Morgan county was organized by act of the third general assembly on the 31st of January, 1823, from the northern part of Greene county, and comprised all the territory between Greene county on the south and the Sangamon river on the north, bounded on the west by the Illinois river, and on the east by Sangamon county, and included the present Scott and Cass counties. Its county seat, Jacksonville, was platted in 1825. Morgan county was part of the "Sangamon country," as the region, for eight miles in width, extending along the Sangamon river from the Illinois to the Wabash river, was long known to the Indians, and later, to all emigrants bound for Illinois territory; and justly regarded as the most beautiful and fertile part of Illinois - not excelled by any district of the same limits in the United States.
After the close of the war of 1812 its fame as a land literally "flowing with milk and honey" spread far and wide, and attracted to it many of the more adventurous immigrants who then began to pour into Illinois from all the older states of the Union. The intrusive whites moved in, however, very cautiously, as the Sangamon country was then still in possession of those implacable enemies of all Americans, the Kickapoo Indians. In 1819 the government quieted their title, by purchase and treaty, and sent them to a reservation southwest of Fort Leavenworth. A few small bands of them lingered here for some years later. They were here - in what is now Cass county - until 1821, and, farther east, were on the Embarrass and Wabash rivers until 1832. As the red sovereigns left the state such of their ceded lands as had been surveyed and thrown open for preemption and sale began to be settled up rapidly.
Among the many prospectors, from a distance, who came, at a later date, to inspect this fair and productive land with the view of founding here his future home, was Dr. Henry H. Hall. He was a native of Ireland, born in July 1795, in county Autrim, almost in sight of the Giants' Causeway, of Protestant parents whose lineage had some admixture of Scotch blood. From local schools he received the usual elementary education, completing his literary and classic studies at the University of Glasgow, where he graduated. Afterward he attended the medical college in Belfast, which conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Medicine, and subsequently took a special course in surgery at the Royal Hospital in Dublin. Thus equipped for pursuing his chosen profession, the influence of his family secured for him a surgeon's commission in the British navy.
While serving in that capacity on an English war vessel a few years after cessation of hostilities between the United States and Great Britain in 1814, he obtained a furlough when in the harbor of New York, and made a tour through several of the eastern states. So well pleased was he with what he then and there saw of this country that upon returning to England he at once resigned his commission, and, as soon as he conveniently could, came back to the United States to become an American citizen and find here a permanent home. His first trial of the general practice of medicine was in the city of Baltimore where he located and offered to the public his professional services; but his stay there, so far as can now be learned, was of comparatively short duration - long enough perhaps for him to discover the vast difference between the study of medicine as a sublime theory, and its practice as a dreary reality.
It is altogether probable - as has been the case with hundreds of other young physicians who were endowed by nature with sense enough to know themselves - that when he came to realize the fact that he had prepared himself for a life business for which he found he had neither taste or affinity, he wisely dropped it, and concluded to try something else in which he might, at least, feel some interest and pleasure. In that settled conviction he left the Monumental City and made his way down into Accomac county in Old Virginia where he transformed himself into a farmer, or "planter" as agriculturists were styled in the South. finding, by experience, that calling more genial to his talents and notions, he laid aside his profession as reserve capital for exigencies that might occur in the future. In the course of his residence there he became acquainted with Miss Ann Pitt Beard, the accomplished daughter of a wealthy neighboring planter, and their rapidly growing mutual regard ripened into a higher sentiment that culminated - as such affairs usually do - in their marriage on the 1st day of December, 1818. The young couple then settled down on a well-stocked plantation in that county,. known as "Pitt's Neck," apparently for the rest of their natural lives. Dr. Hall was not of the same race as the descendants of the cavaliers to whom he had joined his destinies by marriage; nor was he of the Puritan stock that fought with Cromwell, and later made Plymouth Rock famed in history; but he was the scion of a people known the world over for energy, industry and ambitious enterprise. He faithfully tried for some years to coerce wealth from the poor sandy soil of that old plantation on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, but with discouraging results.
