Jax Hamlin: A Biography
By: Herrick Kimball

Jax Hamlin grew up on a farmstead in Upstate N.Y. 
He lived the wholesome life of a typical farm boy in the 1940s

Jefferson X. Hamlin, of the town of Nonesuch, in rural upstate New York is my fictional friend and something of an alter ego. He is one of the finest gentlemen you will ever meet, and he is also a chicken artist of some local renown. To folks around here, Jefferson is often called “Jax.”  A few of the younger people affectionately refer to him as “Old Jeff.”

Jax will have nothing to do with computers. Therefore, I have established this web site  (with the permission of Mr. Hamlin) so I can tell you about this unique artist and offer for sale some of his whimsical chicken folk art. What follows is something of a biography as I have gathered from our conversations together.

Some Hamlin Family History
According to the genealogy in the old, oversize, leather-clad Hamlin family Bible (a Geneva), Jax is descended from an English noble named Harold Hamlin who lived in Gloucestershire and gained some notoriety for bravery in the Battle of Hastings.

The Hamlins came to America with John Winthrop and the Puritan Exodus of 1630. In time, they migrated south to the Virginia area where they stayed and prospered. The surname of Jefferson for all Hamlin firstborn sons goes back to one Zebulon Amos Hamlin, who was a friend and neighbor of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States.

These two men were frequent visitors at each other’s estates. Both loved gardening and French wine. According to the family history, the two were dining one summer afternoon in Jefferson’s garden pavilion, admiring the rolling Piedmont vista before them, and discussing the culinary merits of Cardoon (Thomas  loved Cardoon while Zeb did not), when one of them came up with a “Grand Idea”

It was decided that, when the day arrived, each man would give his firstborn son the other’s last name as a first name. Thus, Thomas Jefferson’s son would be named Hamlin Jefferson, and Zeb Hamlin’s son would be named Jefferson Hamlin. And that is exactly what happened. But, sadly, Thomas Jefferson and his wife, Martha, had only one son which was stillborn. The historians tell us that this son was unnamed. But, had he lived, you can be sure he would have been named Hamlin Jefferson.

Born on a Farm in Nonesuch
Our current-day Jefferson Hamlin was born in Nonesuch in 1941. His father was a much-respected family practitioner, but he was also a man of the soil. Dr. Hamlin maintained a small farmstead with the help of his trusted hired hand, Abe Lauckern, and all the Hamlin children (Jax and his three sisters) grew up in an environment of hard work, fresh air, good food, intellectual discourse, and rare family harmony.

The Hamlins loved their homegrown strawberries.

Jax’s middle name is Xyster, which is the name of a surgical instrument used to scrape bones. Jax is the only Jefferson Hamlin to have such a middle name. It so happens Jax’s grandfather was a medical practitioner too. But Jax broke that little family tradition. He did not go to medical school and become a doctor.

As a young boy, Jax was involved in the Grange.
He raised all kinds of animals.

Jax Joins The Army
The structure and expectations of institutionalized learning were more than young Jeff could bear. So, after getting his high school diploma (Nonesuch class of ‘58) he joined the Army. They promptly sent him to school to be a meteorologist. While stationed in Alaska, Jax fulfilled the three personal goals that every Alaskan Army soldier of that era was challenged with: 1) see a polar bear 2) eat blubber 3) dip one big toe in the Yukon River.

Jax & Betty-Ann Get Married 
& Buy a Farm
Upon his honorable discharge from the service, Jax returned to Nonesuch, married his childhood sweetheart, Betty-Ann, and invested his life savings into a beautiful but rundown 148-acre farm up on the Ridge Road, which runs right into the the vast Bear Swamp State Forest.

Betty-Ann was a real pistol back in '63 
when she and Jax bought that farm up on the Ridge Road.
(Jax loves this picture)

Jax and Betty-Ann have lived up on the ridge ever since. They raised eight children (five boys and three girls) up on that farm and all eight still live in or around the Nonesuch area. Jax and Betty-Ann now have 21 grandchildren (at last count), including another in the long line of Jefferson Hamlins.

Jax Was Organic Before Organic Was Cool
Jax went against the grain as a farmer right from the start. Heavily influenced by the work and writings of Sir Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour, Jax refused to adopt the chemical-dependent farming practices that were sweeping through American agriculture at the time. He opted instead, with dogged determination and principled conviction (a Hamlin trait), to be an organic farmer. This was, you need to understand, back when organic agriculture was something of an oddity.

