Life of the Rev. John Hall
By his Grandson, the Rev. Francis J. Hall, D.D.
unpublished manuscript, 9 pp.
My Grandfather was born in Lenox, Massachusetts, November 5, 1788, of puritan ancestry. The line, so far as ascertained, begins with Ichabod Hall, who was born in Wales about 1705, and in early life came to New England. He was the first of seventeen children. He settled in Enfield, Connecticut, and had nine children.
Ebenezer, the oldest of these was born in 1730. he moved to Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and was twice married, having twelve children by his first wife and four by his second wife. He was commander of the Massachusetts volunteers for frontier defense, and was noted as an Indian fighter.
The sixth of his children was Moses, born in New Marlborough, Massachusetts, in 1762. He enlisted in the Continental Army of the Revolutionary War at the age of eighteen. Subsequently he was a cloth dresser at Lee, Massachusetts, and then turned to farming in Lenox, Massachusetts. He had fourteen children, of whom the subject of this "Life" was the oldest.
My grandfather showed an early taste for study, and studied Latin and Greek under the Rev. Dr. Hyde, a Congregational minister at Lenox. At the age of nineteen he began to study medicine, but the migration of the family to Ohio changed his plans.
He travelled alone on horse-back to Ashtabula, Ohio, reaching there February 7, 1811. His father, Moses Hall, came to Ohio in the same year with the rest of his children; and bought timbered lands in Ashtabula, Dover and Lorain County, giving 150 acres to each of his sons and 100 acres to each of his daughters--the land being distributed in the places above named.
My Grandfather at once took a clerkship with Mr. Hall Smith, a cousin who kept a general store in Ashtabula. He boarded with this cousin, at the house of the Rev. Joseph Badger, a Presbyterian Missionary.
Mr. Badger was the first Christian Missionary in Ohio, commencing his labours in 1800 and continuing them for many years. His travels and toils were heroic, and in my own childhood my Grandfather told me various stories of his remarkable adventures among the Indians and with the wild beasts in the forests.
During the war of 1812, in March, 1813, my Grandfather was bringing a sleigh-load of goods for Mr. Hall Smith from Connecticut. In Buffalo his sleigh was seized for use in meeting a British company which was thought to be advancing on the ice across Lake Erie to attack the city. He went along as driver. The alarm proved to be a false one, and he recovered his sleigh, reloaded his goods, and rode on to Ashtabula. In May of the same year he served in command of one of several small detachments sent out to watch along the lake shore near Ashtabula Harbor against threatened landings of the British. Harmless shots were exchanged with a British vessel off shore, which finally sailed away. It was thought that the maneuver of marching in a circle among the trees gave the enemy the impression that a large force of Americans was ready to resist a landing.
My Grandfather was married, September 1, 1813, to Sarah Badger, daughter of the above mentioned Rev. Joseph Badger. She bore him six children (Lucia Noble, Mary Lois, Martha, Joseph Badger (my father), Moses and Sarah Elizabeth) and died May 6, 1829. Embarrassed by his large family he hastened his second marriage to Mrs. Harriet Wilcox, a widow whose maiden name was Paddock, the marriage taking place November 30, 1829. She died December 17, 1833, after bearing him two daughters (Sarah and Hannah Elizabeth). He was married again to a widow, Mrs. Prudee Chester, September 6, 1837. She died without offspring October 6, 1853. None of his wives enjoyed good health, and his oldest daughter, Lucia Noble, was for many years the mainstay of the household. They were poor and to her fell much of the burden of making ends meet and of looking after the younger children. She also helped to eke out the family income by teaching school. Her uncomplaining patience and uninterrupted self-effacement afforded an example which was glorified by her deep religious piety and earnest devotion to the Church. She was indeed a most saintly woman.
Previously to his entrance to the sacred ministry my Grandfather taught in the common schools at different times, fourteen terms altogether. His curriculum included the primary branches and rhetoric, Latin and Greek. According to his own statement, "He always gave his pupils instructions in manners, morals and the rudiments of Christianity. His text-books were the Bible, and such Catechisms as were preferred by the parents of the children, chiefly the Westminster Catechism, . . . a short Catechism of the Methodists, and the Church Catechism." He also served as Justice of the Peace, and was somewhat active in ruling village affairs of all kinds.
