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Rev. James Hall, a distinguished soldier of the Revolution–the Captain of a company and Chaplain of a Regiment at the same time–was born at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on the 22d of August, 1744. When he was about eight years old his parents, who were Scotch-Irish, removed to North Carolina and settled in the upper part of Rowan county, (now Iredell), in the bounds of the congregation to which he afterward gave thirty-eight years of his ministerial life.
Secluded in the forests of Rowan, and removed to a great extent from the follies of the great world, James Hall grew up under the watchful care of pious parents, receiving such early instruction as the country schools then afforded.
In his twenty-sixth year he commenced the study of the classics, and made rapid progress, as his mind was matured and his application close and unremitting. When duly prepared he entered Princeton College, under the direction of President Witherspoon, one of the signers of the National Declaration of Independence. He graduated in 1774, in his thirty-first year. The Theological reading of Mr. Hall was pursued under the direction of Dr. Witherspoon, that eminent minister and patriot, whose views in religion and politics were thoroughly imbibed by his student. In the spring of 1776 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Orange to preach the Gospel of everlasting Peace. During the exciting scenes of the Revolution, in which he had been licensed and ordained, Mr. Hall held the office of pastor over the three congregations of Fourth Creek, Concord and Bethany, which extended from the South Yadkin river to the Catawba. After the Revolution he served these three congregations until 1790, when, wishing to devote more time to the cause of domestic missions, he was released from his connection, with Fourth Creek and Concord. His connection with Bethany continued until his death, in July, 1826.
A full account of Mr. Hall’s patriotic services during the Revolution would far transcend the prescribed limits of this sketch. The principles of civil and religious freedom which he received in his parental, as well as in his collegiate training, would not allow him to remain neuter or indifferent, when a cruel, invading foe was trampling on the just and dearest rights of his country.
Accordingly, in response to the warm, patriotic impulses of his nature, when General Rutherford called out an army of over two thousand men from the surrounding counties to subdue the Cherokee Indians, who were committing numerous murders and depredations on the frontier settlements, Mr. Hall promptly volunteered his services, and was gladly accepted by the commanding officers as their Chaplain.
In the brief, diary notes of Captain Charles Polk, (now before the author), who commanded a company in this expedition, he says:
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“On Thursday, the 12th of September, we marched down the river three miles, to Cowee Town, and encamped. On this day there was a party of men sent down this river (“Nuckessey”) ten miles, to cut down the corn; the Indians fired on them as they were cutting the corn and killed Hancock Polk, of Colonel Beekman’s Regiment.”
On Friday, the 13th, they remained encamped in Cowee Town. On Saturday, the 14th, “we marched to Nuckessey Town, six miles higher up the river, and encamped. On Sunday, the 15th, one of Captain Irwin’s men was buried in “Nuckessey” Town. On Monday, the 16th, we marched five miles–this day with a detachment of twelve hundred men–for the Valley Towns, and encamped on the waters of Tennessee river. Mr. Hall preached a sermon last Sunday; in time of sermon the express we sent to the South army returned home. On Tuesday, the 17th, we marched six miles, and arrived at a town called “Nowee”, about 12 o’clock; three guns were fired at Robert Harris, of Mecklenburg, by the Indians, said Harris being in the rear of the army. We marched one mile from “Nowee” and encamped on the side of a steep mountain, without any fire.”
These extracts show that Mr. Hall was then at his post of duty, and ready to deliver religious instruction to the American army. The sermon was directly prompted by the death of a fellow soldier. Who can tell how many hearts were touched and benefitted by the gospel truths proclaimed by the youthful preacher on that solemn occasion? The counsels of Eternity can alone answer the question.
In 1779, when South Carolina was overrun by the British and Tories, Mr. Hall’s spirit was stirred within him on receiving intelligence of the massacres and plunderings experienced by the inhabitants of the upper part of that State. Under this state of feeling he assembled his congregation and addressed them in strong, patriotic language on what he believed to be their present duty. He pictured to their view, in a most thrilling manner, the wrongs and sufferings of their afflicted countrymen. The appeal to their patriotism was not made in vain. With as little delay as possible a company of cavalry, composed of choice young men from his congregation, was promptly raised. On its organization, Mr. Hall was unanimously chosen for their Captain; all his excuses were overruled, and, in order to encourage his countrymen “to act” rather than “to talk”, he accepted the command. “Heart within, and God o’erhead.” During this tour of service two of his men were taken prisoners. As he could not recover them by force of arms, their case was made the subject of prayer, both in his private devotions and in public with his company. In a few days afterward the prisoners made their escape and rejoined their fellow soldiers.
