Tobacco played a large role in the development of Lynchburg. Smoking and chewing tobacco were manufactured in numerous factories around the city. Ammon Goode Hancock established a tobacco factory in 1853 on what is now Cabell Street. In the mid-nineteenth century, there were eighteen tobacco factories in Lynchburg. They would help support the city for fifty years but most would not survive past 1906. Out of the factories that started the tobacco industry in Lynchburg, only Ammon G. Hancock’s factory would still operate into the 1900’s.
Hancock did not isolate his tobacco business to one factory, but purchased other properties along Sixth Street and Cabell Street. His company could be found under the following names: “Hill City Steam Tobacco Works,” “Hancock and Sons,” and “Hancock Brothers and Company.” The latter name was created in 1883 when Ammon’s sons and nephew were the proprietors of the business. Ammon G. Hancock stayed involved in the tobacco industry until his death in 1888. It was bequeathed to his wife, until her death when it was equally divided among their children.
He had four children: James, Ernest J. Edwin Ammon, and Lilly. While Ammon’s properties were equally divided, his holdings expanded beyond tobacco factories. James received a drug store. Ernest J. received the tobacco factory at 31 Cabell Street while Edwin A. received the tobacco factory at 41-49 Cabell Street. Lily became the owner of her parent’s residence. Ernest J. and James used their properties as collateral on loans that they were not able to meet.
Due to their financial defaults, the tobacco factory and drug store were auctioned off in 1901 and 1903 respectively. Lilly and Edwin A. purchased the properties. Edwin A. became the owner of the drug store on Sixth Street while Lilly acquired the tobacco factory. The business would remain in the family and grew more inclusive in 1910. At that time, the tobacco enterprise was incorporated with Ammon G. Hancock’s great nephew and grandson as officers. The company would operate until Imperial Tobacco Lofts bought it in 1918. Although the manufactory enterprise had been sold, “Hancock Brothers and Company” can be found in the Lynchburg Business Directory in 1919-1920 operating a tobacco business at Main Street. It remains in the Lynchburg Business Directory in the tobacco business until 1922. The Hancock family operated a successful tobacco business in Lynchburg that operated for more that half a century.
Ammon G. Hancock created a tobacco factory in the middle of the eighteenth century when there was a lot of competition. Despite many other factories, he was able to create a family business that would outlast various other Lynchburg tobacco factories. He created a successful business that incorporated his family. It grew after his death and lasted until the proprietors decided to sell.
Written by Emily Bordelon of the Lynchburg Museum