Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ruhamah Andrews Hall's Intemperance

Ruhamah Andrews Hall was my 4th great-grandmother and I know woefully little about her. She was supposedly born in Wales c. 1745. She married William Hall c. 1767 in Massachusetts. It is possible that her maiden name was Andrus rather than Andrews.

I can place her in Conway, Hampshire (now Franklin) County, Massachusetts in May 1774 at which time two of her children were baptized. She had 12 or 13 children that I know of. (Her daughter, Sophia, was baptized in 1790 and I have found nothing further about her. Then there was daughter, Ruhamah for whom there was no baptism record. Were they one daughter or two?)

The family relocated to Phelps, Ontario, New York, along with many others families from Conway, in 1798 or 1799. At age 50+ I can only imagine how difficult life would have been.

While I have found many references to the family in the history and records of Phelps, nothing specifically referenced Ruhamah until I started looking at the history of the Church at Oaks Corners. (Sessional Records of the Church at Oaks Corners that appeared in The Phelps Citizen, May 1889.)

In 1804 it was decided that there was a need for a real church rather than holding services in barns or inns as the community had been doing. On 9 January 1804 Ruhamah's son, Joseph Hall, was chosen as one of the first trustees of the church. Construction began later that year.

In 1808, Ruhannah Hall was admitted to the church. There is no way to know for certain that this is the elder Ruhamah. It is certain that she was a member of the church. History of Oaks Corners Church, by Mabel E. Oaks, 1954 gives a good overview of the church's history. From the section titled, The Church Judicial:
The next examples of the church's authority have to do with intemper­ance. In 1834, the church body put itself on record with a lengthy resolution declaring its disapproval of "the traffic in ardent spirits and the use of them as a drink." It had already proved this disapproval many times. In 1817, Ruhannah ______________, living on the Naham Cobb farm, Lester Road, received a summons to appear before the session, as common fame charged her with having been " for a long time in the intemperate use of ardent spirits." She sent word she was sorry, promised to reform and to come to the next session meeting. When she still did not appear after two more citations, she was suspended and later excommunicated, put outside the pale. The Interesting thing about this is that her son was then a trustee of our church, which fact must have made this performance of duty most embarrassing for all concerned.
The author left out the surname Hall but there is no doubt that this section referred to my ancestor. Interesting to me are the terms "common fame" and "ardent spirits." The first says to me that she did not attempt to hide her drinking. I'm not quite sure which ardent spirits she may have partook but the area was later know for its hard cider. Assuming she was born c. 1745 she was in her 70's when she was excommunicated from the church.

Family records indicate that Ruhamah died in 1821. I have yet to confirm that and I do not know her burial location. 

So now I have new questions. Why was she living on the Cobb farm? Was her husband living with her? Why did she drink? Was she shunned by her neighbors? What was her relationship like with her children and grandchildren?

1 comment:

Tipper said...

What a name-I love it! The drinking part does give a whole new deminsion to what you know about her-or what you would think about her. And it does open a pandora's box of questions too. Makes me wish you could talk to her now : )