Jax says he was able to pay the farm off pretty fast 
by raising hogs... BIG hogs... Big Hamlin Hogs!

 John Henry
Like any farmer, Jax had his setbacks. The first significant setback would change his life in very unexpected ways. Jax had grown up around horses and mules on the family homestead and he decided he would work his own farm with draught power. So he bought himself a large roan jack named John Henry.

John Henry was an ill-tempered beast and one day he kicked Jax in the side of the head. The blow broke Jefferson’s jaw, busted a handful of teeth and did considerable damage to his larynx.

No one knows how long Jax laid on the ground unconscious but when he came to he spit out the broken teeth, staggered to his pickup for his shotgun, killed John Henry dead on the spot, and passed out again, whereupon Betty-Ann found him a few minutes later.

After a lengthy stay in the hospital, Jax returned home and eventually recovered the use and normal appearance of his jaw, but his voice was never the same.

Blessed from adolescence with a manly bass voice, the young farmer with his damaged larynx was left with a scratchy, raspy, hoarse voice that rises noticeably in octaves when he tries to speak loudly. As a result, to this day, Jax Hamlin is a soft talker.

When he answers the telephone (something he rarely does) those who don’t know are apt to mistake Jax for Betty-Anne, something I once discovered for myself one embarrassing day...

Jax: “Hello”

Me: “Hello. Betty-Anne?”

Jax: “No. This’s Jeff.”

Me: “Oh. Sorry ‘bout that Jeff.”

Jax Develops His Reputation 
As a Chicken Folk Artist
After the incident with John Henry, while getting himself well in the hospital, Jeff wiled away the time drawing and doodling on a Big Chief writing tablet. Jax had always liked chickens and had a flock back on the farm, so he naturally drew chickens. It soon became clear to the nurses, doctors, kin and neighbors that Jax had a lot of natural-born artistic talent. And that right there was the beginning of Jefferson X. Hamlin’s career as an amateur chicken artist. Over the years since, Jax has drawn thousands of chickens and he has given away plenty of his drawings as gifts to folks around Nonesuch

Me & Jax Hamlin
I first met Jax and Betty-Ann when my family moved to Nonesuch and started going to the  Nonesuch Independent Baptist church. It’s the same church where Jax and Betty-Ann were married back in 1963. Every Sunday morning you’ll find them sitting up front, on the left side, second pew back, right next to the center isle. That’s the Hamlin spot. No one hardly ever sits in the front pew, so you could say that Jax and Betty sit right up front. And when you look at Pastor Miller preaching, you can see Jax, sitting tall with his white hair and Betty-Ann to his left.

That's how I came to meet Jax and we found out we had something in common. Both of us share strong agrarian values. We love the land. We love to garden. And I happen to appreciate chickens as much as Jax. In fact, several years ago, I developed plans to build a mechanical chicken plucker. I then published said plans in This Book.

Jax & Betty-Ann These Days
Jax Hamlin handed the farm down to his son, Jefferson, a few years ago. The son lives there with his wife and children and runs the farm. Jax built a small retirement home for him and Betty-Ann right across the road. They keep themselves busy helping with the farm as they are able and especially with the grandchildren.

In the summer months, you’ll find Jax in his large vegetable garden most every morning. He takes a nap during the heat of the day and will head outside again to work at one project or another in the late afternoons. At 69 years of age, he is relatively healthy, as is Betty-Ann. When the weather is good, the two of them can be seen walking briskly along the road in front of the Hamlin farm. They typically eat their evening meal with Jefferson and his family.

Jax Let's Me Be His "Agent"
Jax and I have become good friends in recent years and after some friendly encouragement from me he has allowed me permission to set up this web site and tell his story and sell his unique chicken folk art to folks who appreciate chickens.

That said, I hasten to add that Jax is a private man and as such he has made it clear to me that I respect his privacy in this web endeavor. He has asked that no recent pictures of him or Betty-Ann be shown and he wants me to make it clear that he is loathe to travel or speak in public. So this web site will serve as his art gallery and all communications with Jax must go through me. I guess you could call me Jax Hamlin’s official agent.

It is my pleasure to bring you this web site. I hope you will stop by every so often to see what’s new. And, of course, I invite you to purchase a Jax Hamlin Limited Edition Original while you’re here.

Jax and I thank you,

Herrick Kimball

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