The Grandfathers
Vol.I, The Hall and Overstreet Families
Carrol Carman Hall, Springfield, IL, 1981

The Civil War Period
Section V
Chapter 16, Page 167

Grandfather of the Civil War

*not an original signature,
adapted from the record of
John T. Rogers who listed
those voting for Lincoln
in 1864

At Athens, Illinois the Halls become
staunch Unionists and Abraham Lincoln

'…"my father was a brickmason and
contractor at Athens, Illinois…
and a very prominent citizen"…..
Catherine Anna Hall (Neer), 1912.

Civil War Period
family line (Hall)
William (1)
Hezekiah (2)
Abner (3)
Jas. W. (4)

James Wesley Hall
1815 - 1870

James Wesley Hall certainly made his contribution to the Union forces. Two of his sons served in the Union cavalry and his daughters provided him with five son-in-laws who served in various Illinois volunteer infantry regiments. The men of his family provided one captain, two lieutenants, a sergeant and three corporals.

In a chapter that follows titled: The Halls and the Civil War, it will be pointed out that not less than fifteen of his near kin wore the blue of the North. In fact, an exact count of the Halls who participated in the war - both sides- is practically impossible.

When the war came, James Wesley Hall, was a mature man with small children at home. He was in his mid-forties and did not come under the no. one classification of those eligible for service. He did not serve, but certainly did not escape the events of the times. Death in the service, wounded participants, prisoners of war and the welfare of families left behind must have confronted him during those momentous war years.


The year 1836 was a big one in the life of J.W. Hall, for in that year - the one in which he legally became a man - at age 21, he did two important things; he married and he acquired his first piece of property.

In the account concerning his father, Abner Hall, we learned how the Hall group entered land from the government in the vicinity of Sangamon county that was to become Menard county and the site of Athens, Illinois. Starting in 1836, he began to acquire property and continued to do so for several years. The property was both in the town site of Athens and in the neighboring countryside. During his life he was both a townsman and a farmer.

On the third day of January, 1836 he acquired his wife, Catherine Claypool, 1820 (?) - 1872. + They were married by the Rev. Joel Hughes in Springfield. The exact pattern of Claypool migration is not known, although there is record of them living in Pennsylvania.

The Claypools were long identified with the Athens area, possibly arriving soon after the Hall - Overstreet families. The family owned large sections of land in and around Athens and in the Fancy Creek - Williamsville communities at the northern edge of Sangamon county. Later, members of the family became identified with business interests in Springfield - the best known was "Claypool's Drug Store' which in its final years was located at the famous 'transfer' corner of street car days at Fifth and Monroe Streets.


In 1837 the first child of James and Catherine was born, a girl named Martha Frances and over the next twenty-two years of their married life a total of thirteen children were born into this household. Martha was a married woman with children of her own by the time the last member of the family arrived.

By having this large family James Wesley was setting a record never to be passed by any other member of the Abner Hall branch of the family, although his son Henry almost made it with twelve children. The Elisha Hall branch of the family (Abner's brother) was the most prolific. Elisha had fifteen children; his son, John Nelson fourteen. John Nelson was a cousin of James Wesley.

Now add up all the other family members living in Athens or nearby and it becomes evident how numerous the family members were. Large families were the rule and they were all akin and they were marrying into the other pioneer families of the area. Pretty soon nearly everyone was related. Those trying to keep family records needed an efficient bookkeeping system (as the writer has found out!)


When their family was completed, James and Catherine had a family of eight girls and five boys. The marriages of this family further tied the Hall family with many of the older families in the community. No wonder that in 1931 at a family re-union held at Athens observing the 100th birth date of the town, three hundred persons were identified with the Hall-Overstreet families.

The couples' daughters stayed in Illinois. Only one son, however, the author's grandfather remained in Illinois. The other four sons ended their days in Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado and Washington state. They, too, felt the pull of the West - a movement that had been evident in the family since colonial times.

In the chapter on the: Children of James Wesley and Catherine (Claypool) Hall, more details of the thirteen children will be given. To complicate, three of them outlived their first mates and remarried. While an exact count of this family's descendants cannot be made, it did produce at least fifty-five grandchildren. Guessing: there would be at least one-hundred fifty great grandchildren.


James Wesley Hall was born in Ohio. While still a boy he was brought to Illinois and spent his entire life at Athens, Illinois, although he alternated residences in town and in the country. The name Wesley could have its roots in the pioneer Methodism of the family. The name James came from an uncle. The name of his second son was Charles Wesley Hall, but that name did not survive in later generations.

J.W. Hall, as he was commonly known, inherited some property from his father, Abner. However, a portion of that was sold to give his mother and the younger children support. Also, a portion was placed on the block to make final settlement of his father's affairs. As will be noted, at his death - followed shortly by his wife's - there was property to be disposed to take care of the minor children.

Raising a large family was a great struggle and to make ends meet, J.W. Hall, as did many of his contemporaries, farmed as well as plyed his trade of a brickmason. He owned a small tract southwest of Athens which from time to time served as home base. It was on this property that several of his children, including my grandfather, was born. The house on this property was a converted log cabin and was visited several times by the author. (Later, my grandfather's farm was located just across the road from it.)


