The diary kept by James Madison HALL, who served Liberty as mayor from 1861 to 1866, has not only helped to piece together the history of the Liberty area since the city's incorporation in 1838, but also records some interesting sidelights of the changing times, it was revealed in a check of material received by Mrs. Ben PICKETT, chairman of the Liberty Historical Committee.
R. L. HALL of Anahuac, licensed state land surveyor and registered public surveyor, who has the diary kept by his great uncle, conveyed highlights from the chronicle to Mrs. PICKETT, along with a photostat copy of a picture of "the best likeness I have of James Madison HALL" taken from Judge A. A. ALDRICH's History of Houston County.
The quality of the reproduction was not of the type that can be printed in a newspaper, however.
Mayor HALL's cause of death is not revealed in the information at hand, but the gentleman apparently remained active in his many pursuits -- one of them the surveying business such as is being carried on by his great nephew -- up until his last days, the final entry by him in his diary being made September 10, 1866, followed by a notation of his death September 12, 1866, just two days later.
R. L. HALL reports the interesting fact that the Bible record is apparently at error by one year in placing Mayor HALL's date of death as September 12, 1867. An old copy of the Liberty Gazette substantiates the diary notation of his death having occurred in 1866.
James Madison HALL was an older half-brother of my grandfather, Horace O. HALL," Mr. HALL explained in a letter to Mrs. PICKETT accompanying the other information. "They were both sons of Col. Joshua James HALL who came to Texas in about the year 1835 and settled on the Ramon de la Garza Five Leagues on Elkhart Creek in Houston County, Texas."
Hall says his great uncle assisted in the tax office in Liberty from time to time, though he ran a mill near Elkhart, and was at one time provost marshal in charge of conscription for the Confederate forces in Liberty.
Married on July 14, 1859, six months before he began keeping his diary which started on January 16, 1860, Mayor HALL recorded the birth of a daughter, Florence "Fawn" HALL on October 19, 1860, and a son, James Wrigley HALL, on October 8, 1862. The son was apparently a namesake of another former Liberty mayor, James WRIGLEY, who is recorded as serving 1850-51-56-82 [SIC].
Earlier in 1862, on March 1, J.M. HALL had been nominated colonel of the Fifth Regiment, Second Brigade. Entries of November 12 through 17 of that same year clearly reflect the signs of the times, dealing with building of fortifications at the mouth of the Trinity River.
(Mayor HALL's grand nephew, R. L., who reported this information, now lives about three blocks south of these old fortifications in Anahuac.)
The river work underway, HALL proceeded to act as "major domo" on November 24 in a "grand tableaux given in Liberty, Texas, for the relief of soldiers," the diary records.
Since U.S. citizens right now are still moaning from having just passed another "Ides of April" and the dread of income tax statements, a tax note of interest from HALL's diary of November 27, 1863, might be of noted: "Paid $1213 war tax." Not only that, HALL recorded, but "whiskey was $80 per gallon."
HALL's diary reports December 31, 1863, as the coldest day of his 28 years in Texas, with the mill pond frozen over; purchase of one ounce of quinine on July 21, 1864, for $300; dancing one cotillion at a ball given by a Captain Stubblefield at Hall's Bluff on January 20, 1865, for the price of $10 -- and a laconic comment on March 14, 1865, of his attempted asassination by six men, one of whom he named.
Trinity River navigation got in the story, too, when HALL made a trip upriver in April from Smithfield on John F. CARR's flat-boat and tied up at the railroad bridge. And in May he records the Steamer Ruthven's being tied up at Chambers Wharf in Anahuac.
The end of the Civil War in this chronicle had nothing to do with LEE's surrender to GRANT, but is recorded thus:
"May 24, 1865, Gen'l E. K. SMITH surrendered to General CANBY of the Trans-Mississippi Department -- War is over."
On July 3 that year, HALL purchased 100 pounds of bacon at 10 cents a pound, and on August 19, he was elected Mayor of the City of Liberty.
Building of a school house in Liberty was begun in January of the following year, which was the year of his death, and in March, the mayor wrote that he had purchased two pair of fine gold spectacles -- one for himself and one for his wife.
June 26, Liberty City Council passed several sanitary ordinances because of the prevalence of smallpox in the city, a fact widely substantiated by microfilm records of newspapers and city council actions of that time. Whether the then-dread disease was the cause of the mayor's death is not recorded, but it was in September of that year he passed away.
The above information was typed from a photocopy of an undated newspaper clipping. There is also no information as to what newspaper it was snipped from. At this time, it is presumed to be a Liberty County, Texas publication. The R. L. HALL mentioned here is Robert Loring HALL (17 May 1914 - 11 August 1981).