It is common among Hall family searchers to say with a great deal of respect, 'Our John Hall.' This is the way they distinguish him from the numerous John Halls they meet with in their researches, within or outside the immediate family. Well, he was 'quite a man.' But --- we are not descended from him. We are descended from his brother, Hezekiah, who is discussed later in this section. +|
We are including a section on John Hall because after the death of his father, William, in 1757 at the hands of the Cherokees, John became the head of the family. He is also included because he became the progenitor of many of 'Our Southern Cousins', also to be discussed in a subsequent chapter. John spent his life in Bedford county, Virginia and most of his descendants remained there - some to be found there two and half centuries later.
A serious error was made in establishing the family line by earlier researchers, an error the present writer hopes to correct. These family line seekers confused two Hezekiahs: John's brother and John's son. We are descended from Hezekiah, the brother not Hezekiah the son. These searchers used John's Will of 1794 in which the name Hezekiah (his son) appeared; thus, the error.
We first meet John testifying at the hearing held in Bedford county in connection with the death of his father, William. The hearing had been called by the authorities at Williamsburg to gather the facts of the incidents associated with the death of William Hall. It was held near the scene of the slaying. From the report of the hearing we can establish some important dates.
The hearing placed the first Indian engagement which led to the death of William as May 1, 1757 - thus, establishing a death date for the slaying of John's father. It was recorded that John was about twenty-five years of age. He was likely a year or so younger, but we can establish an approximate birth year for him, c. 1732. His Will was made in 1794 and he died in the same year.
John's sixty-odd years of life covered the colonial period, the French and Indian Wars, the years of American Revolution, and he lived just long enough to see the movement of settlers surge to the westward. Prior to his death he had made a Kentucky trip to see for himself what was going on. Although most of his own family never left Virginia: his grandsons and daughters moved out of Virginia going south and west.
John Hall lived long enough to experience vast changes in Virginia's governmental, religious and social systems. The church was to be completely separated from the state; the frontier religions were to become powerful forces in his own family and in the area where he lived. Methodism took a strong hold. The Baptist sect found many adherents.
Many formerly appointed government offices now became to be held by elected not chosen representatives. A new nation had been born and Virginia which had played such an important role in its forming was to furnish a great list of national leaders. Already, the great war time general, Washington, had been selected as the first President of the struggling United States.
John Hall survived the Indian Wars, the 'alarms and excursions' of the Revolution and lived through the various political and economic changes. During his relatively long life, he married, raised a family, dealt in land, operated a mill, and became involved in the institution of slavery.
In his Will he calls his wife, Magdalene, and her maiden name has been reasonably well established as Smith - her mother was an Evans. Her line of descent appears to be through the Smith family of Quakers who pioneered in Bedford county and for whom Smith Mountain and Smith Lake were named. ++ John and Magdalene +++ had seven children to live to adulthood: five boys and two girls. There names were: John, William, Matthew, Jesse, Hezekiah, Elisha, Tabitha, and Keziah. A son David was killed as a youth at the mill.
(John's son, Matthew, in making a deposition in 1845 for a Revolutionary War veteran, refers to his father dying in 1794 and also gives his own age as 78. This becomes one of the best date fixing bits of information about this family. In the same deposition, Matthew also refers to his father taking a trip to the west.)
Soon after his father's death in 1757, John became the head of the family by the legal system of 'primogeniture'; then operating in Virginia, as result of the colony's English inheritance. By this system he inherited all his father's property, the younger brothers and sisters getting nothing. As was the custom, he placed his younger brothers and sisters (Hezekiah was an exception) under the courts and they were called 'orphans.' In turn, they were placed in other homes - more on this later. The inventory of his father's estate was made in 1759 but the final settlement was not completed until ten years later, 1769.
How good was John's management?
The final settlement indicated that the value of the estate had risen to 189 pounds, five shillings,
5 1/2 pence: John had paid out twenty-four pounds, five shillings and ten pence to settle the debts of his father. The faded records indicate that 'by Sail of the Estate' and the collection of some monies owed it, the original inventory of William Hall's property was met within the amount of one pound.
Those listed as creditors paid up, although it took them four years to do it. In paying nearly 25 pounds all the estate's accounts were cleared. No doubt, the cash represented in the estate paid the taxes: while the land itself would be productive in livestock and crops to provide the family subsistence.
John's start in life would be real estate owned by his father, which would include a homestead. On this basis he participated in a series of land transactions in the upper Rock Castle Creek area and in neighboring parts of Bedford county. Not only did he buy and sell on his own account, but he arranged property transactions for his sons.
