The History of Otsego County, New York
D. Hamilton Hurd
Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia
HALL, William G - Pittsfield
William G. HALL was born in Pownal, Bennington Co., Vt., Jan.
2, 1785. His father, Gardner Hall, was at the time a merchant in
company with his brother William, who were also large manufacturers
of potash. When four years of age he was crossing a brook that
ran near the house and fell in, and it was not until he had floated
several rods down the stream that he was discovered and rescued.
Fond of his school and his books, his progress was rapid.,
In 1797 a reverse of fortune occurred to the firm, and his father
moved to Burlington (now Pittsfield), Otsego co., N.Y. He was
assisted by Captain Caleb G. GARDNER, father of Amy Gardner,
his wife, to purchase 50 acres of land, being a part of the homestead
now owned by Dr. William G. Hall at his decease. This land was
first purchased of William COOPER, of Cooperstown, Sept. 26, 1795,
by Aaron NOBLE, then sold to Jeremiah STEPHENS, of Hancock,
Bershire Co., Mass., who sold the same July 15, 1797, to Garnder
Hall, he giving his bond to William Cooper for L56 12s. 6d. This
land was purchased by William G. Hall of his father in 1812, and
sold by him to his son, Caleb G. Hall, in 1848.
Upon his removal to the new country William was left with his
relatives to attend school; after three years at school his father
returned, and he came back with him to the new country and assisted
in felling the forest trees and clearing up the land.
While cutting down a large tree standing near the top of a hill,
and just as it began to fall he saw that his brother Caleb, aged five
years, had started to come to him and was where the top of the tree
would strike the ground. There was not an instant to lose; dropping
the axe, he ran under the falling tree, caught the boy in his arms and
carried him out of harm's reach, while the small branches of the top
whipped his shoulders.
But the labor incident to a new country did not destroy his love
of learning, and the evenings were generally spent lying upon the
floor of the log house, studying his schoolbooks by the light of pine
knots. He was very thorough in his studies, and during the time
thus occupied, without the assistance of teachers, had worked out
and copied into large books, made by himself of foolscap paper, the
most important problems of arithmetic, trigonometry, navigation,
In the fall of 1802 he taught school in the Mill district, which
was the first organized in the town. The mills were owned by his
uncle, Benjamin Hall, and Luke METCALF. Mr. Lyman P. Hall,
only surviving son of Benjamin P., now owns and occupies his
father's residence. With money earned by teaching and mending
shoes in the evenings, he purchased clothes and books.
May 29, 1804, he started for the east (the "down country," as it
was then called) on foot, and, with his pack on his back, he arrived
at his uncle's, Isaac Hall, in Wickford, R.I., August 1. For years
he had had a strong desire to go to sea, and his diary informs us
that Sept. 12, 1804, he sailed for the East Indies, on the ship "Mount
Hope." The bright anticipations of his youth were not realized, and
one voyage satisfied him with a seafaring life. When he returned he
commenced teaching select school, and studying medicine with Dr.
Shaw, of Wickford, R.I. In 1806 he became a Master Mason, at
Cooperstown, N.Y. His time was then occupied in studying and
teaching until 1809. The Otsego County medical society, Oct. 27, 1809,
granted him a license to practice physic and surgery within the State.
March 26, 1809, he married Polly, daughter of Dr. Joseph O.
CONE, of Pittsfiefld, N.Y. She died May 22, 1810. In 1811 he
married Sarah TenBROECK. Seven children were born to them,
all of whom are living, except Sarah, wife of the late William
BEARDSLEE (died 1855, aged forty-two years), and Aarvilla, wife
of the late Barnet W. FRY, Esq., who died in 1864. His father's
family consisted of six children - Gardner, William G., Henry, Ansel,
Orinel, and Olive. His father died March 22, 1822, aged sixty-nine
years; his mother, Amy GARDNER, died May 19, 1830, aged
sixty-six years. His grandfather, Robert Hall, died May 12, 1765,
aged seventy-five; his grandmother, Patience Hall, died Oct. 2, 1776,
aged ninety-six years.
Mr. Hall soon acquired a large practice, riding far and near in his
ministrations, never refusing to obey the summons of the most humble;
and often carrying them food as well as medicine, he accomplished
much good. Two of his brothers, Ansel and Caleb, also became
physicians under his instruction, and for many years carried on a
successful practice. Many others read medicine with him, or were
prepared for teaching school. He erected in his district the second
frame school-house in the town, which has become historic from a
poem written by his daughter, the late Mrs. A. A. Fry. He was a
liberal subscriber and a trustee of the New Berlin academy, and
delivered the inaugural address at the opening of that institution.
He was an attendant of the Episcopoal church. He was a great
reader, and possessed a remarkably retentive memory, often being
able to repeat whole pages of a book after one or two perusals. He
took a warm interest in poiltics, but invariably refused nomination
for any office the duties of which would interfere with his profession.
He was surgeon of the 54th Regiment of Infantry for many years, by
appointment of Governor Clinton. He did not believe in corporeal
punishment, and held to the rule of the law of love for man and beast.
Of his personal appearances, Miss Caroine De FOREST, of
Binghamton (whose father was one of the earliest settlers, and
whose borther, William, was the first child born in Pittsfield), says,
"I have a distinct recollection of Dr. Hall, his fine personal
appearance, and courtly manners." His health remained good until a
short time before his death, when his right side became paralyzed. He
died Dec. 15, 1856.
Sarah T. Hall, wife of Dr. W. G. Hall, was a daughter of Mary
and R. TENBROECK, who moved from New Jersey to Edmeston
in 1795, and purchased what was known as the Tenbroeck tract, on
Wharton creek. Sarah attended school at New Brunswick until
thirteen years of age, when she came to Cooperstown, and attended
the academy while J. Fenimore COOPER was a student in that
institution. She inherited from her parents a healthy constitution,
and possessed a clear mind and excellent memory; she was a valuable
assistant to her husband, not only in domestic duties, but in a great
degree managing the farm, enabling him to devote most of his
time to his professional duties. She was a faithful and loving wife
and mother, a kind and hospitable neighbor, and universally esteemed.
She died Sept. 18, 1871, in the seventy-ninth year of her age.
Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, page 291
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