All relatives of Louise Hall Ryland -- and these relatives would be all my cousins and their kin -- will find the will of Abner Hall very interesting. I will have to tell the story in two parts, but the will is the first part that sets the scene.
His will is the first one I found where our ancestors were slaveholders. I was shocked, to say the least. Abner Hall was from North Carolina (Rowan County, for you genealogists) and had come to Missouri in the 1830s. He was a died-in-the-wool southerner and as such, being a fairly well-to-do man, had many slaves. It took me a long time before I could like him, especially because of the way he doled out his slaves as time grew closer to his death. You can see by the date that things were to change shortly.
But if you read his will carefully and note specifically what he says about his oldest son, William, and the making of his second-oldest son John A. (our direct ancestor) his executor, in the next section of this story you will find another more dramatic change that was soon to take place.
Last will and Testament
Abner Hall, Franklin Co., MO
dated April 19, 1862
I, Abner Hall of the County of Franklin, State of Missouri, being now in feble health but of sound and disposing mind, do on this the nineteenth day of April, 1862, make, publish and declare the following to be my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me made.
First I desire that all my funeral expenses and just debts be first paid.
2nd I give and bequeath to my beloved Mildred Hall, to have and to hold during her natural life the following named slaves, To wit Thom, Minerva and Ester.
It is further my will that in the event of any one or all of said Slaves become unruly, unsafe or unprofitable, then and in that event my executor herein after mentioned shall have full power to sell or dispose of such slave or slaves so deemed to be unruly or unprofitable to my said wife, out of proceeds of said sale my said Executor shall apply the interest arising from the sale to the benefit of my said wife or to be subject to her control.
I further give to my wife, in addition to the slaves herein before mentioned during her natural life, my home stead farm situate on St. Johns containing two hundred acres being the farm upon which we now reside and at her death the same to descend to my youngest son James E. Hall in fee simple.
3rd I give and bequeath to my daughter Caroline the following named Slaves. To wit Amanda, Lydia and Laura.
4th I give and bequeath to Nancy E. Hall the following Slaves to wit Mary, Augustus and Lucy.
6th I give and bequeath to my son James E. Hall the following named Slaves to wit Washington, Mariah and Elen the youngest child of Minerva and in addition to the three slaves herein named that at the death of my said wife the said James E. Hall is to have the farm upon which I now live as his absolute property which said farm contains two hundred acres being the same in which my wife is given a life time interest.
5th I give and bequeath to my son R. M. Johnson Hall the following slaves to wit Anderson, Allice and Daniel.
7th I give and bequeath to John A. Hall the following slaves to wit Charlotte and her increase, Gracy and Joseph, the two first named he is to take immediate possession of.
8th I give and bequeath to William L. Hall ten dollars and such a sum to be paid him annuly as his necessities require or as my said executor may think proper, not to exceed the one half of the yearly value of the three slaves willed to my said Executor, after first deducting out clothing, sickness and doctor bills, the annual legacy to be paid by my Executor to the said William L. Hall is to be paid by said Executor and not to be paid out of my estate, this left alone to the sole discretion of my Executor.
9th It is my will that the personal property on hand at my death remain together and be kept for the use of my wife and the raising of my four youngest children, this clause of my will to mean the household and kitchen furniture and all the stock on hand at my death.
10th It is my will that the Real Estate situate in the town of Washington County and State aforesaid, one a lot and brick house on Jefferson St. and five other lots with all and singular their improvements these situated in the western part of said town and described as follows to wit, lots one, two, three, four and five and being the whole of Elijah W. Murphy's addition to the town of Washington as the same is laid down on the plat of said addition, that this property be sold whenever my said executor shall deem it advantageous to my said Estate and the proceeds of said sale shall be equally divided between Caroline, Nancy E. and R. M. Johnson Hall, my said executor being fully authorized under this will to convey title to said property without any order or decree of any court.
11th That it is my will that at the death of my said wife Mildred Hall the slaves herein before bequeathed to her or the proceeds arising from them shall descend to the four youngest children, to wit, Caroline, Nancy E., R. M. Johnson and James. E. Hall, share and share alike.
12th It is my will that all of my estate personal and mixed not herein specifically disposed of shall be collected, preserved and applied to the payments of my debts and the expenses of the settlement of my estate and the residue if any to be divided among the four youngest children, Caroline, Nancy E., R. M. Johnson and James E. Hall.
13th and lastly, I do hereby appoint John A. Hall the sole Executor of this my last will and testament with full power to employ such assistance as he may choose in order to carry into effect the purposes and desires of this my last Will and testament.
In testimony whereof I, Abner Hall, have hereunto set my hand and seal this the day and year aforesaid.
Signed and declared by the above Abner Hall to be his last will and testament in the presence of us who at his request and in his presence have subscribed our names as witnesses thereto.
Robert F. Sullins
John D. Jump
George W. Hawkins