IT MUST HAVE BEEN A BAD YEAR. Two of my ancestors — James Arline and George Russell — died in 1791. And, apparently, their neighbor John Hall did too. Hall is actually a significant name in Gates County. One of the townships is named Hall. According to legend, as detailed in F. Roy Johnson’s Tales from Old Carolina (1965), it was called Hall in honor of a family of Indians named Hall. John Hall may have been one of those Indians.
John Hall is mentioned once in the Gates County deeds between 1776 and 1803. He witnessed a 1785 deed of land from Moore Carter to Charles Eure. He signed with a mark (an indication that he may have been illiterate). The other witness was Whitmell Williams. Both Moore Carter and Charles Eure are in the 1786 North Carolina State Census of Gates County. Whitmell Williams is not. He is, however, in the 1790 and 1800 US Federal Censuses in Hertford County.
John Hall is in the 1786 Gates County census. He is listed as white, aged 21 to 60, and has four women in his household. He is not listed in the 1790 census in Gates County. Based on this information, he may have been born between 1726 and 1765.
There were three Hall households in neighboring Hertford County in 1790: Martin Hall, Mary Hall, and Fereby Hall. There are free people of color in Mary and Fereby Hall’s households. In 1800, there are four Hall households: Isaac Hall, Thomas Hall, Fereby Hall, and Joseph Hall. All of them are free people of color, although Fereby Hall’s household has four white persons and two free people of color.
In Gates County, at the same time, Sarah Hall is listed in 1800, and Demsey Hall is listed in 1810 through 1840, when he is listed as being between 50 and 59 (born 1781-1790). As such, it is possible he was John Hall’s son.His wife is also listed as being between 50 and 59 in 1840, but both are apparently dead by 1850. Unless they moved. All of the Halls in Gates County are listed as white.
It is important to look in Nansemond County too. Isaac, Mary, and William Hall, are all listed in the 1789 tax list there. Interestingly, none are there in 1800. Did they move to Hertford? It isn’t until 1840 that a number of Hall families reappear. There are Charles E. Hall, David Hall, Mary Hall, and Thomas Hall. Almost all of these households have both white and free colored members (and a few have slaves). Thomas Hall’s household, for instance, has seven white persons, two free colored persons.
What I find so interesting is how the Hall family in Hertford is almost always listed as mulatto, while the Hall family in Gates County (and Nansemond County) is listed as white. The “mulatto” Hall family in Hertford has relatives in Norfolk, as do the “white” families in Gates and Nansemond (Arthur Hall, born 1817, lists his birthplace as Norfolk).
There are a handful of Hall marriages listed in Gates County during this period, the only county of the three for which marriage records have survived (both the Nansemond and Hertford courthouses burned at various times).
- Edward Hall (Perquimans) to Sally Reddick, Sept. 9, 1801, William Reddick witness
- Sukey Hall to Thomas Cornelius, June 29 1804, Bryant Saunders witness
- Nancy Hall to John Ellen, Sept. 13, 1820, J. Sumner witness
- Thomas Hall to Abigail Collins, Jan. 3, 1825, Francis King witness
I have speculated about the connection between Thomas Cornelius and the Cornelius family of the Indian Woods Reservation before. The name John Ellen is also familiar. He was on the estate record of George Russell in 1791. And Abigail Collins is most likely the daughter of Thomas or James Collins, which would make her a sister or cousin to my ancestor Graham Russell Collins.
At this point, I think I should return to that 1791 estate record, which includes some more information revealing a deep link between all of these families. As noted, John Hall is on one deed in 1785 between Moore Carter and Charles Eure. A quick look at other land deeds involving these men confirms that they were living in Hall Township, known colloquially as Scratch Hall.
Three other names are listed in the estate record: Easther Hall (I presume John Hall’s widow), Eborn Sears, and Willis Hughes. I have seen this Eborn Sears character pop up quite a bit in reference to the Collins family in Gates County, and speculated at a link to Eborn and Sears families in Beaufort and Hyde counties. Hughes is a name that appears on Willis Parker’s militia list in Nansemond County in 1783. You will also find Collinses and Russells on that list, as you will find them as neighbors of John Hall in Scratch Hall.
This leads to the conclusion that there actually was a family called Hall living on Scratch Hall Pocosin in the 18th century, and that my ancestral families were living there too.
Were they all Indians? Well, a George Hall in 1833 applied in Norfolk County for a certificate that listed him as Indian. Was he related to the Halls in Hertford, Gates, and Nansemond? I cannot say. I can say that I appear to share ancestry with the Halls and the Nickens families that were living in nearby Currituck County in the 18th Century.