George M. Hall Memorial Bridge Dedication

05/02/2024

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  • George M. Hall Memorial Bridge Dedication

Members of the community gathered Wednesday, May 1st, to honor the heroics of George M. Hall. In 1862, Hall saved Mercer County Courthouse records when the courthouse was set ablaze.

Bill Archer, Mercer County Commission President, expressed gratitude to Mercer County Historical Society President Lois Miller, Peggy Johnson, and Delegate Marty Gearheart for their support and work that led to the dedication of the bridge.

Summary of George M. Hall’s brave actions from dedication program:

On May 1, 1862, George M. Hall, a slave who was born in Dublin, VA, entered the Mercer County, VA Courthouse to retrieve County records. At the time, the county was less than a quarter century old, have been established on March 17, 1837. Confederate soldiers occupied Princeton sometime after the start of the American Civil War. Knowing that a Union Army Regiment, the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry superior in numbers compared to the Confederate occupying force, was just outside of Princeton on May 1, 1862, the Confederate commander ordered the courthouse and other dwellings in town to be burned. Confederate Troops had stored supplies in the courthouse.

George Hall and his family were the only Negros living in Princeton at the time, according to Harrison Straley’s “Memoirs of Old Princeton.” Straley wrote of Hall’s heroics: “When the courthouse was burned he rushed through the flames and, in danger of his life, saved the records in the County Court Clerk’s office. He was burned, lacerated, and for many weeks could not speak above a whisper, but an ungrateful County Court not only failed to remunerate him, but did not even than him for his services to the county.

The 23rd Ohio Volunteers under the command of Col. Rutherford B. Hayes (later the nation’s 19th President serving from 1877-1881) paused briefly in Princeton, but pushed eastward to Pearisburg, VA, in order to destroy the Virginian & Tennessee Railroad at Dublin, VA. The 23rd Ohio Volunteers failed to achieve their objective. Sgt. William McKinley (later the 25th President from 1897 until his assassination on September 14, 1901) was wounded in the Battle of Pearisburg, and brought back to Princeton where he recovered from his wounds in the only building that wasn’t torched – the McNutt House. The Confederates regrouped and on May 16, 1862, forced the Union Solders to withdraw from Princeton following the Battle of Pigeon Roost.

George Hall recovered from the injuries he received while retrieving the County Court records, remained in Princeton and operated a shoemaker’s shop in town. The elder George Hall and the mother of his son, Melinda Henderson spent the rest of their lives in Princeton.

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  • George M. Hall Memorial Bridge Dedication