Becoming disgusted with the sterility of that part of the Old Dominion, and its slow, antiquated business methods, Dr. Hall concluded not to waste his life in a continuous struggle for subsistence there, but try to find in the West a fresher and better field where his efforts and energies would meet with more generous reward. Near by, in Maryland, he heard of Archibald Job, originally from that state, who had gained political prominence in Illinois, and was then a state senator representing one of its large central, or western, districts in the legislature, and wrote to him for information regarding the physical features and economic prospects of that country. Mr. Job's answer was so favorable that he determined to go and personally examine that new and promising region as soon as practicable.
Having made all necessary arrangements for a protracted absence, he left his home in the spring of 1831, and, by the then customary route of travel, by way of Baltimore and over the Allegheny mountains by stage, thence down the Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, and up the Mississippi and Illinois, by boats, he arrived in due time at Beardstown. He landed in that village when it happened to be an especially lively place. The volunteers called out by Gov. Reynolds to repel the invasion of Black Hawk and his half-starved band of Sacs and Foxes, ordered to rendezvous there, were camped in and all around the place, and still coming in daily by hundreds. On both sides of the river their horses were grazing on the bottom in all directions, and the darkness of night was dispelled by their innumerable camp fires.
The Doctor, however, had not journeyed to the western prairies in quest of military glory, and saw nothing in the appearance of the motley mob gathered on the banks of the placid Illinois to inspire him with martial ardor; consequently, he did not join the militia, but got away from them as quickly as he could.
From Beardstown he made his way to the farmhouse of Archibald Job in Sylvan Grove, and made it the basis of his further explorations. Securing a horse, saddle, and bridle he began a systematic inspection of the country as far as Jacksonville on the south and Springfield on the east, closely examining its soil, timber and streams. The Sangamon country was a new revelation to him. He had seen nothing approaching it in grandeur of landscape, fertility of soil, either in Ireland, Scotland, England or Old Virginia. the prairies covered with tall waving grass flecked with brilliant wild flowers, skirted by large groves of dark green woods, through which coursed rivulets of clear spring water; all enlivened by song of birds and whirring flight of startled quails and flocks of prairie chickens, presented a scene of rural beauty that charmed and captivated him. He was charmed and enchanted by his novel surroundings, not, however, in a poetic sense - for the Doctor was totally destitute of either poetry or music - but his practical mind saw in that grand expanse of virgin soil the latent possibilities of its future production of wealth, and certainty of its speedy development and rapid increase in value.
He wasted no time in sentimental musings, but set about selecting several hundred acres of land that Messrs Job, Murray McConnell, and himself considered averaging well with the best in that part of Morgan county, lying principally in the prairie some three miles west and southwest of Mr. Job's place, then went to the land office at Springfield and filed his preemption claims to hold possession. And the verdict of the past seventy-four years has fully sustained the soundness of his judgment in making that investment.
Archibald Job was a native of Maryland, born in 1784, and came to Illinois, settling at Sylvan Grove in 1819. In 1822 he was elected to represent Greene county - organized the year before from the northern part of Madison county - in the lower house of the legislature. The next year, Morgan county having been formed from the northern part of Greene, Mr. Job was again elected to the legislature in 1824 to represent Greene and Morgan. In 1826 he was elected to the state senate, his district comprising the present counties of Calhoun, Pike, Adams, Brown, Schuyler, Fulton, Morgan Scott, Cass, Mason, Tazewell and Peoria. He was a whig, and again was a candidate for the senate in 1830, but was defeated by James Evans, a Jackson democrat. In 1839 he was appointed one of the three commissioners to build the first state house at Springfield - the one since converted into the Sangamon county court house there. Mr. Job died at Ashland, in this county, in 1874 at the age of 90 years. Having tentatively secured all the land he was able to pay for Dr. Hall returned to Virginia in the fall to arrange his affairs preparatory to his final removal to the West. The records of the land office show that his lands were entered in November, 1833, by bounty land warrants issued by the government to the soldiers of the war of 1812, which Dr. Hall bought in the east, and sent to Springfield. He then came back to Illinois in 1834 for the purpose of providing suitable buildings for his future habitation. Fixing on a spot approximately near the center of Section 3 in Township 17 of Range 10, on the main road leading from Beardstown to Springfield, he engaged rural mechanics who had, like himself, recently come into this part of the country, to build two one-and-a-half story houses, framed and weather-boarded, the one for his residence on the south side of the road mentioned, and the other for a store house on its north side opposite the first. After seeing his buildings well under way, he went back to Virginia in the fall, and sold his plantation there for $10,101 - about half of its real value - and disposed of his live stock, and other movable property, then, with his family, left Virginia and took up his abode for the winter in the city of Philadelphia. while there he carefully selected, at his leisure, a large stock of general merchandise suitable, as he thought, for the western trade, that cost him over $10,000, which he shipped, with his household furniture, wagons, agricultural implements, etc., to New Orleans, thence up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers to Beardstown. Early in the spring of 1835, himself and wife and children took their departure from the city of Brotherly Love, by stage over the mountains, and proceeding as before, by steam navigation to Beardstown, thence thirteen miles farther east to his domicile in the prairie. His two houses were not quite completed when he arrived, but were finished during the summer, and are - in sound condition - still serviceable dwellings to this day.
