Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Gabriel Hall (b. circa 1801 - d. circa 1895)
MSA SC 5496-51053
Escaped from Calvert County, Maryland, 1814


Gabriel Hall was an enslaved boy who was born about 1801 in Maryland. He was owned by Walter Wells who lived in Calvert County, Maryland. In July of 1814, thirteen-year-old Gabriel Hall escaped to the British from his enslavement on Walter Wells's farm in Calvert County. Hall escaped with three others slaves, Jenny or Jane Stewart and Aaron Contee, who also were owned by Walter Wells and another slave Tom Morgan alias Tom Sewell, who belonged to James Duke, Sr. At the time, the British squadron was visible from Wells's property, with the ships lying in the Patuxent River about one and a half miles away.1 At the time of his escape Gabriel was valued at $600. 

In 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed ending the War of 1812. Many of the slaves who escaped from Maryland during the war were carried to Canada to be resettled. Gabriel Hall arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, around 1815.2 He settled in an area that would become the town of Preston in Halifax. The land was being settled by the black refugees who arrived there after the war. He was listed among the young boys and girls aged 8-13 on the Return of black people at Halifax arrived from the Chesapeake as well as the Halifax List.3 

After the war was over Maryland slave owners filed complaints to the Department of State over the loss of property. A commission was formed to handle the claims and decided that Maryland and Virginia claimants would be compensated $280 for each slave that was lost to the British. In order to receive compensation owners had to prove that the slaves ran away or were carried off by the British. Many of the claims supporting documentation came in the form of depositions given by friends, family, neighbors, and enslaved people. Walter Wells submitted a claim for the loss of his three slaves, including Gabriel. Wells claim was supported by the depositions of John Mackall, Benjamin Parran, John Parran and Thomas R. Wells.  He was awarded $840 for the loss of his slaves. 

Being that Hall was very young when he arrived he was not granted property in Preston like other refugees who were adults. In 1824, when Gabriel Hall was 21 years old he petitioned the President of Nova Scotia  for land.4 In his petition, Hall was requesting 25 acres of land on which he was already situated which was not appropriated to anyone. He stated that he had no income and was about to be married. Hall's request was approved survey, but it is not known whether the land was granted to him.5 The woman hall married was named Lucinda, who was also from the United States.6 Hall and his wife were members of the African Baptist church. Lucinda Hall died about 1891 and left Gabriel Hall widowed. Around 1892, George H. Craig photographed Hall when he was roughly 92 years old. Gabriel Hall's portrait is the only surviving photograph of a black refugee who settled in Halifax following the War of 1812.7 Hall died in Nova Scotia about 1895. 

1.     Claim of Walter Wells, Case 113. Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828. *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190*. National Archives, College Park.

2.     General Records, compiled ca. 1823 - ca. 1828, Halifax List, Record Group 76, Entry 185, National Archives College Park., pg. 7
        "Halifax List." African Nova Scotians: in the Age of Slavery and Abolition. Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management.

3.     "Return of black people at Halifax arrived from the Chesapeake," Commissioner of Public Records NSARM  RG 1 vol. 305 no. 7 (microfilm no. 15387),

4.     Memorial of Gabriel Hall of Preston," Commissioner of Crown Lands NSARM RG 20 series A, vol. 90 (1824) (microfilm no: 15737)

5.    ibid.

6.    "Census of Canada, 1881." Statistics Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm C-13162 to C-13286. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

7.    "Gabriel Hall." African NovaScotians: in the Age of Slavery and Abolition. Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management. Photograph: George H. Craig NSARM acc. no. 1988-387, NSARM neg. N-728.

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