‘A man among them’
Before Orville Elder bought the Evening Journal he was engaged in the grocery business. This is where he came to know a freed slave from North Carolina. His name was Samuel Hall.
Elder helped Hall gather his thoughts into a book. The title of his book is “A Slave for Forty-Seven Years” and the book gives details about his first marriage, being sold as a slave, and how he came to Washington shortly after the Civil War. The Journal Print printed his book in 1912 when Hall was 94 years old.
Hall was born in Iredell County, North Carolina on May 7, 1818. Both his mother and father were from Liberia. They were kidnapped and brought to the United States and were sold into slavery.
At the age of 12 Hall was inherited by Hugh Hall after the death of his first owner, Alex Hall. Hugh didn’t believe in slavery and regarded his slaves as free Negroes.
“They were known far and wide for their high degree of intelligence and their capacity to do work and to do it intelligently, but the regular slave holders looked upon them as spoiled Negroes,” Samuel said in his book.
Samuel was never abused by Hugh, nor were any of the other slaves on his plantation. After Hugh died, his wife sold 37-year-old Samuel to a Mississippi-Tennessee plantation owner in 1855.
Samuel was married at the time to Margaret Minerva Clark at a plantation down the road from Hugh’s. He had four children living when he was sold away from them.
“He kissed his wife and his children goodbye—four of the children, for the fifth, Adeline, was yet unborn—and went to the auction block and was sold off as we would sell a beef today,” Samuel’s book said. “The wife and three of those children he never saw again.”
Samuel went for $1,250 to William Wallace. According to Samuel, Wallace tried to have him killed. Wallace cut Samuel’s neck and just missed his jugular vein.
Samuel chased after him for 48 hours and no one could come near him because of his anger.
“I was crazy mad and did not care if I died,” Samuel said. “I just let the cut in my neck and jaw go.”
After that Samuel said Wallace was afraid of Samuel and never attacked him again.
In September 1857 Samuel married for a second time. He lived with his second wife for 56 years. Her name was Millie.
They moved together to the rural Washington area shortly after the Civil War ended. Samuel found work farming for John Hale. He later bought a farm and sold it. Then he rented farms from Dr. McClelland, Michael Hayes, and Alex Houck.
When Samuel stopped farming Samuel moved to the city of Washington. He lived until he died, which was Aug. 2, 1913. Hall was 95 years old. His wife, Millie, preceded him in death on April 28, 1906.
Through out his experience in Washington Samuel was thankful for how he was treated.
“I want the people of Washington and Washington County to know that I have always tried to live like a man among them and to be in my conduct as nearly like them as I could,” Hall said. “I didn’t want them to see anything different about me excepting my skin, and I have always claimed that if a man is black as coal, but behaves himself and tends to his own business and don’t shove himself in where he ain’t wanted, he’ll get along all right and will be wanted more and more places as he grows older. You tell the people of Washington County that they’ve always been good to me and my family and we thank them all for it. Iowa is the best state in the union toward the Negro and Iowa has always tried to help me and my people. ”
Samuel and his wife are buried at Woodlawn Cemetary in Washington. Their grave is located in section D, row three, gravestone no. 42.
His book is available to read at the Washington Free Public Library.