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James Hall

Illinois & Ohio

The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Ohio of the Nineteenth Century 660-661 (Cincinnati & Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Co., 1876):

HALL, HON. JAMES, Soldier, Author, Lawyer and Jurist, was born, August 19th, 1793, in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was a son of John Hall, whose father was a wealthy Maryland planter. His mother was a daughter of Rev. Dr. John Ewing, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania and a celebrated Presbyterian divine; she was a woman of rare intellectual powers, the authoress of "Conversations on the Bible," which was widely published in this country and reprinted in London. She it was who instructed her son James, whose health was feeble in youth, and was not sent to school except at brief intervals. He became thoroughly versed in English literature, and obtained a good knowledge of Latin and French. While a youth he was placed in a merchant's counting-house, where he remained two years. The war of 1812 breaking out, he was active in assisting to organize the Washington Guards, his name heading the muster-roll. The captain was Condy Raguet, and went into service at Wilmington, Delaware, where they encamped for several months. In the fall of the same year he was commissioned a Lieutenant of the 2d Regiment United States Artillery, commanded by Colonel Winfield Scott, and garrisoning Fort Mifflin, below Philadelphia. In the following spring he marched with that command to the Niagara frontier, and joined the gallant army of Scott, Brown and Ripley, which invaded Canada and fought the brilliant battles of Chippewa, Niagara and Fort Erie. He participated in all these engagements, commented for good conduct in the fight. At the battle of Lundy's Lane he received a musket ball in his left arm, which he carried to his grave. After peace was declared, in 1815, he was retained in the service, and was selected subsequently as one of five artillery officers to accompany the expedition against Algiers, commanded by Commodore Decature, and after a five months' cruise in the Mediterranean he returned home. He was stationed afterwards at Newport, Rhode Island, for over a years, and was ordered, in 1817, to Pittsburgh, on ordnance duty. Here, while still in the service, he completed his law studies-which had been interrupted by the war-under the supervision of Hon. Walter Forward, and on being admitted to the bar, in 1818, resigned his commission of Captain in the army, having been promoted to that rank. He had already been a contributor to several journals, especially to the Port Folio, a monthly magazine edited by his brother, John E. Hall, and published by another brother, Harrison Hall, in Philadelphia. Early in 1820 he descended the Ohio in a keel-boat, and wrote a series of "Letters from the West," which were published originally in the Port Folio, and subsequently collated into a volume and republished by Colburn, of London, in 1828. He reached Shawneetown, Gallatin county, Illinois, in the summer of the same year, where he took up his residence and commenced the practice of his profession, at the same time editing the Illinois Gazette, published there. He was soon after appointed Prosecuting Attorney for the circuit composed of nine counties, and for four years filled that position. In those early days it was the custom for the judge and other court officers, as well as the lawyers, to journey together from county to county on horseback, their numbers insuring them protection; in the course of their journeys they encountered the usual privations of a sparsely settled frontier country. A new judicial system being established, he was elected Judge by the Legislature, and was on the bench two years when the law was repealed, upon a change of political party power, and he was legislated out of office. He was, however, elected State Treasurer, which position he held four years, removing to Vandalia, the then capital, and where for a time he edited the Illinois Intelligence. During all this period he was actively employed in encouraging the settlement of the State and in organizing social institutions. For the purpose of inviting immigration he corresponded largely with distant journals, writing descriptions of the country, etc. He also established the Illinois Magazine, a monthly periodical, of which he was at once editor, publisher, and almost the only contributor. It was dropped, however, in two years, when he removed to Cincinnati. He was also one of the commissioners in 1825, to revise the "Statutes of Illinois," and performed a large share of the work. Soon after his arrival in Cincinnati he established the Western Monthly Magazine, and contributed largely to its pages. In 1835, he was appointed Cashier of the Commercial Bank, a large moneyed institution, whose charter expired in 1843, and which he wound up as agent of the stockholders, paying them a large surplus. He was also elected Cashier of the new bank of the same name, with a smaller capital, owned by a few persons, himself being one, and almost entirely managed by him. He afterwards became its President, and so continued until hid death. He was a voluminous writer, and his works number many volumes; prominent among these is his "History and Biography of the North American Indians," 3 volumes, folio, with 120 colored lithographic portraits of noted Indians, taken from life under the direction of the War Department at Washington. The work was published at $120 a copy. Not only was he an elegant writer of prose, but he is the author of some of the most beautiful lyrics in the English language. Not only is his verse perfect, but there runs through the whole of his poems an enthusiastic glow and a tenderness of sentiment rarely united. He was twice married; first to Miss Hosea, and afterwards to Mary L., sister of Ganz Anderson, General Robert Anderson and Governor Charles Anderson, all children of Major C. Anderson, of the revolutionary army. Tow daughters survived the first marriage, Mrs. Charles F. Foote and Mrs. William J. Whiteman. By his second wife he was the father of William A., J. Harrison (a graduate of West Point), Mrs. Thomas H. Wright and Kate L. Hall. He died at Loveland, near Cincinnati, July 4th, 1868.

Biographical Resources

John T. Flanagan, James Hall Literary Pioneer of the Ohio Valley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1941)(New York: Russell & Russell, 1971)

Randolph C. Randall, James Hall, Spokesman of the New West (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964)

Mary Burtschi, A Port Folio for James Hall: A Commemorative Booklet regarding the 175th Anniversary of James Hall's Birth (1793-1968)(Vandalia: Vandalia Historical Society, 1968)

Davis L. James, Judge James Hall, a Literary Pioneer of the Middle West ( Columbus, Ohio: F.J. Heer Print. Co., 1909)

James Hall, The Autobiography of James Hall, Western Literary Pioneer, 56 (3) Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 295-304 (1947)