Before leaving Philadelphia Dr. Hall employed there - and brought west with him - Charles Oliver, a young store clerk, to assist in his mercantile venture; and also hired James Thompson and wife, a stout young Irish couple not long married, for general work about the premises, and in putting some of his land in cultivation. They remained here the rest of their lives; Mr. Oliver, a few years after his arrival, married one of Mr. Job's daughters, and became one of the prominent merchants of Cass county; and Mr. Thompson was a successful and wealthy Sugar Grove farmer.
While Dr. Hall was passing the winter in Philadelphia, when writing to Mr. Job, on one occasion, in regard to the progress of his buildings and other business affairs here, he enclosed in his letter a ten dollar bill which he requested Mr. Job to invest for him in the purchase of black haws. His idea was to plant the seeds of the haws in the spring, and when they came up to utilize the young haw bushes for hedges to enclose his prairie land. he had observed when here some similarity between the Illinois haw bush and the English hawthorn, and thought the one would make as serviceable hedges as the other. Mr. Job perhaps dissuaded the Doctor from trying that experiment, as his farms were in time enclosed with the old-fashioned Virginia rail fences, and hedge fencing was not tried on the Illinois prairies of this locality until the Osage orange was introduced, and put in practical use for that purpose, by Prof. Jonathan Baldwin Turner, of Illinois College, in 1853.
Immediately upon arrival of the stock of goods, Dr. Hall and young Oliver, assisted by another young man named Bartlet, opened and arranged them in the store room and commenced active business. The first sale - made by Charles Oliver - was three pairs of shoes for the family of Wm. S. Berry purchased by his son Keeling Berry. But Dr. Hall soon discovered that he was no better adapted for the sedentary occupation of merchandising than he was for the practice of medicine. He required a freer scope for the exercise of his nervous energy and spirit of enterprise. Leaving the management of his store in great part to his clerks, he busied himself about everything that tended to the development and prosperity of the country, and the substantial improvement of his own real estate. this region was filling up with sturdy settlers whose cabins skirted the timber lines and began to invade the prairies. Beardstown was the gateway for many who came to this locality, and the road from that place to Springfield had become a widely known and much traveled thoroughfare. Immigrants, teamsters and prospectors taxed with few dwellers alongside the road for entertainment and supplies beyond the capacity and resources of their clearings.
When Dr. Hall commenced his active career in Illinois a new era was dawning upon the state. The rage for speculation, fostered by abundance of paper currency in circulation, and prospects of extensive internal improvements became epidemic. New towns were projected everywhere. Sedate business men, lawyers, preachers, mechanics, farmers, were seized with the belief that towns they platted would soon grow to the proportions of cities and large fortunes could be realized by sale of town lots. More reliance was placed in improved river navigation for commercial transportation and development of the country's resources than in railroads or canals, that people knew little or nothing about. Consequently, every eligible site along the principal streams - and at many cross roads between them - was staked out for a new town.