J.W. Hall's fortunes apparently cycled. At one time he owned a very fine home near the center of Athens. ++ This was home place to older members of his family. As a city man, he was a mason and contractor and a number of the original brick structure in Athens are of his handiwork. One of his sons, William Henry Hall, followed him in the trade.

In the census of 1850 we find him listed as a brick mason.

His life as a mason was a natural outgrowth of the fact that his father platted the town and a great deal of the property development in the area was that of his relatives. The bricks came from the yard of his brothers-in-laws, the Clarks. His brother Abner Banks Hall was in the trade with him. In his later years, his father, Abner, was a cabinet maker (possibly a coffin maker!) - so, the family might be considered a group of pioneer craftsmen.


There is no record of his having two homes, one in the town and the other in the country. But this could have been possible. Certainly if they were not busy in their trade, there would be plenty to do on one of the farms. Farming became more important in the family following his death. Of the five sons, three ended their years as farmers and two of them stayed in the crafts.

It is suspicioned that because of his attempt to hold on to his property and at the same time to raise a large family, that he was in financial trouble at times. The country was not yet a 'cash' economy and work was trade for produce and vice versa. The tax records of Menard county, 1856 - 1868, that he was consequently delinquent in his taxes, usually on more than one piece of property.

The amounts of the taxes are ridiculously low by modern standards, but reflect the lack of cash in the hands of the payers. On May 8, 1858, The Menard Index, published in Petersburg, the county seat, listed J.W. Hall delinquent to the amount of $6.66 on one of his properties. Another item published in 1859 show him in arrears to the amount of $3.25 on 200 acres of land!

J.W. Hall was not the only person in this predicament. A usual thing in those times. There is no record of a tax sale for him.


It can be generally assumed that during his life, James Wesley Hall was a well-known and well recognized citizen in the small city of Athens, if for nothing more than his large number of marriageable daughters. We do find record of him participating in a meeting to determine if the village of Athens should be incorporated and he voted for the incorporation. (After all, he owned town lots!) +++

By necessity he was a family man and living both a town and country life. He was outshadowed in his earlier years by his father, Abner, and in his more mature years by his brother, Abner Banks Hall, who managed to get into everything that when on in the community. +++++

In 1851 James Hall was one of the trustees of the Athens Christian church, apparently the name Wesley didn't hold in the Methodist flock! That year a brick building was built on the site of the present church. As a brickmason and contractor, Hall certainly had a hand in its construction. The lot on which the building was constructed was purchased for $10.

In 1848 the church was housed in a log cabin in the area of the old Athens grammar school (now converted to apartments); this was possibly land once owned by J.W.'s father, Abner. The early Halls were Methodists, and now the family was becoming Campbellites (the Christian church) a frontier sect, that experience great growth in the period just before the Civil War. It had come to Athens.

He Voted for Lincoln

From John T. Roger's Register of Athens Voters * we learn that James W. Hall voted for Abraham Lincoln! On November 8th, 1864, along with his brother Abner Banks Hall, he voted the Republican-Union ticket. Joining them were many other members of the Athens-Hall clan, including a number of the in-laws.*

According to Roger's notes, 'The election day was quiet, stormy, severe showers of rain attended by thunder.' Since J.W. lived in town he didn't have far to go to vote.

Rogers kept a record of those voters who failed to show up and those who voted for McClellan (the Democrats). There were none of the near-kin in the Abner Hall descendants who voted Democratic. However, the descendants of Fleming Hall family, voted to a man against the Lincoln ticket. **

From Roger's records, we know how James Wesley Hall voted in 1863, 1864, and 1865. Finally, in 1866 he was joined by his son, William Henry Hall, a Civil War veteran, in the voting. Not many persons know the election record of a great grandfather.


J.W. Hall died in August, 1870 at age fifty-five. Death at early ages was not uncommon in the Civil War period. He lived long enough to see his sons home from the war; to know that his brother, Andrew J. had died in Andersonville prison; that his son-in-law, William B. England had been killed at Chickamauga; and, that another son-in-law, James Cline, returned unscathed from the horror of Andersonville. Fortunately, his sons were unscathed, they were young, entered the service late and were not exposed to much danger.

Already his veteran sons, William Henry and Charles Wesley, were looking westward where new lands were to be had for the settling. While he would never know it, only one of his sons would remain in the community. *** However, two of his sons-in-laws were by the standards of the day on their way to becoming successful farmers and family men. Their farms were close enough that he and his wife, Catherine, could ride out for Sunday dinner and see the grandchildren.

In less than two years, June, 1872, his wife Catherine joined him in death. There is no record of the cause of their deaths, but judging by the times of the year in which they died, it can be surmised that they succumbed to one of the current maladies that was prevalent in the area..****

More significant is the fact that five minor children were left by the couple. Fortunately, the older daughters had married and they and their respective husbands became the guardians of the younger children and provided homes for them. More of this record in the section: The Children of James Wesley and Catherine (Claypool) Hall.