There may have been early estate problems as his father's titles may not have been valid. While early Hall researchers spoke of 'crown' grants to William Hall, no record has been found. It appears that he bought lands that had been granted to the famous Randolph family and these transactions were handled through their land agent --- Richard Stith. Years later, after John's death, there appears a law suit by two of his older sons, Willaim and John, over the title of the original land obtained through Stith.
While it is difficult to sort out the numerous John Halls in early Bedford county history, it does appear that the John Hall under discussion, did enter several land transactions both to increase his holdings on Rockcastle Creek and some for speculation as land values increased following the Revolution. He did end up with several hundred acres of land. This land remained in the family for several generations and can be traced through the estates of his descendants.
In an instance or two he made a tidy profit on his land deals. In other words, he appears to be a shrewd business man. In other instances, he literally traded land, not making a profit, but rather gaining land where he wanted it. Apparently, he did assist his brother Hezekiah in obtaining land, as he guaranteed the payment for the Back Creek land on which Hezekiah spent his life. There appears no assistance for his younger brothers. It is likely he helped his sons in getting started as he gave them nominal property in his Will. Only his sons, Matthew and Elisha are given land at his death and this land was the Rockcastle Creek property.
As a miller, he did have access to additional income and/or the obtaining of the miller's 'tare' for grain as foodstuffs for his family and animals. The Mill was an important item in his own estate in 1794. ++++
One measure of a man is his participation in the business affairs of his neighbors. From the abstracts of Wills, Inventories and Accounts for Bedford county, Virginia, 1754 - 1787 we get a fragmentary view of his activities.
At the settlement of the Mathew Talbot estate in 1763, John is listed as a creditor. (Talbot ranked high in the county.) On November 28, 1774, John Hall was one of the appraisers of the estate of Richard Cundiff. On the same date, he with other appointed officials, sold livestock to provide Mrs. Cundiff with cash for settling her affairs.
June 26, 1775 he was one of the appraisers of the estate of Ann Creel. Ann was related to the Cundiffs'. The Cundiff family were long-time neighbors of the Halls' in the Rockcastle Creek vicinity. John Hall's name is found on the tax rolls of Bedford county and from them we learn of the land he owned, something about his family and his general status as a pioneer in the area. He was, indeed, a substantial yeoman - a man of standing in his end of the country.
During the French and Indian Wars of the colonial period, John Hall is honored as a member of the militia. For his services he was paid for being both an active combatant and for furnishing supplies.
At the time of the Revolution he was a middle-aged man. Men of his age usually did not participate in active military units. If called for the militia, he could substitute one of his older sons. See: Bedford County, Virginia in the Revolution.
There is in existence several John Hall records of furnishing supplies for the Revolution. Since there was more than one John Hall in the county, it is difficult to determine to whom the records apply. There is one that is generally accepted in the family as applying to 'our John Hall.'
From the Bedford county order book, 1774-82, page 355, the following is obtained:
'At a Court held for Bedford county, May 27th, 1782, at the House of David Wright.
"John Hall pvd. That he furnished ye sd Comr. 50 lb Bacon for which he is all'd 7 ½ d pr. lb.'
Since he was a prosperous man, he likely made other such contributions to the War. His sons, as a group, were too young to be active particpants. *
For a good number of years, copies of John Hall's Will have circulated among those who thought they were his descendants. Although, as previously explained, the Hall - Overstreet group are not his direct line, the Will is reproduced here as it contains some interesting side-lights on the basic family of his brother Hezekiah.
