THE HALLS OF HALL’S CORNER

(Part 3 of the Bassetts and Spragues)

Thomas Prince deeded the Samuel Sprague farm of 40 acres to Christopher Wadsworth, the son of Deacon John (I) Wadsworth in 1713. Christopher left this farm to his son Christopher in 1748 at the time of his death. The heirs of the second Christopher settled his estate mostly through the efforts of his son Prince Wadsworth in the 1770s. After this the 40-acre parcel was deeded off in several smaller pieces, which Captain Joshua Hall reassembled over several years. He and his son Joshua, Jr. also sold off some portions of the property. One part, on Harden Hill, was sold to Benjamin Prior in 1822, and was later (1920) acquired by the Sisters of St. Margaret. The Society of St. Margaret is an Episcopal Religious Order devoted to helping poor and indigent children, women and the elderly. They have recently made their Duxbury facility the Mother House for the region.

During Joshua’s ownership, pre 1800, there was no Washington Street and no Hall’s Corner. In fact several deeds around 1800 to 1810 referred to the “new” street as “the road leading to Harvey Soule’s store.” It was only after Captain Joshua Hall’s son Captain Daniel built a magnificent tavern and inn at the corner that people started referring to the area as Hall’s Corner.

Captain Daniel was an officer in the Revolutionary War, first as an ensign, then lieutenant and captain. He served nobly, delivering supplies to Washington’s Army at Boston. He later resigned his commission and became a “Coaster,” essentially doing the same thing.

In building his Hall’s Tavern (also used as an inn) he spared no expense. He bought wood in Maine and seasoned it down by the shore at the end of his property. He built the new building on the same foundation as what had been his father’s house. During his maritime career, in addition to being a master mariner, he was also a “joiner” so he had experience working with wood in building ships on the North River in Marshfield. The inn had hand-crafted cornices and wainscoting with inlaid mahogany in the parlor and living room. The inn was built around 1810 and Captain Daniel gave up his life on the sea to live with his wife, Ruth Josselyn, and raise their 10 children in their new house.

One interesting bit of trivia is that Ruth Josselyn Hall’s daughter Ruth became Ruth Hall Josselyn.

The Captain died in 1847, and his heirs rented the inn to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shirley for several years. The house was so exquisite that it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Cecil E. Fraser, a Harvard professor who was a colonial house enthusiast, for $4500 in 1930. The tavern was flaked (disassembled and numbered) and trucked (35 truckloads) to Cambridge at a cost of $18,850. The house stands today as a private residence at 20 Gray Gardens West in Cambridge. Clarence W. Brazer, another colonial house enthusiast, who reconstructed the house, later married Mrs. Fraser. Talk about loving a colonial house! After the building was removed Clara Redmond and Hazel Mount successfully ran Clara’s Restaurant on the site and it later became the Exxon and now Vercollone’s Gulf station.

Captain Daniel and Ruth’s youngest child (of the 10) George, was a master mariner before he became keeper of the Gurnet Life Saving Station. One of George’s sons was Captain Parker Hall. If Captain Parker’s grandfather had a Corner named after him, they should at least name a street or building after Captain Parker Hall. Captain Parker’s maritime exploits are well documented. He was a man of unusual stature and strength. Often referred to as the “Lone Skipper.” Among the several ships that he sailed alone was a 136-ton schooner, with just a cat on board. Captain Parker was a “Coaster,” moving cargo up and down the northeast seacoast. He would often load and unload cargo, hoist and haul in sails, haul in the anchor and steer the ship – by himself.

On one voyage, early in his career, he hired two Portuguese sailors on a trip to Long Island. After docking he went into town to get paid for the shipment and told the two sailors he’d pay them when he got back. The two sailors knew he would have money on his return, so they jumped the Captain. Captain Parker fought off one of them, reached in his pocket for his revolver and shot the other one. When the man he shot died, they tried The Captain for murder. Among the many witnesses who testified for Captain Parker, one said “If Captain Hall shot these men there was no other way to save his own life.” Captain Hall was acquitted – “justifiable homicide.” I think this was when the Captain decided he did not need a crew.

Captain Parker was at one time sitting in the Gurnet Light House when three men in a small sailboat capsized and were clinging to the boat off High Pines Ledge. He, at the risk of his own life and using his enormous strength, picked up a small dory, carried it overland more than a mile, launched it and rowed out to save the three men.

Captain Parker was required to deliver a load of lumber up the Charles River with seven bridges to go under. While practically every sailing vessel got towed upriver, he sailed, alone, all the way up and maneuvered into the dock without a hitch.

The Captain did make an attempt at marriage. He renamed his vessel (sometimes considered to be bad luck) in honor of his new wife. While anchored in Plymouth Bay he was called away and told his wife to stay on the ship and when the bay froze she could walk ashore. The bay did not freeze, and she left shortly after that. Captain Hall renamed the boat. End of story.

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