James W. Hall died intestate, as had his father Abner in 1843. Matters were complicated by the fact that his wife died so shortly after his death. By the end of the year 1872, the matter of careing for the 'minor' children had been taken care of. The final settlement of the estate then became an important family matter. This was resolved by a partition suit filed in September, 1873 to be tried in the Circuit Court of Menard county the October term, 1873.

A copy of this bill obtained from the files of the county has proven most important in learning facts about James W. Hall and his family. Throught it was established the death dates of James and Catherine, the guardianships of the older family members and with whom the younger children made their homes. It also listed the real estate held by the parents and noted 'that all their personal debts had been cleared.'

It was a friendly suit in which Amanda Elizabeth Hall (Alexander) and her husband Samuel C. Alexander, became the voluntary defendants against the complaints of the brothers and sisters of legal ages and those who were looking after the minor children. The complaint bears the signature of the author's grandfather, James Newton Hall.


Beginning in 1873 and extending over the new two years the Petersburg Democrat carried the partition suit on the court docket as follows:
'Chas. W. Hall et al vs. Amanda Alexander, et. al Partition, Laning.'

This announcement was listed during the two years as 'continued.' Laning, was Ed. Laning of the firm Laning & Laning, prominent Menard county attorneys with offices at Petersburg.

(It is thought that William Henry Hall, the oldest son, was out of the state, possibly in the West and that the family was unable to locate him.)

In the issue of the Democrat of Saturday, November 22, 1873 the following legal notice appeared:
Ed Laning - Atty at Low
Office in the Court House

Master's Sale

Charles W. Hall, et. al vs. Amanda Alexander, et. al partition.
Public notice is hereby given that by virtue of a decree of the Circuit Court of Menard, Co., Ill., in the above entitled cause, at the Oct. term, 1873 of said court I shall on

Sat. Dec. 20th 1873

Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Court House, Petersburg in Menard Co., proceed to sell at public auction to the highest bidder, the following described, to wit:

74 acres so. half of the n.e. fractional quarter of township 17, north range 6, west of the 3 P.M. except 10.23-100 acres (10 acres) off the n.e. corner of said S NE and running thence 9 chains then west 10 chains to the border of a lake, thence in a n.w. direction to the meandering of said lake to a point 12 chain due W of beginning, thence e. to beginning and 12 acres in the n.w. corner of the s.e. corner of the s.e. quarter of Sect. 15 in Twn. 17 range 6 west of 3 P.M. bounded as follows: Beginning at the n.w. corner of the last-named quarter-section to run s.e. 60 rds to the beginning. All in Menard Co., State of Illinois.

Robert Hamilton
Ed. Laning, sol. for Court


The land bordering the Lake was among the earliest purchases of Abner Hall (1834) and the lake if it still exists (sometimes they are drained for farm land) is in the Sangamon River bottom. For many years this lake appeared on various county maps as Hall's Lake and up until about 1926 was farmed by Hall family members.

The second portion of land was the farmstead southwest of Athens about three miles and on the road leading to the Lake.

This matter was not settled in 1873. Notice of the litigation appeared regularly in the Petersburg Press through 1874 into 1875. The notices were under court business and always ended with the notation - 'continued.'

Finally, in the issue of the Petersburg Democrat, March 16, 1876 under the item: 'C.W. Hall, et. al vs. Amanda Alexander, et. al Partition,' it was stated 'Master's report of collection and distributions approved, case stricken from the docket.'


Looking back over a century and a quarter it is easy to pass judgement on the life of a person in terms of the present day. After all, hindsight is notoriously better than foresight!

What about James Wesley Hall? In retrospect it occurs that my great-grandfather made two basic mistakes in his life. First, his family was too large. One cannot accumulate much with thirteen children. Second, because of his failure to accumulate much in money, he was unable to give educational advantages to his children and the land, when divided, didn't go very far. My grandfather, James Newton Hall, was the seventh arrival in the family, perhaps the family wasn't too large at that point! The two great aunts (Ella and Emma) who came at the end of the line, and whom the writer knew well, were exceptionally fine persons, and perhaps in my family limitation scheme I am unfair to them.

The unforeseen incidents of both father and mother dying young, made their early years difficult for the minor children. This, in spite of the fact that they were taken into good homes.

Considering the times, the resources available, and the levels at which most families lived during the period under discussion, one cannot be too critical. In the minds of those lives at that time, it may not have been so bad. Certainly they were not objects of charity. James Hall's children were reasonably successful and well respected persons. As citizens they were first class.

+possibly a descendant of the pioneer Levi Claypool family, this is supported by evidence in the 1850 census.
++known in later years as the Meyers-Seligman house.
+++Athens went into the doldrums following the failure to get the county seat.
++++being a tavern operator had its advantages.
*Rogers was a leader of the new Republican Party and since the balloting was not secret, kept his personal record taken from the poll books and made every effort to keep the party regulars in line. He coded the voters according to their war service records and the national origin.
**The Fleming Hall group were financially and socially a notch higher than the author Hall's family.
***The author's grandfather, James Newton Hall
****Their gravestones are in Old West Cemetery at Athens, Ill., as are markers for many others of the Hall - Overstreet families.



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Illinois Ancestors