Test of Will
IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN May 10th, 1794, I John Hall of Bedford County and State of Virginia being weak in body but of Perfect mind and memory thanks be to God for the same but calling to mind the mortality of men & knowing that it appointed to all men once to die, do make and Ordain this my Last Will & Testament. (Viz) in the manner & form as followeth Princepally & first of all I give & recommend my soul to God that First give it a being, & and my body to the earth from whence it was taken to be buried in decent form and that at the Discretion of my executors nothing doubting but but that I shall receive it again by the mighty Power of God at the General Resurrection and as Touching such Worldley Estate as the Lord hath blest me with in this life I give Demise & Dispose of the same in the following manner & form; first I give & bequeath unto my beloved wife Magdalane Hall all my negroes that I possess. (to wit) Jamis Patt Jude frank Joe Bitte Patt Pegge as long as she lives & at her death I give & bequeath unto my son Marthew Hall a Negroe Man James and a Negroe Woman named Patt, Item I give unto my son William Hall a Negro man named Joe. Item I give unto my son Elisha Hall a Negroe Wooman named Judge and a Negro man named Frank. Item I give unto my son Jesse Hall one feather bed & Cow & Calf. Item Give unto my son Hezekiah Hall one horse & saddle & 1 cow and calf. Item I give unto my son John Hall one shilling starling and no more Item I give to my Daughter Tabitha Hall one Negroe Girl named Pegge at my wifes death Likewise one Feather bed & cow & calf. Item I give unto my Daughter Keziah Hall, one Negroe Girl named Patt at my wifes death Likewise one Feather Bed & Cow & Calf. Item I give to my Beloved wife Magdalen Hall a third part of my land as long as she lives and to fall to Mathew Hall & Elisha Hall my two sons to be divided as followeth to with Marthew Hall is to have the upper end, beginning at the old mill seat and then down the said creek to the fence & then along sd. Fence to the branch that comes down from John Owens then up the said branch to owen's line, and then follow his Line round to the beginning. Iten I give unto my son Elisha Hall the balance of all the Land I now Possess together with the mill, and also an equal part of all my moveable property. And it is my Will & Pleasure that the rest of my moveable properties be left in the hands of my wife, that she may divide it as she sees cause - Between Hezekiah Tabitha & Keziah Hall. & Lastly I nominate & appoint my wife magdalen Hall as Executer of this my Last Will & Testament. I do hereby utterly Disanull Revoke all & every other former Testament, Will Legases bequeaths and Executors by me in any wise before named willed & bequeathed. Rattifying & confirming this & no other to be my last will & testament.
Signed sealed & Delivered
In the Presents of us -
John Hall, Junr.
At a Court held for Bedford County the 22nd day of September 1794 This Last Will & Testament of John Hall, Deceased was proved by oath of William Hancock & John Hancock Witnesses whose names are there unto subscribed & Ordered to be recorded.
Ja Steptoe CBC
Will Book 2, Page 140
Since the Will of John Hall, d. 1794, has played such a large part in the thinking of Hall - Overstreet family members, it is to be discussed at some length. Just as a measure of a man may be had from the inventory of his personal possessions, likewise some measure of a man can be had from his Will. In it we find the names of his children, the kind of property he possesses and how he wishes it to be distributed. In it he may reflect a personal attitude toward his children and his wife. Also, we may learn something of the times, as in this case the system of land measurement used by the colonials, priors to the modern system instituted under President Thomas Jefferson.
From John's Will we definitely learn that he had a Mill on his Rockcastle Creek property. We may infer that it was a small one - possibly a grist Mill - but important for him and his family, as well as his relationship with his neighbors. The giving of the Mill to his youngest son, Elisha, insures to some extent the extension of its use for years to come. In the treatment of his sons, we note that the older ones did not receive land, but somewhat token inheritances. This may be interpreted that as they married, they may have been given land.
As for his two daughters, (they were married) at the time of his death and their husbands were expected to provide homes for them - thus, no mention of land. The personal type of things mentioned in the Will - a saddle, featherbeds, cows and calves, indicate that they still lived closed to the land and that humble possessions were still held highly in their thinking. His son, Hezekiah, is treated somewhat differently than the other boys; some family searchers believe that this son was never married. (The reader notes that the spelling of proper names and other terms reflects the lack of a disciplined language among these pioneers - their schooling was scant and erratic at best.)
When the Will was first circulated among Hall-Overstreet descendants, the fact that slavery had existed in the Hall family came as a shock to many. Although in referring to John Hall's group, we are referring to a 'cousin' family, it does bring slavery very close to home. The basic descendants who read the Will and preserved their copies of it, were mid-westerners and westerners by the time they stumbled on to this information. Their ancestors had no slaves, fought for the Union and lived in areas where slaves were virtually unknown. It should be recalled that John Hall's immediate family and their descendants stayed in the South, moved West below the Ohio River and supported both slavery and the CSA until that issue was decided by the Civil War. See: Our Southern Cousins. Also, Slavery in the Hall Family in the appendix.
Slavery evidently came into the area where the Hall-Overstreet families in Virginia lived, between the time of William Hall, d. 1757 and John Hall, d. 1794. A change had come in the basic agriculture (tobacco at this time) and the attitudes of a people who had originally sought more personal freedom for themselves. This change was to have a profound effect during the holocaust of 1861 - 1865.
These smaller plantation operators in Bedford county (John consistently paid taxes on 650 A. of land) did not own large groups of slaves; usually from six to fifteen. We note from the Will that they are treated as personal property and in total value represented a considerable portion of the ownership. Each has a given name only and they are of both sexes. From the record we determine their ages --- but some of the same names show up in the estates of John's children many years later.
Magdalene, John's wife, lived on after him for over thirty years. This indicates that she was a much younger woman, giving rise to some speculation that she may have been his second wife and mother of the younger children. If she had a Quaker background as indicated by her Smith line, then like many others of that persuasion, they accepted slavery when it became a social symbol and of monetary value.