Dr. Hall was early a victim of the town-building mania. He shrewdly foresaw that the large county of Morgan very probably would be subdivided within a few years, and a new county created from its northern portion. In that event his location would be centrally situated in the new county, and the proper place for its seat of justice. His residence and store were at the intersection of the main lines of travel from the Illinois river eastward, and from Jacksonville to the north, on a beautiful rolling prairie at the edge of timbered barrens extending to the Sangamon river ten miles distant. It was an ideal location for a town, and town lots, he wisely concluded, would sell more readily and for more money than raw prairie. His buildings were on the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 3 in Township 17 of Range 10, and, as he owned the greater part, if not all, of that Section, he projected a town, with those buildings as a nucleus, to which he gave the name, Virginia, as a compliment to his wife's native state.
Early in the spring of 1836 he employed Johnston C. Shelton to survey and plat the town, assisted by Charles Oliver and Fent Sanders as chain carriers. Because of the favorable "lay of the land" the Beardstown and Springfield road was taken, without regard to the cardinal points of the compass, as the basis of the survey and made a street, the other streets running parallel with, and at right angles to it. The result was - as the course of that road was not directly east and west through Section 3 - the town deviates seven degrees from exact orientation. The plat of Virginia was recorded on May 17, 1836, and the first public sale of lots was made on the 6th of the following August, the day of the general state election. Many of them were sold at what then was considered, good prices, and several of the purchasers began at once to build houses upon them.
Already a movement - originating in the loss of harmony between the interests of Beardstown and Jacksonville - had commenced for the creation of a new county to be carved from the northern portion of Morgan county, in which Dr. Hall took a particularly active part and became a very important factor. that was probably the busiest period of Dr. Hall's busy life. the promotion of the town, the contest for a new county, the improvement of his large tracts of land, and the care of his family and many financial interests, severely taxed his energies, and fully occupied every waking hour.
The ink on his town plat had scarcely dried when he employed two carpenters, Matt Beadles and Jack Powell, to build a two-story framed house on the southwest corner of the block upon which his residence was situated - where the Mann House now stands - designed ultimately for a tavern; and with other workmen he contracted for the construction of a saw and grist mill on Job's Creek, a mile or more north of his store house, to be run by water power. A dam was made across the little stream - remains of which are yet to be seen - and the mill when completed was, for a few months annually, of vast service and convenience to the community for several years.
The strenuous efforts of Dr. Hall, aided by Thos. Beard, Francis Arenz, Archibald Job, Richard S. Walker, and others, for organization of a new county were crowned with success by the act of the legislature, placing upon the map of Illinois the county of Cass, signed and approved by Gov. Duncan on the 3d of March, 1837. That legislature also decreed, on February 25, the removal of the state capitol from Vandalia to Springfield, and it was so removed on the 4th of July, 1839.
That legislature, elected August 6th, 1836, including some of the hold over senators, was, for mental strength and ability of its members, the most remarkable of any yet chosen in Illinois. No previous general assembly of our state, and very few since, has comprised such an array of brainy, talented men; or as many who subsequently gained such eminence in the annals of the state and nation. In the senate were Orville H. Browning, Cyrus Edwards, Wm. J. Gatewood, John S. Hacker, Robt. K. McLaughlin, Henry I. Mills, Wm. Thomas, John D. Whiteside and John D. Wood. And in the House were Edward D. Baker, John Hogan, Milton Carpenter, Newton Cloud, Richard M. Cullom (father of U.S. Senator Shelby M. Cullom), John Dement, John Dougherty, Stephen A. Douglas, Jesse K. Duboise, Ninian W. Edwards, Wm. L. D. Ewing, Augustus C. French, John J. Hardin, Abraham Lincoln, Usher F. Linder, Dr. John Logan (father of Genl. John A. Logan), John A. McClernand, James Semple, John Moore, Wm. A. Richardson, James H. Ralston and Robert Smith. In this list are found one president, eight congressmen, three governors, three lieutenant governors, two attorney generals, five state treasurers, two state auditors, one superintendent of public instruction, and several supreme and circuit court judges.
