THE HALL FAMILY -- EARLY SETTLERS OF ELK PRAIRIE
by Audrey Merriman and Hildred Roberts
Nathan and Polly (Clampit) Hall and their family were early settlers in Elk Prairie. Nathan died in 1860, leaving Polly a widow with a large family at home. At the start of the Civil War her four sons volunteered for the Army, leaving Polly at home with 4 young children. She got a large dog to have for the protection of the family. It was about the size of an English Mastiff, of no particular breed, but a mixture of many breeds. She allowed this dog to stay in her cabin at night, for she felt safer knowing he was nearby. Then, just as today, there were thieves and robbers around, trying to rob people. It was common for the menfolks who were away in the Army to send money back home to their families and the robbers soon learned this, so when the women received the money they would go rob them. Polly was one of the women who received the money. Each month when her sons received their pay they would send some home to their mother to help provide for the younger children still at home. One night shortly after Polly had received her money from her sons, she heard a loud noise outside her cabin door, which she always kept barred. It sounded like someone trying to get into the cabin. Finally it went away, but the next night she heard the same noise again. The dog was all upset and barking and protesting very loudly about this noise. So Polly opened the door just wide enough to let the dog slip outside, and she told the dog, "Whatever that is outside, move it down the path." The dog finally returned to the cabin and all was quiet and there was no more trouble for the rest of the night. She was never bothered anymore with loud noises at night. About 2 weeks later the body of a man was found in the woods not far from her cabin with his throat torn open, and badly slashed by some kind of an animal. Polly always thought that this was the man who was bothering her and that her faithful dog had killed the man and probably saved their lives as well as their money. At the close of the Civil War the four Hall sons returned from the Army and married and began to make new lives for themselves. Thomas B. Hall married in 1868 one of the pretty neighborhood girls, Hannah Elizabeth Lee, daughter of Matthew and Mary Lee. They made their home in Elk Prairie, living in a cabin that set a short distance from where the Old Stenson Peterson farm was located, (Bill Kash now owns this farm). I do not know much about Elizabeth (Lee) Hall, but I do know she was a well educated woman with the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen. I now have their family Bible and she had written family names and date in it, as well as a few other bits of information. Also she had placed some four leaved clovers and a small wild flower in between some of the pages and these are in good condition yet today, over a hundred years later. There was probably some sentimental reason for her saving these, if we only knew it. They had two babies, both dying as infants. Their third child was Mary Eliza Hall, my grandmother. In 1873 when Mary was about 18 months old, her mother, Elizabeth, took sick with tuberculosis, them days it was called "Lung Fever" or "Consumption", and she only lived about six weeks. They decided to bury her in the Old Clampit Cemetery, or Old Horse Prairie Cemetery as some call it, (about a quarter mile southeast of the Old Primitive Baptist Church east of Emerson Crossing). She died during a time of very high waters. The Big Muddy River was overflowing and water was all over the "Bottoms". The Old Brownsville Road turned west where the Old Stenson Peterson farm was located, went across the Big Muddy River and down through Winfield. This was the road they would have to use and it was completely covered with water to a depth of several feet. Neighborhood men helped to haul the casket bearing the body to the Cemetery. They tied the bed onto the running gears of the wagon and when water started coming into the bed of the wagon, they placed the casket on their shoulders and finally ended up by setting it on chairs in the wagon bed to keep it out of the water as a long stretch of the road was deeply flooded. In this way they bore the body to the Cemetery. The men rode in the wagon and steadied the coffin on the chairs. The Old Clampit Cemetery is no longer in use and there are only four monuments left in it. They are placed in a pile in the corner of what once was a well kept cemetery, but is now trampled by cattle. In 1912 a group met at the Cemetery and put up a new fence, but it has now rotted away. Moses Hall, Mary (Hall) Fairchild, and her eldest son, Everett, went and helped. They loaded down their brand new wagon, which had bright red wheels, a green bed, and a spring seat, being quite a handsome piece of property, of which they were very proud. They took fence posts, wire fencing and some tools. They also took along a big basket, well filled with all manner of good things to eat, for the men did the work and the women would serve them a big noon meal. It was common, then, for people to have what they called their "Basket Dinners" at any kind of gathering. Just when they quit using the Cemetery I do not know, but Elizabeth Hall is the last one I have record of being buried there but I am sure there were probably others later. When the Horse Prairie Church was erected a Cemetery was started nearer the church. After the death of Elizabeth Hall, Thomas and his small daughter, Mary, moved back to the home of his mother, Polly Clampit Hall. Thomas provided for them and Polly raised Mary for him. Polly also at the same time was raising another orphaned grand-daughter, Polly Hall, who grew up and married James Robinson. While living in Elk Prairie the girls attended the old Boswell School. I've heard my grandmother, Mary (Hall) Fairchild, tell of how they used what was known as corn shuck mattresses. It was her and Polly's job to tear the dried corn shucks up into little strips and they would work at this until their hands and fingers would be cut and bleeding, and get very sore from the irritating task. They thought this was an awful job and didn't like doing it. Of course small jobs such as this was always saved for the children to do. After they got the strips all cut up they filled a large cloth bag with the shuck material and it made a nice soft bed. Polly Hall lived a long and useful life, raising eight children of her own and two grand-daughters. She sent four sons to the Civil War, all received very high compliments from their Commanding Officers. It was said that any time they asked either one of the Hall boys to do something, they did it and never complained about it. She had raised a family of which she could be proud. Polly Hall died September 6, 1901, the same day President McKinley was assassinated.
Pub. in "The Prairie Historian"
December 1973, Volume 3, Number 4
Submitted By: Abby Newell
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