Isaac Hall House
Backstory and Context
John Hall III established Medford’s first rum distillery between 1715 and 1720 on the north side of Riverside Avenue. Rum production would be one of the town’s three major businesses, along with brick-making and ship-building, until the beginning of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, this meant that Medford’s economy thrived as a result of the Triangle Trade (the trans-Atlantic exchange of rum, molasses, and African slaves; see Clio entry on Pomp’s Wall). Medford rum became famous for its quality. Other Medford distillers included John Bishop, Hezekiah Blanchard, and later, Daniel Lawrence, who dominated the trade in the nineteenth century (7).
The building today known as the Isaac Hall House was constructed circa 1720 for John’s brother, Andrew Hall. Andrew married Abigail Walker in 1722, and the couple had thirteen children, including Benjamin and Isaac Hall (3; 4). Four of the Hall children would grow up to build their own homes on Medford Square, but the only one of these structures still standing is the Isaac Hall House, which is also the only remaining 18th century building on the square (1; 4). Andrew purchased the distillery from his brother John in 1735, and was also a Representative to the General Court (which became the State House of Representatives) in the 1740s and 50s. Sadly, Andrew died just as his eldest son, Benjamin, reached adulthood in 1750 (3; 4). Isaac (the third son) was only 11 at the time (5). Benjamin took over the distillery and expanded into other areas of business, including a cooper’s shop, a general store, a shipping business, a slaughterhouse, and a candle manufactory. Isaac remained with his mother in his childhood home, becoming her caretaker as an adult. He married another Abigail, Abigail Cutter, in 1761, with whom he had eight children. Isaac worked in his brother’s distillery, and in 1775, he became a partner in his family’s various business ventures (1; 3; 5). Like others in his family, his employment was varied—he worked as a wood corder, an engine man, an assessor, a fire warden, and a salt measurer during his life in Medford (4).
Captain Isaac Hall and the Revolution
The year 1775 was an eventful one for Isaac Hall—aside from becoming a partner in the businesses of his brothers, he was also captain of the Medford Minute Men, and was called upon by Paul Revere on the night of the latter’s famous ride to warn the Revolutionaries at Lexington of the approaching British troops (2; 4; 8). Revere woke Isaac on the night of April 18-19, 1775, and the Medford Minute Men were among the first to respond to the call to arms, reporting to fight at the Battle of Lexington on April 19th, along with the Reading company of John Brooks
(1; 2; 5). The Medford company joined the 37th Massachusetts Regiment, fighting at the Battle of Bunker Hill (5; 9). In September, Hall was sent to organize another company of men from Medford and its neighboring towns, with whom he marched to Dorchester Heights, and acted as commissary to the troops there (5; 9). Caleb Brooks, meanwhile, took over the original Medford company Hall had commanded (2).Three of Isaac’s brothers, two of his nephews, and several cousins supported the Revolution through financial and political means rather than taking part in the combat. The Hall family, including Isaac, contributed medical and military supplies, as well as rum, to the new United States government, and although they were paid for these goods, they took on heavy business losses (5). In 1787, Isaac Hall sold the distillery to his brother Ebner and a J.C. Jones, and two years later departed to live in Boston, leaving his Medford property to Ebner. He set up another distillery in Boston, where he lived until his death in 1805 (1; 5). Isaac’s Medford home remained in the Hall family until it, along with the Halls’ distillery, was purchased by Daniel Lawrence in the 1870s (1; 4). Daniel had worked in the distillery since it had been owned by John Hall. Medford shipbuilding, unfortunately, ended in 1873, which nearly ended the distilling industry of the town. When Daniel died in 1879, his will called for his rum business to be closed; however, his sons Samuel Crocker Lawrence and Daniel W. Lawrence, continued to manufacture Medford Rum until 1905. During the town’s 275th anniversary celebration, the brothers announced the closing of the distillery (7). The Isaac Hall House was sold to Edward J. Gaffey, a second-generation Irish American undertaker, and his family still operates a funeral home at the address today (1; 4).