Monday, October 27, 2008

A few relations, just to get started

OK, so, I realize I'm not going to be able to keep up this pace forever (three posts in a day? c'mon!) but I thought I should at least populate the blog a bit before letting the world know about it, OK?

My mom’s maiden name is Hall (and Preston, but that was her step-dad’s name) and her dad was a guy named Walter, who she didn't know that well but who is, nonetheless, related to her (and, it turns out, to me). For the longest time I didn’t really know much about his family because I had devoted most of my time to researching my dad’s family and didn't really know where to start with my mom’s family (I mean, do you know how many guys “Walter Hall” there are and were in the world?). It was only when my cousin Cecilia let me know that his dad’s name was Rheamer Clyde Hall that I really made any headway (now that’s an original name). My Hall relatives now all live on the west coast but the Halls that we are descended from were originally from Maine (and before that from the Massachusetts Bay Colony … but more on that later … ). Rheamer Clyde was born in Avon, Illinois because his dad, Lewis Alonzo Hall, moved from Maine to that area during the civil war and joined up with the Missouri Engineers (A Union regiment tasked with mechanical duties in what was then the Northwestern U.S.). Going back from there for four generations (we’re talking about the mid 1700s now) the Halls that I am related to all lived on an Island off the coast of Maine called Matinicus Island. The story of how they came to be on that Island is what makes these Halls interesting (to me at least). 

In about 1708, my ancestor, Ebenezer Hall decided it was time to move his family from Taunton, MA to Falmouth, ME. His son, also Ebenezer, the (anti) hero of this story was three at the time. Young Ebenezer served with his father in a militia company in the area and received a plot of land adjacent to his father’s in 1727. But apparently this wasn’t enough. Perhaps living next to his father was cramping his style. Perhaps his young wife couldn’t stand her new mother-in-law, the details have been lost to the ages but in about 1730, our Ebenezer sold his land and in about 1737 moved up the coast to Small Point, ME. His dad (and presumably his mom) tagged along as well but didn’t stay for very long. It was in Small Point that Ebenezer started sowing the seeds of his own demise for in 1739 while out “watching a flock of ducks at the same time with an Indian at a different place of observation” (I guess for the purpose of hunting them) he took advantage of the plume of smoke that arose when the Indian fired on the ducks and “fired at and killed him”. Now, these are the types of things that a proud tribe such as the Penobscot do not easily forget and after the death of his wife and after serving in the French and Indian War during the 1740s, he remarried and took his family to Matinicus Island where he engaged in fishing and raising cattle. Why or by what right Ebenezer moved way out to Matinicus is not known. There is no official land grant or record of purchase from the colonial authorities and he “seems to have assumed the right to govern it as he pleased”, much to the chagrin of the Penobscots who were “accustomed to egging, fowling, fishing, and sealing on the island”. I can just see the looks on the faces of the Penobscots who first ran across him on their turf (again): “Not that whitey …” By 1751, relations on the island were downright hostile. Ebenezer and his son (I’m guessing Ebenezer whom I’m also descended from) had shot and killed 2 Penobscots whom they found on the island, buried them in their garden, burned their canoe and kept their guns. When he then decided to burn over an adjacent island for better hay for his cattle, he was warned by the Indians that his actions were interfering with their egging and fowling and to please not do it again which Ebenezer basically ignored. In October of 1752 a grand conference was held at the truckhouse (which I’m thinking must have been some kind of trading post … anyone out there know?) and Colonel Louis, a Penobscot chief, complained that “… one Hall and family, who live at Matinicus interrupt us in our killing seals, and in our fowling; they have no right to be there; the land is ours …” and on April 25, 1753, four Penobscots sent a letter to Governor Phips (of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) asking that Ebenezer be removed from the island. From here, I'm going to quote William Durkee Williamson's History of the State of Maine

“On the first of June, 1757, a party of Indians beset the dwelling house of Ebenezer Hall, on the Island Matinicus, containing his wife and a young family of two sons, three daughters and a son-in-law. He was a man of courage and some distinction, having been a lieutenant at the reduction of Cape Breton. The attacks were renewed several days, and the house resolutely defended by him and his wife, at the imminent hazard of their lives, until the 10th; when he was killed, his house broken up, rifled of its contents, and reduced to ashes. The brave Hall was then scalped, and his wife and children carried into captivity. At some place up the Penobscot, she underwent the painful trial of being separated from them; thence compelled to take up a tedious journey to Quebec. The fair captive was a woman of piety and charms, which attracted every eye. Captivated by her uncommon abilities and beauty, Capt. Andrew Watkins, in a spirit of honor and generosity, paid her ransom, amounting to 215 livres, and finding a vessel bound to England, procured a passage for her thither. From that country, she re-crossed the Atlantic, returning by the way of New York to Falmouth, after an absence of 13 months …”

Thus, Ebenezer met his end. Apparently a bronze plaque was placed in a spot near Ebenezer’s death in 1906 (not sure if it’s still there) which read:

JUNE 6, 1757

His son, Ebenezer, through whom I descend (and who, I gather, was out fishing when all of the nastiness went down; hence me and all the people between he and I) and his descendants down through the Lewis Hall mentioned above were all born and raised on that Island so I guess in the end, it was Ebenezer who got the last laugh but I can’t help feeling that I’m kinda on the Indians’ side in this. All they wanted was the opportunity to live their lives as they had for generations. I suppose if it wasn’t Ebenezer who chased the natives off of the Island, someone would have, but it feels weird being descended from the really ugly side of American colonial history. My, how far we’ve come …


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