They stated that, as their captors lay encamped one night on Broad River, in South Carolina, the sentinel placed at the door of the guard-house was observed to be drowsy; they remaining quiet, he soon fell asleep. When the prisoners discovered he was truly reposing in “balmy sleep,” they quietly stepped over him as he lay with his gun folded in his bosom, and quickly ran for the river. The noise of their plunge into the water, aroused the attention of another more wakeful sentry; the alarm was given, and boats were manned for the pursuit, but the active swimmers reached the opposite bank in safety and thus effected their escape, to the great joy of the praying Captain and his faithful company.
In the winter of 1781, when Lord Cornwallis was approaching the Catawba river with his army, General Davidson, who was in command of the Whigs on the opposite or Mecklenburg side of that stream, concentrated his forces, stationed at different points on the river, to resist him at Cowan’s Ford. In order to strengthen himself as much as possible, he sent couriers to the adjoining counties, calling on the Whigs to rally to his assistance. One of these couriers, sent to Fourth Creek Church, (now Statesville), in Iredell county, arrived on the Sabbath, while the pastor, the Rev. James Hall, was preaching. The urgency of his business did not permit him to delay in making known the nature of his mission, and, as the best course of doing so, he walked up to the pulpit and handed Davidson’s call to the pastor, the Rev. James Hall, whose patriotic record was well known. Mr. Hall glanced over the document, and understanding its purport, brought his discourse to a speedy close, descended from the pulpit, and read it to his congregation.
After reading it he made a patriotic appeal to his audience to respond to this call of their country. Whereupon, a member of the congregation moved that they organize by calling Mr. Hall, the pastor, to preside, and proceed to take such action as the circumstances demanded. The pastor accepted the position of President of the meeting, renewed his appeal to the patriotism of his people, and demonstrated his sincerity in calling for volunteers by placing his own name at the head of the list. His example was quickly followed by a sufficient number of his congregation to form a company. It was then decided to adjourn, and meet again at the church at 10 o’clock next morning, mounted, with arms and supplied with ammunition, and five days rations, at which time they would elect officers and proceed to the scene of conflict.
Accordingly, on the following morning the pastor and the greater part of the male members of his congregation responded to roll call under the noble oaks, where then, and now, stands Fourth Creek Presbyterian Church, in the corporate limits of the town of Statesville, the county seat of Iredell.
The assemblage proceeded immediately to the election of officers, when the Rev. James Hall, their pastor, was unanimously chosen Captain.
In accordance with the choice of his beloved congregation, so cordially given, Mr. Hall instantly assumed command, put his men in rapid motion, and, in due time, reported to General Davidson and took his position in line, to resist the invaders of his country.
This was the sort of patriotism that burned in the bosoms of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers; which was enkindled by the pastors of the seven churches of Mecklenburg, and burst forth into a flame upon the classic site of Charlotte, on the 20th of May, 1775.
When the war of the revolution had ended, Mr. Hall devoted himself, with undivided energies, to his beloved work, the gospel ministry. The effects of the long and harassing war upon the churches in Carolina were deplorable; the regular ordinances of the gospel had been broken up, and the preached word had become less valued. His efforts in promoting vital godliness met with the Divine approbation, were attended with His blessing, and resulted in a revival of religion.
One sphere of usefulness in which Mr. Hall excelled, was the education of young men. Near the commencement of the war he conducted for a time a classical school, called Clio’s Nursery, on Snow Creek, in Iredell county. This he superintended with care, and through its agency brought out many distinguished men that might not otherwise have obtained an education.
This eminent minister of the gospel died on the 25th of July, 1826, in the eighty-second year of his age, and is buried in the graveyard of Bethany Church, in Iredell county.