I borrow an account of his conversion to the Church from Congregationalism from an article by the Rev. John Keller, in the Living Church of April 17, 1909. The facts were made known to him by "an aged communicant."
"In the early part of the last century appeals from the Western Reserve were sent to the city of New York for reading matter--Bibles, books, pamphlets, and other literature. Packing boxes and other receptacles were placed at the corners of lower Broadway and cross-streets. Somewhere in the neighborhood of Trinity Church . . . . . . . a Prayer Book was deposited as a gift for the Western people. After a long journey by wagon-road . . . . the box of books arrived at Ashtabula.
"The Rev. Joseph Badger . . . was the censor of the reading matter so received. At the time a young school teacher, John Hall, a Congregationalist. . . . was living in the minister's family, and he was asked to assist in the censorship. The Prayer Book came into his hands. Curiosity led him to read it carefully; it become his textbook on the Church and her ways. Convinced by a more careful perusal that he must seek Holy Orders, he sought the advice of the rector of St. Peter's Church."
It is of interest to note that both the Rev. Roger Searle and the first Bishop of Ohio, Dr. Chase, were also converted to the Church by reading the Prayer Book.
Along with a Mr. Rufus Murray, my Grandfather was examined and admitted as a Candidate for Holy orders June 21, 1820, being placed under the Rev. Roger Searle, rector of St. Peter's Church, for completion of his studies. He was ordained Deacon by Bishop Chase at the Diocesan Convention, held in Worthington, June 9, 1822, and priest in a school house in the East Village of Ashtabula, August 13, 1823.
He at once became Mr. Searle's assistant, officiating at St. Peter's Church, and also making various missionary trips through Mr. Searle's extensive field. On Mr. Searle's resignation of St. Peter's Church, he became its rector, March, 1824 and resigned his rectorship in January 1832. It is not usual for pioneers to be generous in support of the Church, and the reason of my Grandfather's resignation was a lack of support. In all his long ministry he never received over $400 a year and was for sometime obliged to eke out his living by farming.
However, he continued to officiate occasionally in the parish until May 1834, "as his impaired and much interrupted health would permit," and during the following two years he occasionally visited the parish "as missionary." In September 1836 he was again elected as rector of St. Peter's Church, and continued as such until his final retirement in May 1854, when he was succeeded by the Rev. Homer Wheeler.
In 1850-51, the Rev. George F. Richards, a saintly man, was assistant rector, and principal of the parish school which was started in 1850. Mr. Richards died in 1851, being married to my Grandfather's daughter Elizabeth on his deathbed.
My Grandfather was prevented by poverty from attending the Diocesan Convention regularly; but at the Convention of 1831 he was Chairman of the Committee appointed to consider the resignation of Bishop Chase. This Committee recommended its acceptance.
From his study of the Prayer Book my Grandfather derived very high Church convictions, these being confirmed by the instruction of the Rev. Roger Searle, who brought the Bishop Seabury traditions to Ohio. As time went on my Grandfather laid more and more stress on sacramental doctrine. He taught Confession and heard many confessions--this before he had heard anything about the Tractarian movement. A visiting Clergyman accused him of being a "Puseyite." Inquiring what that meant, he procured the Tracts for the Times. When he next met his visitor he said to him, "You are mistaken. Dr. Pusey is a Hallite. I have held his principles throughout my ministry." He, of course, knew nothing of the ceremonial developments of later time. He would not solemnize a marriage when either party was unbaptized; and he invariably published the Banns, and when he could persuade the parties, married them before the Congregation in the Sunday Morning Service.
Having for several years increased the frequency of his Eucharistic celebrations, he began weekly celebrations--the first in America--in the fall of 1842. His example was quickly followed at Nashotah, Dr. Adams being in frequent correspondence with him, and by Dr. Odenheimer, subsequently Bishop of New Jersey. In the Parish Record for Easter, 1843, my Grandfather made this entry: "He has determined (God willing) henceforward to observe in the Church all the appointed feasts and fasts of the Church, and to administer the Holy Communion every Lord's Day, and to receive no more pew rents." The weekly Eucharist has ever since been the rule of St. Peter's Church, Ashtabula. God be thanked!
