The childhood and youth of any great man is always hung about with a mystic charm. Where history is impossible, fancy comes with the creation of ideals that she thinks must correspond with the brilliant manhood. It paints the boy with a halo about his head and a youthful charm that delights the gaze.
The Christ life, the most wonderful of all, and whose childhood is most hidden, has challenged the efforts of curiosity. Fable and fiction have come as the fruits of fancy. Imagination never tires in its work of creation in the realm of the childhood from which emerge great and good people. For some reason, best known to Himself the God of All has designed that the most striking, and lasting period of men shall be that of refined manhood, and that the time in which the life monument is built, and all substantial character erected. Could we know the details of the child life, and see them in the light of subsequent achievements, there would be seen in the boy prophecies of the man, that, like all prophecies, are not heeded or believed as prophecy. The life of the completed man must define the prophecy by fulfillment.
It is an old, and reasonably, correct saying, that "blood will tell." It is also a proverb, that '"all men have a right to be well born," — a thing in which the rights of many are violated. To be "well born" means mental, moral and physical soundness in the parent stock.
To the writer, it is vastly to the credit of the subject of this volume, that his father was of Virginia extraction. In an early day there came from that old state a young man by the name of William E. Hall. He was of robust nature and brave heart and so pushed into the wilds of "the purchase." During his stay in Clinton County, Mr. Hall met a coy and attractive lass by the name of Elizabeth Hall. These two married with result that Elizabeth Hall was Elizabeth Hall, and that was all, only now she became Mrs. Hall. These two earnest and industrious people settled down to the usual battle of life, of striving for a temporary footing on this tottery disc of time, as millions before them had done. There was only the above-mentioned feature that was in any way peculiaar about them. What the future had in store for them only the years that come and go could reveal. It might be riches cr fame, or both, or either or neither.
On the 5th of February 1849, there was an occurrence in the family that assured tha fame — that was the birth of their first-born son. Had such another son ever been born? No doubt the parents could see visions of greatness cluster about the cradle, and prophecies of a remarkable
man in that little red countenance. Must these be disappointed? Who is the child? His name was Hall Just Hall, and that was all, but one thing is sure, he was entirely Hall. His parents gave him the name of John Newton, which name became a household word among Baptists. His father and mother, both had been Halls from their birth, and this son was the same kind. When the sun rose; on the 5th day of February 1849, it lighted for the first time the face of this infant. It was the countenance of a great man; a very small man yet, it is true, but wait. He will be larger bye and bye. In that infant voice is the Harbinger of that eloquence that in after years thrilled the multitude and swept them up close to the gates of light, and the throne of mercy.
One unique incident comes to mind just here. Both the subject and writer of this were of Virginia extraction, and both parents of each bore the same name before marriage.
When J. N. Hall was seven years old his parents moved to Ballard County, Ky., and settled on a farm that is now the site of the town of Arlington. The oldest son was one of those studious and dutiful boys that attract attention and cause remark. Men still living, who were the companions of his boyhood and youth, never tire of telling of "Johnnie" Hall's peculiar traits. Bro. "Brit" Glenn of Arlington was his bosom friend from early boyhood until he went to God. Bro. T. N. Holt and Bro. John Brent were also the companions of his youth, and the staunch friends of his
later years of manly and Christly battle for the faith. These tell of Dr. Hall's acts of unselfishness even before he became a Christian, which occurred at the age of fourteen at old Cane Run Church, and under the preaching of Eld. C. L. Cate, and was baptized into the fellowship of the above church. At that time that church stood just west of Arlington, and afterwards became the Arlington church.
Those who knew J. N. Hall best in his boyhood agree that he had a high sense of honor, and a specially tender spirit towards the unfortunate. The boy that was so unfortunate as to be known as worth less and wicked, and the special object of common aversion, that boy was the special object of his pity, and subject of his sympathy and beneficence. Like all robust and healthy boys, he loved fun, and had sport, but never at the expense of propriety or the rights of others. When any boy of his company would suggest any rude or wicked sport he would rebuke it and always carried his point as he was recognized as a leader and authority on moral subjects.
One most commendable thing that the writer hopes will be considered and acted upon by all boys who may chance to read this, and that is. that he never gave his parents any anxiety about improper conduct when away from home.
Being the oldest of the family, Dr. Hall always felt the obligation of proper conduct for the benefit of the younger members of the family. Thoroughness, diligence and honesty were his characteristics. One who was not so intimate with him
remarked: "I knew him only as a good, industrious, unassuming, home-loving, gawky youth. It never occurred to me that there was a J. N. Hall in him."
To show how little men may judge of the future of a young man, Bro. Thos. N. Holt tells of an incident where he himself as a captain on one side of an oratorical contest, had the choice of speakers, and chose a Mr. Owens, instead of J. N. Hall. The dashy manner of Mr. Owens gained the decision, and Hall the good will of the audience.
All will be interested to know something of his education, where and how he got it. Dr. Hall always insisted that he never was educated; that lie "just grew up." But his preaching and writing have shown, him a superb scholar. Before his marriage he attended school at Milburn Academy, at Milburn, Kentucky, for three years, and it may be a surprise to his many admirers for his staunch Baptist faith, to know that that was a Campbellite school. One of Dr. Hall's first debates was with the president of that school, Rev. E. C. L. Denton. During the debate Dr. Hall remarked to his former teacher: "You used to teach and lick me, but now I am teaching and licking you." A brief notice and analysis of the characteristics and Character of the man will give a clear view of the reason for his being able to "teach the teacher," and all other men in matters of religious lore. These characteristics loom up like mountain peaks. The reader is referred to the following chapter for that.
