09 March 2009

Benjamin Franklin Hall

Attorney, jurist, Mayor of Auburn

Benjamin Franklin Hall represented Auburn and Cayuga County in the New York State Assembly (1844). He prepared for publication a report on the trial of William Freeman, in which William H. Seward first used the insanity defense in an American courtroom; that work, whose full title was The Trial of William Freeman, for the Murder of John G. Van Nest, including the Evidence and the Arguments of Counsel, with the Decision of the Supreme Court Granting a New Trial, and An Account of the Death of the Prisoner, and of the Post-Mortem Examination of the Body by Amariah Brigham, M.D., and Others, was published by Derby & Miller at Auburn in 1848.
Hall later served as mayor of Auburn (1852). During his service in that office, he officially welcomed to the city Lajos Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot and exile who toured the United States in 1851-1852. A Republican, Hall was appointed by President Lincoln as a justice of the Supreme Court of Colorado Territory (1861-63), during which time he was Lincoln's delegate to Brigham Young, Governor of Utah Territory, with regard to the problem of polygamy. Afterward, he served as United States Consul in Valparaiso, Chile (1863-65).

Judge Hall married Abigail Farnam Hagaman, daughter of John Hagaman, the architect of the Cayuga County courthouse. Their children included Emily Hall, wife of John Cunningham Hazen of Pelham Manor; James Hall, an editor of the New York Tribune; Henry Hall, author of History of Auburn (1869), also affiliated with the Tribune as a journalist and, later, as its business superintendent; Edward Hagaman Hall, manager of the New York Printing Company in New York City; Elizabeth Hall, wife of Edward Hamilton Burdick, a Syracuse attorney; Agnes Cornelia Hall, wife of Ira B. Stewart, a member of the New York City bar; Abbe Franklin Hall, wife of Charles J. Ferrin, Jr., a merchant of Rochester; Mary Hall, wife of Charles Ellis Taft; Lucy Hall, wife of Rev. George H. Ferris, missionary to India; and Helen Hall, wife of Charles Francis Houghton of Corning, a partner in the ownership and management of the glass manufactory in that city.

Judge Hall's death at Auburn on 6 September 1891 was noted in an obituary in the New York Times on the following day. He was interred in Fort Hill Cemetery.