And yet, it was that body of learned and distinguished statesmen who committed, at that session, the supreme folly of enacting the famous Internal Improvement measures that, in three years, placed the state on the verge of bankruptcy burdened with a public debt of over $14,000,000. In that assembly Morgan county had three senators, Wm. O'Rear, Wm. Thomas, and Wm. Weatherford, and seven representatives, Newton Cloud, Stephen A. Douglas, Wm. W. Happy, John J. Hardin, Jos. Morton, Richard S. Walker and John Wyatt.
In 1837 Dr. Hall sold his residence to Rev. Reddick Horn, and moved his family into the unfinished tavern building. Having no time to devote to merchandising, and finding that many of the goods he purchased in Philadelphia were too fine and costly to suit his western patrons, he sold his sto0re in 1838 to Col. Amos We4st, who removed it, taking Charley Oliver along, to the west side of the public square. Dr. Hall then built an addition to his empty store room, into which he moved, and there resided for several years.
After attaining the cherished object for which he had expended so much time, labor and money, the new county, the Doctor was sorely disappointed by having Beardstown specified as its county seat in the organic act - provided, however, that the citizens of that town would, in the course of a year thereafter, contribute the sum of ten thousand dollars for the erection there of a court house and jail there for public use at their own expense.
In laying out the town of Virginia Dr. Hall set apart several lots for churches and the entire block west of the one his residence was on for a public park. He also donated to the county commissioners, for public use; fifteen acres of land, subsequently known as "the public grounds," adjoining the town on the west.
The citizens of Virginia unhesitatingly accepted the county seat with obligations specified in the act of March, 1839, whereupon Dr. Hall proposed to the board of county commissioners that if the fifteen acres, or public grounds, he had given to aid the county in the erection of future public buildings, were reconveyed to him he would himself build thereon for the county a court house and jail. that very liberal offer was agreed to by the county authorities, and as quickly as practicable Dr. Hall set a troop of laborers and mechanics at work to execute his part of the contract. A court house square was surveyed, and the balance of the public grounds surrounding it platted lots, streets and alleys. Near by bricks were made and burned, while lumber, shingles and other necessary building materials, were procured, from which arose during the summer a substantial brick house of two stories with ample rooms for the courts and county offices. The jail, also constructed of brick, was placed on the interior lot of another block near by.
The November term, 1839, of the circuit court was held in Virginia by Judge Samuel H. Treat, who appointed N. B. Thompson circuit clerk. The sheriff was Lemon Plaster.
At the time Dr. Hall had the bricks manufactured for the public buildings, a sufficient quantity were made for the building of a roomy story and a half house, erected the next year, on his Lin Grove farm, a mile south of the court house; to which he moved early in 1841, and resided there until his death. He sold his tavern in Virginia to Matt Beadles in 1838; but his storehouse was not disposed of until his heirs sold it to Jack Manley in 1850.
Providing for establishing the county seat of Cass county in Virginia, in 1839, by legislative enactment, and prompt compliance by Dr. Hall and his friends with the conditions that enactment imposed, awakened the citizens of Beardstown to a realization of the mistake they made by neglecting to accept the same conditions first offered to them; and incited a spirit of envious rivalry between the two towns not entirely dissipated after the life of two generations has passed. So strong was the feeling of resentment in Beardstown, and open threats were made there at the time, that Dr. Hall employed men to guard the court house and jail (he was having constructed) every night until they were completed and accepted by the county commissioners, for fear of their destruction by hired incendiaries.
The Beardstown people then laid their plans for retrieving the consequences of their previous indifference. Their town was unquestionably very nearly, if not quite, the center of the county's population, as all the region east of Virginia was very sparsely settled; and it was, moreover, the business center and emporium, not only of the county,. but of an extensive scope of country on both sides of the Illinois river. The tactics they adopted were the same that Virginia, years later, employed with success in final solution of that aggravated contest. They offered to build there, for the county, a court house and jail at their own expense if the county seat was removed to that place; and, in the spring of 1843, petitioned the county commissioners to order an election - in accordance with provisions of the general statutes - for and against removal of the county seat from Virginia to Beardstown. Having no opinion in the matter, the commissioners ordered such an election to take place on the first Monday, (the 4th) of September, 1843, which resulted in 453 votes cast for removal, and 288 against it. The following year, 1844, was remarkable for the unprecedented overflow of all the western streams, inundating all the river bottoms and converting them into great lakes, and making of Beardstown an island on both sides of which steamboats freely passed. During that year the citizens of that town, faithful to their agreement, built on the block east of the public park, a suitable two-story brick court house, and jail, which they conveyed to the county. When both buildings were fully completed the records and papers of the county's seat of justice were removed from Dr. Hall's town into them, on February 5th, 1845, and remained there - on the border of "the great national highway" - with two strenuous, but unsuccessful attempts on the part of Virginia to recover them - until 1872 when after another election the county seat was again established in Dr. Hall's town, after exhaustive litigation, by a majority of just eight votes of all cast in the county.
