Lyman Hall – Looking Back

Lyman Hall — Looking Back On September 18, 1983, Center Street Cemetery celebrated its 300th anniversary.  Some of you will recall the festivities and events which took place in and around these ancient burying-grounds.  Not only did this ceremony mark our 300th Anniversary, but it was also the 125th Anniversary of the dedication of Lyman Hall’s monument.   But wasn’t Lyman Hall buried in Georgia after his death in 1790?  So why would he have a monument in the Center Street Cemetery?

Lyman Hall was born on April 12th, 1724 in Wallingford, Connecticut to John Hall and Mary Street.  His grandfather, Samuel Street, was the first pastor of the Congregational Church in Wallingford.  With his grandfather’s encouragement, Lyman  attended Yale College and graduated in 1747 with a Master’s degree in theology.  He served for two years as pastor of a Congregational Church in Bridgeport. 

Over the next two years, while acting as a substitute preacher, he studied medicine, earned a Doctorate of Medicine degree and opened a practice in Wallingford.  However, in 1752, he moved to South Carolina where he married Abigail Burr from Fairfield, CT, who died just one year later. He remained for several years in South Carolina where he practiced medicine.

Five years later, he relocated just south of Savannah, Georgia where he purchased a small rice plantation and married Mary Osborne. They had one son, John, and they traveled between their plantation and their second home on the shoreline.

Lyman was a well-known and respected member of the community, and when the Revolution began in the 1770’s, he became a strong supporter of the colonial cause. Georgia was slow to respond to the call to arms and did not participate in the First Continental Congress.  However, Lyman Hall was elected as a local delegate and represented St. John’s Parish in the Second Continental Congress in 1775.  The following year, he and two other delegates were appointed to represent the State of Georgia.  Then, on August 2, 1776, our native son of Wallingford signed  the Declaration of Independence. 

In January 1783, he became the first Governor of Georgia, but still maintained close ties with his family in Connecticut.  The Halls were among the original settlers of Wallingford and have been actively involved in its history and growth for nearly 350 years.  The Wallingford high school was constructed in 1916-17 and was named in honor of Lyman Hall.

He died on October 19, 1790 in Burke County, Georgia. Both his wife and only son John died within two years of his death and, since John was childless, there are no direct descendants.  He was buried on his plantation, Shell Bluff, but later removed to a cemetery in Augusta, Georgia.  It was this move which allowed Wallingford to become the beneficiary of the original Lyman Hall monument, which arrived  here in 1857 and was installed in Center Street Cemetery amidst a huge celebration on July 4, 1858.

Engraved on the side it says, “The State of Georgia having removed to Augusta  the remains of Lyman Hall, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and there erected a monument to his memory The tablet originally covering his grave was in 1857 presented by William D’antignac to this State by whose order it is deposited in his native town.”

The installation ceremony began at sunrise with a national salute and ringing of bells.  Hundreds of people gathered from near and far  to take part in the service at the Congregational Church, the parade down Center Street and a dinner with tables set for 1,000 guests.  The evening came to a close with a magnificent fireworks display.

One hundred and twenty-five years later, coincident with our 300th Anniversary, arrangements were made to restore the Lyman Hall monument.  Peter Saldibar of Saviteer Memorial Works, Inc. spent three months sanding off and re-cutting the letters and polishing the stone. Also, a slab of Vermont marble replaced the softer stone on the front of the monument that had eroded away. 

The formal ceremony began at 2:00 p.m. on September 18, 1983, with the reading of a proclamation sent by Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris honoring the 300th Anniversary of the Cemetery and the efforts to preserve the Lyman Hall monument.  This was followed by a parade down Center Street led by the color guard of the Connecticut Volunteer Militia, the Second Company of the Governor’s Foot Guard, the Boy Scouts of Wallingford and Meriden, and the Choate Rosemary Hall Marching Band.