Who was Moses Uriah Hall?

Exeter's first Black student entered the Academy in 1858.

Patrick Garrity
May 3, 2022

Moses Hall's gravestone stands in a cemetery in Epping, New Hampshire.

The scourge of slavery stole three sons from Jude Hall, but he and his youngest son, George, left a legacy that is interwoven with the Academy’s own.

George Washington Hall was born free in 1789, one of 10 children of Jude and Rhoda Hall. His older brothers William, Aaron and James would eventually be abducted and sold into slavery. George survived and remained in Exeter after his father died and his mother moved away. He married, and with his wife raised eight children. The family lived in poverty, but the town helped to support them through a charity established to assist people of color. That generosity would help lead to a historic first: In 1858, Moses Uriah Hall, one of George Hall’s sons and Jude Hall’s grandsons, entered Phillips Exeter Academy as the first Black student to attend the school.

According to an essay by David Dixon, published in the periodical Historical New Hampshire: “In winter, presumably to help support himself, [Moses Hall] drove a sleigh borrowed from Dr. Henry French, carried his white class-mates to the academy, returned the vehicle to its owner, and then walked back to the school.”

Like his grandfather, Moses Hall eventually went to war, serving as a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, Moses Hall returned to New Hampshire and settled in Epping. He married Eliza Healey and worked for decades as a skilled stonemason. In her book Tales from Epping’s Past, historian Madelyn Williamson writes of the mark Hall made on the small town: “In 1915, when he was about 80 years old, Mr. Hall paved the sidewalks on Pleasant Street. Before that, he had built a wall on Prescott Road and set the foundation for a large shoe factory in Raymond, as well as for a new one here in town. He bricked up buildings, and set walkways, stairs, fireplaces and chimneys all over town. ... In 1917, as our town’s oldest citizen, Moses Uriah Hall becamethe fifth recipient of our Boston Post Cane and the first African American to be so honored by Epping. Mr. Hall died at well over 90 years of age. No doubt buried with military honors, this old Civil War veteran rests from a life well lived that would have made his father and his grandfather very proud indeed.”

Editor's note: The story first appeared in the spring 2022 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.