My Grandfather had many trials and much sickness in his family, and entered in his Diary a pathetic acknowledgement of the kindness on one occasion of a visiting Clergyman, who left a five dollar bill with him. There was no other money in sight. The priest in question has long since gone to his reward. May eternal light shine upon him.
My Grandfather did much travelling about to scattered Churches, and was known by all the farmers in the North Eastern part of the State. He was affectionately called Father Hall, sometimes Parson Hall.
His most frequent ministrations were in Unionville (once a month for some years), Rome, Windsor, Plymouth, Jefferson and Painesville. He also officiated in Dover, Norwalk and Medina; and from September 1, 1858 to August 1, 1859 was assistant to the Rev. James Bolles in the Chapel of Trinity Church Home, Cleveland. During this period he performed occasional services at Trinity and Grace Churches of that city, for their rectors.
He had kind friends in Cleveland, and had been interested in the formation of Grace Church Parish. On the motion of Mr. Punderson, the Vestry of Grace Church resolved, April 8, 1848, that
"Whereas, the Rev. John Hall, rector of St. Peter's Church, Ashtabula, has been largely instrumental, under the direction of Divine Providence, in planting the Church in North Eastern Ohio, and has, by his untiring and persevering labours, from county to county, from town to town and from house to house, been the means of disseminating and preserving among the early settlers on the Reserve a knowledge of the Apostolic Church of Christ, therefore,
"Resolved, as a testimony of the high estimation in which the Vestry holds the services of the Rev. John Hall, rector of St. Peter's Church, Ashtabula, as the pioneer of the Church on the Western Reserve, and as an expression of our regard for his person and character as a faithful, laborious and affectionate pastor of the fold of Christ, that he be requested to sit for his portrait for the Parish of Grace Church, to be preserved as a memento by the Wardens and Vestrymen thereof."
This portrait still hangs in the vestry room of Grace Church and has been regarded by those who knew him as his best portrait.
I spent a night some years since with an old farmer near Unionville, Ohio. He noticed my clerical clothes; and walking up and down with sharp glances at me, said, "They don't make such ministers now-a-days as we used to have!" (Pause). "You remind me of a parson that was a parson. You have the same name." I said "Are you speaking of Father Hall?" He answered, "Yes; did you know him?" I replied, "He was my Grandfather." The old man rushed forward, completely thawed out, and grasped my hand in both of us, saying "I am glad to meet you." He then told me that my Grandfather made himself acquainted with everybody, far and wide, and was held in the uttermost reverence; and that all called him "Father." Everyone felt honoured by a chance to entertain him as long as he liked; and he used to travel hundreds of miles every year on horseback over the country.
During the closing portion of his life, he continued to assist in St. Peter's Church when he was able, and was on the most intimate and enjoyable terms with two successors, the Rev. Homer Wheeler and the Rev. James Bonner. He spent much time in his garden.
My father and mother lived with him, and I was born in his home, December 24, 1857. With my parents' consent, he solemnly dedicated me to the priesthood on the day of my birth. He undertook my earliest education, giving me both religious and secular education. He always read Daily Morning and Evening Prayer in his study, and would take me into his lap and explain the daily lessons to me. To him the Bible was the Church's book, and to be interpreted as concerned throughout with Jesus Christ and His Church. He knew nothing, of course, about modern criticism; but he fixed in my childish mind a conception of the Old Testament which has saved me wholly from anxiety concerning the "results" of biblical criticism. Important parts of these "results" I have accepted, but this has not required me to modify my conception of biblical inspiration or to lower my recognition of the divine authority of the Bible in the least. And my experience under him convinces me that, when the Bible is taught to the young as God's collection of memorials of the checkered growth of true religion, and of the gradual revelation of Jesus Christ and His Church, the teaching will never need correction--will never be outgrown.
My mother had much illhealth and Aunt Lucia continued to be the mainstay in running the household. But in February, 1867, we moved to Chicago. My Grandfather lived on for two years, Aunt Lucia being his only companion.
As the end drew near, my Aunt told me in later years, he saw visions of another world which were very vivid and real to him. He died of old age--eighty years old--on January 12, 1869. An exceedingly impressive but simple funeral followed, and now his worn out body rests in Chestnut Grove Cemetery, about a mile from the Church which he served so long. May he rest in peace.