Hall City is a former community established in what is now Glades County, Florida during 1910 by Rev. George F. Hall, a retired Disciples of Christminister living in Chicago, Illinois. Built and run locally by Rev. Hall’s son, G. Barton Hall, from 1910 until approximately 1925, Hall City was to have been a “temperance town” (i.e., free of alcoholic beverages) and was to be the site of proposed “Hall University”. However, the town failed and the bulk of the land was purchased by the Lykes Brothers, which still owns the original site.
Hall sold land through the mail and wrote his own advertisements. Most land was bought from people all over the country, including Alaska. Students who wanted to attend the new university wrote to a realtor out of Moore Haven, Daniel Lence, to buy land in the burgeoning community.
By 1917, Hall City was a “flourishing community” of 100 hundred residents, featuring a hotel, store, and “several large bungalows.” W.H. Foote, Tom Smith, John J. Hess, and Carl Beckmire were some of the earliest settlers. The post office was run by Hall’s son, Barton Hall. The mail was delivered to the post office, by Oliver Bethey, from LaBelle. Hall also named the streets, such as “Chicago Avenue” and “Illinois Avenue.”
S.C. “Sonny” Stalls helped his father move the sidewalks from Hall City to Moore Haven.
In 1985, only “a fine flowing well,” the city’s water source, was left after the city was abandoned in 1920. The deeds to the lots were left to the heirs of its citizens, “scattered all over the United States.” Heirs contacted real estate offices and the Glades County Courthouse to find out land values, only to discover they had “very little value.”
Rev. George F. (Franklin) Hall was born on February 23, 1864 on the family farm just outside Clarksville, Iowa. He was the son of farmer, John Robert Hall and Mary Jane Barnard. He was one of five other children, four girls and one boy. George eventually went to Drake University and considered becoming a newspaper reporter.
After the death of his mother in the early 1880s decided to enter the ministry instead. He married the church organist, Laura Woods, at his first congregation in Kansas. The Halls had three children, Paul Lyman Hall, George Barton Hall and Wendell Woods Hall. They moved from town to town, finding jobs, through the midwest. The family lived in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893 and 1900. For a few years, they moved to Decatur, Illinois between 1893 and 1900.
After preaching for a few years at a couple of different midwestern congregations of the Disciples of Christ, Hall formed a partnership with his brother-in-law and began holding meetings in various cities for a few years. After falling ill from exhaustion in the early 1890s, Hall, his wife and two sons, Paul and Barton, lived in Chicago during the time of the World’s Fair, an event he wrote about in articles submitted to various Disciples-oriented publications, while he pastored a small congregation. Hall left Chicago and took a position in Decatur, Illinois at a Disciples church, where his preaching and methods eventually resulted in a split of the congregation. In 1902, Hall left Decatur and took his family back to Chicago where he preached at what he called the Christian Tabernacle until 1910. Hall was rather unusual in that, while preaching, he spent a great deal of time developing side businesses and investments as well as becoming a published author on Christian themes. As a result, he was able to purchase the large house of a business executive in Chicago.
Hall took pride in not taking a salary from his congregation, “while making a pretty comfortable living by his publishing, as well as conducting weddings and funerals, and the frequent trips to hold meetings.”
Dr. Hall (by 1910 he had earned some sort of degree at a local Bible College in the Chicago area) began to look for other business opportunities in the South. He and a number of investors purchased property in Western Louisiana, bordering Texas, with the idea that the land was to be used for lumber and mining. Unfortunately, Hall had used a local attorney in the land purchases who, behind Hall’s back, had deeded significant portions of the property to friends, causing the collapse of the project and great financial loss to Hall and the other investors. He sued in an attempt to recoup his losses, but the Louisiana courts sided with his opponent in the end.
“George wrote extensively, particularly for Christian Church-oriented publications, from the mid-1880s until approximately 1917. He also published books, many of which were transcriptions of sermons, as well as discussions about dancing, the holding of evangelistic meetings, tithing and ‘sexology.'”
According to some of the sermons published by Dr. Hall towards the end of 1909, he had had big plans for his Chicago congregation, including the building of a massive church building that would have included “baths” and a treatment facility for people with epilepsy (his eldest son was one), but apparently the congregation must not have agreed with him, as he retired in 1910 from the ministry and devoted himself to pursuing yet another land deal, this time in Florida.
“George retired from his last church in Chicago in 1910 to devote himself to the Hall City project. His eldest son, Paul, was severely brain-damaged and epileptic; the middle son, Barton, went to Florida in 1910 after graduating from the University of Chicago High School to run the Hall City project, and Wendell, a constant behavioral challenge, eventually became a famous pioneer in radio during the Twenties.”
Hall envisioned the town starting with farmers, who purchased land from him, settling in his “temperance town”, which would draw merchants, then eventually students to his “Hall University” which would help with student tuition, in part, by having students work in grapefruit and orange groves surrounding the campus.
“George died on September 15, 1925 in Chicago from heart failure. His various business projects had failed and his son Barton was told at the funeral by George’s brother, a Federal Judge in Iowa, that his father had died bankrupt.”
Hall was tried and convicted of fraud and died in jail.