The people of Cass county were, from its first organization, dissatisfied with its narrow limits, and soon began agitating the annexation of a strip of territory from Morgan county three miles in width, extending across the county from east to west. Dr. Hall was, as usual, one of the first to advocate that measure, and one of the most active and influential workers to accomplish it. He was untiring in his efforts, and unsparing of his means, to secure the necessary legislation, and to win the residents of that part of Morgan county over to the interests of Cass. He personally visited every voter in it, and by various arguments, embellished with a good deal of Irish blarney, persuaded a good many of them to favor secession from Morgan county.
By an act of the legislature, passed on February 26, 1845, - just after the county seat had been moved from Virginia - the voters residing on the coveted three mile strip were directed to express, at an election, their wish as to which county they preferred to belong. That election was held on the first Monday of the following May, the voting places designated being at Arenzville, Princeton, and the farm houses of Wm. Berry and Henry Price. The proposition to again reduce the area of Morgan county by seventy-five square miles, or more, of its territory, met with violent opposition from a few, but was carried at the polls by 246 of the settlers voting for attachment to Cass county, and 78 for remaining a part of Morgan. Thereupon the three mile strip was transferred to the jurisdiction of Cass county.
Feeling, to a certain extent, consoled, if not compensated, by that victory for the late defeat of Virginia by Beardstown, Dr. Hall avoided further prominence in the management of public affairs, and gave all his time and attention to his large landed interests, content to bide his time when limitations of the statutes would permit Virginia to renew the contest for regaining the county seat.
There were but few points in the personality of Dr. Hall that were particularly striking or impressive. In stature he was of medium height, 5 feet 8 inches tall, erect, muscular and well-proportioned, with the usual weight of about 190 pounds. His face - always smoothly shaved - was regular in every feature, and expressive of firmness and self-reliance. With ruddy complexion he had dark hazel colored eyes, and (when young) auburn hair. He was of nervous temperament, active and quick-motioned, having frank and rather abrupt manners, a temper easily irritated, strong resentments and much determination of purpose. There was nothing of the comedian about Dr. Hall; no dissimulation; no habitual smile; no fondness for practical jokes or idle amusements; no quibbling or temporizing; but, looking only upon the serious aspect of life, he was always earnest, straightforward, and very careful of his own interests.
He generally dressed neatly, and in appearance, habits, and speech - from which latter, education had almost entirely eliminated the native Irish brogue - he was more like an Englishman of the middle class than a product of the peat bogs.
For the highly educated scholar his descendants represent him to have been, Dr. Hall, when in Illinois, was not a student, and manifested but little taste for books and literature. Nor was he particularly noted for culture and refinement, or courtly graces in social intercourse; or very choice of terms and idioms to express himself when irritated. His proficiency as a physician or surgeon is not known, as his very limited (and reluctant) practice here was confined to occasional prescriptions, and emergency treatment not regarded by him as a source of revenue. Clear headed, and well informed on matters of general interest, he was pleasant and entertaining in conversation. Not always in amiable mood, or ostentatiously benevolent or charitable, he was kind-hearted and generous, and ever ready to aid a friend, or relieve suffering and distress, though not a church member or attached to any secret society. Conforming to the universal custom of that day, he kept liquors on his sideboard and in his cellar - as adjuvants to his cordial hospitality - and in their use, and in diet, was not restrained by any puritanical notions of abstemiousness.