Because Magdalene lived so long, it is apparent that most of the provisions of John's Will became meaningless. If fact, her long life caused nearly all the Principal's of his document, witnesses, etc. to also be dead. Consequently, the legality of the estate was handled through the Sherif's office (?) and an Administrator appointed by the Court. It remained for her son-in-law, Benjamin B. Musgrove, husband of her daughter, Keziah, to handle it. Among those purchasing slaves from the estate were other family members, chiefly John's sons who had an inherited interest in his real estate. Magdalene, because of her long life, may have been incompetent prior to her death, thus the legal entanglements.
By the time of her death, members of John's family were scattered, having migrated to Tennessee, Mississippi and other southern areas. It is through Musgrove's contacts with them in the estate matters that we learn more of what became of them. Surprisingly, there was considerable property yet in the estate to be dealt with. Magdalene after John's death likely made her home with her son, Elisha, who acted as head of the family in some matters. Elisha stayed on Rockcastle Creek during all those years and was to die in 1840. The brother, Matthew, who also inherited home place property, spent some years away from Virginia, in Kentucky, but returned to spend his final years on the home place. **
We have a partial record of the marriages of John's children and considering the events of the years, we are, indeed, lucky in this respect. It should be remembered that the customs changed during the Revolution and John's group came of age in the years when the colonial period was over. They lived in a back area some distance from the county seat and legal matters were handled in a casual manner. Certainly the Civil War was not inducive to record keeping, lawyers scarce and not well-informed and families not inclined to take such matters too seriously. In general, Bedford county did a relatively good job in this respect.
John Hall, d. 1794, by standards of his time was a successful man. He raised a family, he acquired land and he was a man of property. How he did this is another question. First, he inherited all his father's property (William, d. 1757), by the systems of 'primogeniture' he did not have to share it with his younger brothers and sisters. Under the law of the time, they were called 'orphans' and by court orders placed in the homes of others. See section on: Our Southern Cousins - Part I, The family of William Hall.
He became a slave owner. In spite of his large family, he needed help both on his land and at the Mill. His energy problem was solved by the use of slave labor. In so doing, he was merely following the pattern that had developed a century earlier in Virginia. This step was to have a marked effect on his descendants.
Of his family we have only knowledge of his relationship with our ancestor and his brother, Hezekiah. It appears that Hezekiah was so near the legal age of 21, that by the time the estate of William Hall was finally settled (1769), he was not a minor and therefore not an 'orphan.' Since it appears that both John and Hezekiah married late, that following the death of their father, they worked together building up John's holdings on Rockcastle Creek. Later, John was to help Hezekiah acquire his land on Back Creek.
Marriage Bond Date ***
John Hall, d. 1794, Family
Hall, Mathew and Mary Banks ****
Levi Best, Surety
Mar. by Rev. John Ayers *****
January 1, 1795
Dec. 15, 1796
Musgrove, Benjamin B. and Kezia Hall
Elisha Hall, Surety
Mar. by Rev. Wm. Johnson *****
Dec. 25, 1796
Hall Jesse and Elizabeth Williams
John Thrasher, Surety
Mar. by Rev. Wm. Johnson
March 1, 1797
Oct. 14, 1799
Brown, Shadrack and Tabitha Hall
Elisha Hall, Surety
Mar. by Rev. John Ayers
Oct. 17, 1799
Hall, Elisha and Sarah Best
Levi Best, Surety
+ In the text he will be indicated as John Hall, d. 1794, to avoid confusing the party or parties under discussion.
++ Read more on this in the Discussion on Hezekiah Hall, 1741-1811.
+++ Her name may have been (Mary) Magdalene Smith - but appears in the records only as Magdalene, which spelled in a number of different ways.
++++ For those interested the files on this history contain more specific information on the various land transactions.
* Other John Hall items from the Bedford Order Book, 1774 - 1782.
p. 247 John Hall, 35 pounds of bacon
p. 351 John Hall, 585 pounds beef; 5 diets, 2 pecks corn.
** Estate settlement. The amounts are now recorded (1833) in dollars not English pounds. Purchases of the slaves, principally family members gave notes as cash was a scare commodity. The clerks and appraisers were paid for their work, no longer a voluntary job. The furniture and beds brought $11.50. The court-appointed administrator recived, $5.00
*** Hinshaw, Quaker Geneal. Vol. VI, Virginia
**** Only recorded Banks marriage in Hall family
***** Pioneer Methodist ministers.
Note: Elisha Hall becomes head of family. All marriages after John's death