More often than not, paperwork overwhelms my desk and makes me grumpy. Organizing financial records, bills, checks, insurance forms, airline receipts, etc., gets more complicated every year. My computer, which is supposed to make things easier, just seems to add to my confusion. Some days I long for simpler times, even though I know they were neither simple nor easy. They just left a smaller paper trail.
In 1825 my great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Hall, Esq. wrote a letter summing up his life. The document hung in the farmhouse parlor next to his portrait, and although it was always referred to as his “letter,” it’s really more of a statement left for posterity. In it he sets down the facts of his time on this earth.
It’s easier for me and fairer to Aaron if I quote the letter instead of printing a photograph of the document, as it’s very hard to read. The misspellings and the missing punctuation are his, and I’ve added hyphens to clarify his sentence breaks.
Wallingford, January 5th, 1825 – “I Aaron Hall son of Asahel & Sarah Hall was born November 11th 1760 and lived with my father and worked on his farm until the 25th of May 1777 which was the 17th year of my age – having a thirst for liberty with the consent of my father I inlisted a soldier for three years in the Amarican revolution during which time I indured many hardships and was in sundry battles at Germantown & Monmouth and being troubled with the rhumatis at times but not so as to prevent me from doing my duty – but since I have bin very much troubled and am at this time – after my term of service expired I returned and when I have bin abel have worked on my farm ever since – in 1781 May the 24th I was married to Elizabeth Cook by whome I had Eleven children and I believe are all alive at this time – my wife Elizabeth died July 16th 1820 in the 58th year of her age – in December the 11th 1820 I was married to Sarah Hall with whome I have lived until this time September 12th 1826 when my wife Sarah died in the 70th year of her age – June 11th 1827 I was married to Annis Brooks
Because of this letter I could, if I wanted, become a Daughter of the American Revolution. I think several of my cousins have done this. But it wasn’t his participation in the revolution or the fact that he had eleven children that impressed me when I was young. Instead, I was amazed that he had THREE WIVES. The statements about these three women are so short, and so matter of fact, that I always pictured the three wives married to him at the same time. But in truth he was first married to Elizabeth, then to Sarah, and finally to Annis.
I’d like to know what these wives looked like and how they lived their lives – how Elizabeth managed to raise eleven children, how Sarah was courted when she was 64 years old, and how Annis met and agreed to marry 67-year-old Aaron. The paper trail for these four people is practically non-existent.
But in my photo collection, I found a tintype from the 1850’s with a label on the back written by my grandmother. The woman in the photo is the fifth of Aaron’s children, Mary Hall. She was born in 1790 and died in 1871. She never married, and, in fact, may have lived her entire life on the farm. In her portrait she looks like a precious and beloved aunt. Her cheerful expression makes me smile. She’s taken great care to dress in her finest clothing with what looks like the parlor rug wrapped around her shoulders and an oversized bow tied under her chin. It seems like this may have been her one chance to look good for the camera, and she was determined to make the best of it.
On Wednesday: Muddy River