren.

A collection of papers are contained in the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives.


Western Municipal News, March 1950, page 87.

Western Municipal News, May 1962, page 24.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 2 December 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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