by Barbara Rimkunas
This "Historically Speaking" column appeared in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, February 28, 2014.
Hall was born in 1747, most likely in Newmarket, and was enslaved first to Philemon Blake and later to Nathaniel Healy. When the Revolution broke out, Hall ran away and joined the Continental Army. George Quintal’s “Patriots of Color,” which studied the battles of Bunker Hill and Battle Road, remarked, “This study confirms what the Revolutionary soldiers knew first-hand: the great mass of the 1775 army, excluding officers, was completely integrated. This level of integration did not occur in the Civil War, or for that matter World War II, but only reached similar levels in the Vietnam Conflict nearly two hundred years later.” Jude Hall remained with the Continental Army for seven years, and participated in fighting at Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga, Trenton, Hubbardton, Saratoga and Monmouth. Injured several times, he reenlisted and was discharged in 1783.
Granted his freedom and some land, he settled in Exeter. Exeter’s free-Black population swelled after the war, eventually comprising nearly 5% of populace in town. Jude Hall married Rhoda Paul in 1785 and together they had twelve children. Locating records for the family is difficult. Births were not always registered, so it can be difficult to document what happened to their children. Rhoda was descended from a noted Exeter family beginning with her father, Caesar Paul. Caesar had been enslaved in his youth to Major John Gilman and accompanied his master during the French and Indian War. On returning to town, he was freed in 1771 and shortly thereafter married Lovey Rollins, the daughter of Stratham lawyer Caleb Rollins. Rhoda was one of Caesar and Lovey’s ten children. Three of her brothers became noted Baptist preachers.
We know little about the everyday life of Jude and Rhoda. He is described as a ‘yeoman,’ or land-owning farmer, but it is doubtful that he was ever wealthy. When asked to describe his property to reapply for his military pension in 1820, he listed only: “One small one story house two rooms in it, a few plates, earthen shovel & tongs, a few other articles of furniture of small value.”
Hall served as a witness in the murder trial of John Blaisdell in 1822. The murderer, Blaisdell, had brought the victim, John Wadleigh, to Hall’s house. Jude assisted the injured man back to his own place and stayed with him through the night until he died. The trial transcript allows us to hear Hall’s voice, “After Wadleigh got over his chill and shuddering he said Captain (meaning me) how long have you been here - - and then he gave a sithe and was gone again.”
Although Jude Hall was trusted enough to testify in court, it was still not possible for free people of color to live unthreatened. Robert Roberts, who had married Jude and Rhoda’s eldest daughter, Dorothy, would later testify about the fates of three of the Hall children. James was kidnapped at the age of 18 from the Hall home. David Wedgewood, of Exeter, claimed that James owed him four dollars and that he was justified in dragging him away from his mother. He was sold into slavery and never returned to Exeter. Roberts said, in 1833, “He was seen, not long since, at New Orleans, by George Ashton, a colored man, from Exeter; he said he was chained up in the calaboose or jail, at New Orleans, as a run-away; and, in the mean time, his master came, and commanded him to be punished severely, and carried him back.”
Aaron, another son, put to sea in Providence and signed a promissory note for $20.00 to pay for his sea clothes. On his return, the merchant demanded $200.00. Roberts related his fate, “he started from Providence to carry his money to his father, and was overtaken to Roxbury, on his way home, and carried back, sent to sea, and has not been heard of since.”
William also thought a seafaring life would offer independence and income and sailed out of Newburyport. “After arriving at the West Indies, was sold there as a slave; and, after remaining in slavery ten years, by some means run away, and is now in England, a captain of a collier from Newcastle to London. About three years ago, his mother heard of him, the first time for upwards of twenty years.”
Jude Hall didn’t live long enough to hear from William. He died in 1827 at the age of 80. Rhoda moved to Belfast, Maine, to be with their daughter. She applied for and received the widow’s pension due her for her husband’s loyal service in the Revolutionary War. Jude Hall had fought to free a nation, but was ultimately unable to see his own children granted freedom.
Photo: Jude’s Pond, named for former slave and Revolutionary War veteran Jude Hall, off the Drinkwater Road in Exeter.