In politics he was a Jacksonian democrat, but not a politician, and concerned himself very little about the management of his party, or of the government. His highest ambition in public affairs was to advance his own welfare by promoting the progress of the country and the community in which he lived. Selfishness sufficient for self protection, honesty, truthfulness and personal integrity were the leading traits of his character. He drove sharp bargains, and got the best end of every transaction if he could; but all that he promised could be implicitly relied on. His highest intellectual ability was manifested in his business and financiering sagacity. When the country, flooded with cheap paper currency, was on the crest of fictitious prosperity, Dr. Hall made wise and safe investments in real estate. Shrewdly foreseeing the inevitable reaction in business when all the banks suspended specie payment in 1837, he "unloaded" his stock of unsaleable goods on Col. Amos West in the spring of 1838, and sold his tavern building to Matt Beadles, at good figures and secured the pay for them. Collapse of the wild Internal Improvement scheme in 1839 completed the crash, and placed Illinois on the verge of financial ruin. All branches of trade and commerce were paralyzed, all sound money was driven out of the country, and the "shinplaster" currency (bank notes) in circulation daily depreciated in value until it was practically worthless. Yet; in that appalling business depression Dr. Hall built the court house and jail in Virginia, and the brick house on his Lin Grove place, and made many improvements on his other farms, meeting all his obligations promptly without incurring any indebtedness.
But wary and astute as he was in all his dealings, he got badly caught in the purchase of that Lin Grove farm and lost it by oversight of an obscure principle of law. The land on which the grove stood was bought from the government by Thomas Payne, (the father of Mrs. Dr. L. S. Allard, Mrs. Dr. Parmenio L. Phillips, Mrs. I. N. White, and the wife of D. M. Irwin) who entered the south 80 acres in 1830 and the north 80 acres in 1834, together comprising the west half of the west half of Sec. 9 of T. 17 in R. 10. Mr. Payne, who resided on the land, when about to die made a will, on the fourth day of September, 1835, in which he directed that, after his death, all his land and personal property should be sold by his executor for the interest, support, and education of his children, and the remainder to be distributed in equal parts to them upon their marriage or when they became of age; the land, however, not to be sold until it would bring eight dollars per acre. But he named no executor in his will and died shortly after.
On September 9, 1835, the court appointed Benjamin H. Gatton, administrator, with will annexed, of Mr. Payne's estate, who duly qualified and gave bond. He then sold to Dr. Hall, who owned land east, west and north of it, the 160 acres of Payne's for $1400, which was more than $8 per acre, and make a deed for it to Hall on the second of October, 1835.
It was there Dr. Hall blundered in totally disregarding the ancient legal maxim, caveat emptor, (let the purchaser beware"). N. B. Thompson, as sharp a business man as Dr. Hall, wanted Lin Grove and told the doctor he intended to get it yet; but Hall, secure in possession of a deed, went on and built his house and outhouses on the land and moved his family there. Payne's heirs grew up, and N. B. Thompson, or some other person, pointing out to them the invalidity of Dr. Hall's title emanating from an administrator not named in Payne's will, who sold the land without an order from the court, they commenced an ejectment suit against Dr. Hall to regain possession of it.
The suit was commenced in Cass county in 1843 and was taken by change of venue to the Sangamon circuit court and tried there, before Judge Samuel H. Treat and a jury, in 1844. It was decided against Dr. Hall and he appealed to the supreme court by his attorney, Hon. Wm. A. Minshall, of Schuyler county. The lawyers for Payne's heirs were Wm. Thomas, of Morgan, and Abraham Lincoln, of Sangamon. That court also decided against Dr. Hall, by sustaining the decision of the lower court. The opinion of the supreme court was delivered by Justice Koerner, who held that Gatton had no authority to act, as he was not named as executor in the will. Two of the judges, however, dissented from that opinion, Young and Scales, who held that, as Payne did not name an executor, he evidently intended that the court would appoint one who would thereby have all the authority to convey title under the will. Judge Young in his dissenting opinion said:
"I cannot perceive that either justice or equity will be promoted by annulling the acts of the administrator and confiscating the rights of an innocent bona fide purchaser, for a full and valuable consideration, after the lapse of ten years, where no fraud is imputed to him, and where all the proceedings, for aught that appears in the record, seems to have been conducted according to the forms prescribed by law."