Brother Hall was licensed to preach in 1871, and ordained one year later, by the Hopewell church, and was married in the meantime on July 6, 1871, to Miss Mollie Earl, who was a most faithful helpmeet in his arduous life, until she died, December 12, 1899. She was the mother of three children, one son and two daughters, all ot whom, except one, preceded the father to the kingdom above, the paradise of which he loved to speak.
The death of his daughter Beulah seemed to be the severest blow of Dr. Hall's life, and from which he always suffered in spirit, showing his tender attachment to his children. One elegant and cultured Christian young woman of twenty-two years, Miss Ruth, is his only surviving child.
It is said that Dr. Hall received two pounds of bacon and one bushel of potatoes as pay for his first year's preaching, and when speaking of it in after years, he said "the pay was according to the preaching."
The editorial career reaches from 1879 to the day of his death, a period of more than twenty-seven years. During this time he was connected with the following papers: the Baptist Gleaner, Fulton, Ky., the Banner and Gleaner, with Eld. W. P. Throgmorton; then the Baptist Gleaner, with Eld. J. B. Moody; then he bought the Baptist Reaper, and changed the name to Baptist Gleaner, which was finally sold to the Western Recorder, with Dr. Hall as editor of the Gleaner Department. The American Baptist Flag, of St. Louis, Mo., was sold at auction in 1898. Dr. Hall
bought the paper and removed it to Fulton, Ky., where under his able management, it became one of the foremost papers in the Baptist ranks, and so continues, having grown right on since his death, under the management of his widow, Mrs. Lillian J. Hall. The paper long ago ceased to be a local or State paper, and now carries the gospel to all states, and various foreign countries. Indeed, it can now be said that the Baptist Flag nearly follows the English drumbeat around the earth. The power of this Baptist enterprise will never be known till the full and glorious reward of Dr. Hall is seen.
Dr. Hall was married the second time to Miss Lillian J. Smith of Trezevant, Tenn., on August 8, 1900. This marriage, like the first, proved to be a happy one, and Mrs. Hall became a most excellent helpmeet by her Christian spirit and loyal endeavors in the work of conducting and publishing the Baptist Flag. This work seemed providential in preparing for the successful continuation of the paper after Dr. Hall's death. Few women, even those with the capabilities, could have had the strength and courage to stand up to such a task. This has been especially trying because some pretended friends have turned to rend The Flag when they could no longer use it for selfish advancement. But she was eminently prepared for all this, by experiences that had opened to her the fact that some can not be trusted beyond their selfish interests. These, however, were few.
Mrs. Hall has been able to withstand the
numerous attacks on the flag from the many directions that all true Baptists and Baptist institutions must expect attack. The spirit of disappointed ambition is perhaps the most bitter of all and entirely relentless, as well as unscrupulous. This has had to be met, under different guises and from various directions. Designing parties have sought to insinuate themselves into her confidence, but she has been sagacious enough to keep clear of their blandishments and save her business from their toils. She has sought the wisdom of God more than the wisdom of men in times of difficulty, since the death of her illustrious husband. Business problems and church problems alike have oeen carried to that higher wisdom for solution.
The matter of selecting an editor for The Flag,was one of the most difficult and important of the problems bequeathed her. Dr. Hall's will made no provision for that except that the Flag must continue on the straight Baptistic lines, and maintain the policies as before. There were various aspirants and numerous advisors. Advisors disagreed. The courses advised were almost as various as human feature and form, and as opposite as the poles. Earnestly was she exhorted to this course and that by real and pretending friends. Real friends had at heart only the good of the Flag and the preservation and advancement of the great work of Dr. Hall, with the happiness of his family. Pretending friends, of course, had "axes to grind." These have all been discovered in the light of subsequent events.
In the midst of this "choppy sea" of conflicting advice, with the future of a great enterprise at stake, Mrs. Hall turned to Him who never fails those that trust Him, and who call on Him in the time of trouble, and she fully believes that her trust was rewarded in the settlement of that most difficult problem. The written advice that has been preserved shows the anxiety of true friends for the success of the Flag, and false ones for its failure.
One and a half years of successful solution of difficult situations and conduct of so large and intricate a business is a demonstration of Mrs, Hall's abilities, and the providence that brings, things to pass in a way that men would never suspect, and at a time when they least think of such things. When Brother Hall died all people felt that the conducting of so large a business, and the editing of a paper so unique in its attitude, could not be continued without him. The writer agrees now that only for the divine hand, and power that can "do wonders in the earth," it could not have been done, even to the present.
Mrs. Hall is a woman of sublime faith in the righteousness of the cause for which her husband lived and wrought and died, in the hosts of loyal Baptists that love the Flag, and for whose edification and help the paper is published, and the God to whose glory all is dedicated, in the name of His Son, our Savior. This is what has sustained her in all of her difficulties, in business, in church and in long and painful bodily suffering
that has more than once brought her very near the grave.
This sketch is not intended as an eulogy so much as a glimpse at the situation for the benefit of those who love the Flag and those who do not. The success of the paper since Brother Hall's death carries its own eulogy.
[W. B. Barker, Memoirs of Elder J. N. Hall, 1907, pp. 8-16. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. — jrd]
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