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Obituary of Susanna Boylston Adams Hall, 29 April 1797

Obituary of Susanna Boylston Adams Hall

Quincy April 29th. 1797.—

On Friday the 21st. instt. departed this life, in the 89th. year of her age, Mrs. Susannah Hall, the venerable Mother of John Adams, President of the United States of America. And on Monday following her funeral was attended from the President’s house to the Meeting-House in this place, by a large & respectable assembly of the inhabitants of this and the neighbouring Towns, who came to pay their last respects to her memory. Her remains were carried into that house of Prayer, in which, when living, she took so much comfort & delight. Previous to her interment a most excellent Prayer, adapted to the solemn occasion was made by Mr Peter Whitney a young Candidate for the sacred Ministry, now officiating here.1

The deceased, in early life, was married to Mr John Adams, then a most worthy and respectable gentleman of this place. With him she passed the prime of life fulfilling the duties & partaking in all the sympathies of domestic care and tenderness, till death dissolved the union. She was then left a widow with three sons, whose dutiful & filial affection for their remaining parent, softened the affliction that left them fatherless, and did honour to the principles of virtue and piety in which they had been educated.

Her eldest Son received a liberal education at the University of Cambridge, and now sustains the Office of President of the United States of America.— After continuing in widowhood until her Children were agreeably settled in life she consented to alter her state, by accepting the addresses of a worthy gentleman by the name of Hall as the companion and friend of her declining age, with whom she lived happily a few years when he also was taken from her by death.2 Mrs Hall was descended from the family of the Boylstons, one of the most respectable families in New England. Her uncle Doctor Zabdiel Boylston, a most celebrated Physician, was the gentleman who first discovered and practiced the method of inoculation for the small-pox, which has since proved of such inestimable benefit to Mankind.3 Other branches of the same family have been eminent for Learning, & one of them in particular, of late for his generous Donation to the University of Cambridge4 for the purpose of promoting polite literature and the belles lettres.5

A life, like Mrs Hall’s protracted so much beyond the common period, afforded the present generation a living example of that singularity simplicity of manners & godly sincerity for which the venerable settlers of this country were so justly esteemed, & her peaceful death brightened by the full prospect of immortal felicity through a reedemer afforded an example of the unspeakable value of that Religion by which “Life & immortality are brought to light.”6

MS in Louisa Catharine Smith’s hand (Adams Papers); docketed by Louisa Catharine Smith: “Character of / Mrs. Susannah Hall. / who died on Friday the / 21st. of April / 1797.”

1Hall is buried at the Hancock Cemetery in Quincy.

2For John Hall, see JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:307.

3For Dr. Zabdiel Boylston and the introduction of smallpox inoculation into the American colonies, see JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977–. description ends , 8:366.

4The Boston Columbian Centinel, 3 May, printed this obituary almost verbatim to this point. It concludes with this sentence, which in the published version ends, “for the promotion of Literature in the seat of science.” Several U.S. newspapers published notifications of Hall’s death, and a few printed all or portions of the obituary. See, for example, Massachusetts Mercury, 25 April; New York Minerva, 1 May; Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 1 May; Portland, Maine, Eastern Herald, 10 May; and Charleston, S.C., City Gazette, 25 May.

5Nicholas Boylston, a cousin of Hall’s, was a benefactor of Harvard College, contributing to the rebuilding of the library after it was destroyed by fire in 1764 and bequeathing £1,500 on his death in 1771 to endow a professorship of rhetoric and oratory, the inaugural appointment for which was awarded to JQA in June 1805 (JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:295; Josiah Quincy, History of Harvard University, 2 vols., Cambridge, 1840, 2:214–215; D/JQA/27, 26 June 1805, APM Reel 30).

62 Timothy, 1:10.

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