The statute granted a second trial to defendants in ejectment cases, and Dr. Hall again took the matter into court, but died before a decision was rendered. It was again decided in favor of the Payne heirs later after which four of them sold their undivided interest to N. B. Thompson and the remaining one-fifth was purchased by Henry H. Hall, Jr., and they divided the land between them Hall taking one-fifth off the north end and Thompson taking the remainder with the buildings.
The stringency of money matters in Illinois reached the point of greatest distress in 1841 when the state, without a dollar in its treasury, could make no provision to pay the interest due on its enormous indebtedness, and stagnation checked all lines of traffic. Yet, in the spring of that year, before moving to his Lin Grove farm, Dr. Hall, at a public sale, disposed of a large lot of surplus movable property at good prices, and collected all of his sales at maturity. In that year, 1841, congress passed a bankrupt law - to enable dishonest people to legally rob their confiding creditors - but Dr. Hall had taken such precaution that he suffered very little loss from that class. During all the memorable "hard times", from 1837 to 1842, he not only retained all his large landed possessions, but added to them by purchasing other tracts, and increased their value by improvements.
In 1846 Dr. Hall's health began to fail. Much of the time during that year he was confined to his house by malarial disorders that permanently deranged the functions of circulation, and resulted in dropsy. The winter's cold brought him no relief, and by return of milder weather in the spring he was an invalid passed any reasonable prospect of recovery. the best physicians of the country exhausted their efforts and skill to arrest the progress of his malady without success. Among them Dr. David Prince, then Professor of Surgery in the medical department of Illinois College, came repeatedly from Jacksonville and gave him temporary respite from suffering by tapping him. But he gradually grew weaker and less able to resist the ravages of disease, until death ended the unequal struggle on the 14th of July, 1847.
At his country home near the town he founded, surrounded by his family and friends, and all the comforts wealth could command when but little past the meridian of life, Dr. Hall died at the early age of 52 years, leaving to his heirs the largest and most valuable landed estate in the county. He was buried in the beautiful grove near his residence, and there his unmarked grave remained undisturbed until in the autumn of 1880, when his ashes were exhumed and reinterred, near those of the other dead of his family collected together, in the Virginia cemetery.
Ann Pitt Beard, wife of Dr. Hall, was born November 15th, 1798, and reared on a plantation well stocked with African slaves, in Accomac county, Virginia, and retained all her life a partiality for the customs, manners, and institutions of the South. Tall, straight, and handsome featured, a brunette with black eyes and glossy black hair, sprightly in motion and speech, intelligent and well educated, she justly ranked as a beauty in girlhood, and as a matron was highly esteemed by all who knew her for beauty of character and her many womanly virtues. She died at the residence of her so, Robert Hall, in Philadelphia precinct, Cass county, on the 2d day of January, 1880, at the age of 81 years, 1 month and 17 days.
Besides his wife, five of their children were living at the time of Dr. Hall's death, namely:
Mrs. Ann Pitt Shackelford, who was born in Accomac county, Virginia, Aug. 19th, 1821, and died in Virginia, Ill., on March 14th, 1902.
Henry H. Hall, born Aug. 26, 1826, still living.
John Pitt Hall, born March 17th, 1829, and died of Asiatic cholera, at Peoria, Ills., on the 29th of October, 1850.
Mrs. Eliza Tomlin, born March 14th, 1831, still living.
Robert Hall, who has the distinction of being the first child born in the town of Virginia, Cass county, Ill., made his advent here on the 19th day of June, 1835, and is yet very much alive.
Previous to Dr. Hall's death the following named five children were born and passed away in childhood:
John Hall, born Dec. 31, 1819, died July 19th, 1821.
Henry Hall, born Oct. 31st, 1824, died Jan. 22d, 1826.
Eliza Hall, born Nov. 12th, 1827, died Aug. 14th, 1828.
Jane Hall, born Sept. 18th, 1837, died Aug. 4th, 1839.