The month of March celebrates Women in History. During this time we should shine a light on some of the women who have made a difference in our own community. A number of these women have a connection to the Delord family.
Today, I want to focus on Frances Delord Webb Hall.
Frances Delord Webb Hall, better know as Fannie, was the last generation of Delords to live in the house on Cumberland Avenue. Her father, Henry Webb, sent her to live with her grandmother Betsey upon her mother’s death (only a month after her birth) until she was four years old. Fearing Betsey was over-indulgent in raising Fannie, Webb then sent her to live with his sister in Hartford, Connecticut where her upbringing stressed duty and compassion.
Fannie was educated at the Hartford Female Seminary, a school founded by Catharine Beecher, sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe. The belief that young ladies should learn to be useful members of society was its underlying educational philosophy. Fannie graduated from there in 1851.
By 1853 Fannie was being courted by Francis Bloodgood Hall, better known as Frank, recently graduated from Union College. Since he was about to enter Princeton Theological Seminary, they postponed marriage until he graduated in 1856. Then a licensed Presbyterian Minister, Frank joined Fannie in a life dedicated to helping others.
Fannie had visited Plattsburgh over the years and Grandmother Betsey wrote copious letters detailing life in Plattsburgh to make sure Fannie maintained a connection to the community. Finally in 1862, Fannie moved to Plattsburgh to care for her ailing grandparents. Frank’s “detour” to service as a Chaplain for the local 16th NY Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War kept him from joining Fannie until the end of 1863.
Fannie’s upbringing led her to become active in the community especially after the death of her beloved grandmother, Betsey Delord Swetland. Plattsburgh is fortunate that Fannie found her niche here.
Among her accomplishments are:
- As a self-taught doctor/pharmacist, Fannie used her knowledge and connections to administer to the community, especially the poor.
- As an investigator for Plattsburgh’s chapter of the Women’s Relief Corps, Fannie reported on cases of hardship among women and soldiers’ families. She provided soup from her own kitchen as she visited the poor.
- As a social activist, Fannie helped create and provided ongoing support for the Home for the Friendless for Orphans and Destitute Women.
- As an inventor and businesswoman, Fannie created and patented an ointment aptly named Fanoline. With her husband, Fannie created the Cumberland Bay Works located in the rear part of her house to manufacture and distribute this salve “which was good for fever sores, piles, sore nipples, burns, chapped hands and lips, and much more.”
- As a founder of Plattsburgh’s branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Fannie was President and for a longer time the secretary of the local chapter, contributing information to a regular column in the Plattsburgh Sentinel newspaper. She traveled to many state and some national conventions and was host to Frances Willard, national president. She also developed a close friendship with Louise Rounds of the Illinois WCTU and a nationally recognized speaker for the WCTU.
- Provided a Sabbath service for inmates at the county jail for over 20 years
Other than the 25¢ per tin for the Fanoline, Fannie received no payment for any of the services she provided. It was her belief that since she was fortunate to not have to work, she should give to the community. Besides her community service, Fannie continued The Delord family tradition to entertain family, friends, and guests at dinners and teas in her home. In many ways, Fannie was in the forefront of the women’s rights movement with her social activism on behalf of the poor, the insane and the intemperate.
Fannie died on Oct. 4, 1913, ten years to the day after her husband’s death. Right up to her death, Fannie had continued her social work throughout the community. On the day of her death, Fannie went about her usual schedule; in the morning she met with her staff regarding a dinner party the next day, and attended a temperance meeting and visited a friend at the Home for Aged Women in the afternoon. She died that evening. Fannie was 79 years old.
Of the many tributes to her life, the one from the managers of the Home for the Friendless sums Fannie’s strengths and influence:
“Mrs. Hall’s was a character made of sterling puritan qualities which never swerved from a conscientious sense of duty, strongly felt by all who came in touch with her.”
Frances Delord Hall’s commitment to the values of love and duty certainly enriched the Plattsburgh community.