Hall, L.W. (1853-1936)

Louis Walsh Hall was a good friend of the Sikhs in B.C. at the time of the Komagata Maru, when there were few such people around. He was an Irish-American Protestant, born on a ship taking his family from Ireland to Providence, Rhode Island. When asked where he was born he usually said “the U.S.” which was correct in a legal sense, but sometimes he answered “Ireland” or most accurately “at sea.” His adult experience took him well outside the normal realm of the American mainstream. From his early twenties he served as a Presbyterian missionary to Chinese immigrants in various locales in the U.S. This was the qualification he brought to Canada in 1892 when he was thirty-nine and when he was recruited to the Vancouver Island coal mining town of Cumberland by the town’s congregation of St. George’s Presbyterian Church. He came not to look after the St. George’s congregation, but as minister to the Chinese Mission Church which the congregation supported. His charges were recently arrived Chinese coalminers and he stayed with them for thirteen years. While in Cumberland, he married a Protestant-Irish woman from Ontario who, with her widowed Irish-born mother was keeping a boarding house. Hall and his wife Hester (Orchard) had one child, a son. In 1906, Hall moved with his family to become minister in the Chinese Presbyterian Church in Victoria, a position in which he stayed for ten or eleven years. In Victoria he got to know the Sikhs who had been arriving in noticeable numbers over the previous few years. From 1908 he knew the community leader and spiritual guide Prof. Teja Singh. Some of Hall’s activities with the Sikhs are a matter of record. He was a member  of the Hindu Friend Society of Victoria; and in 1912 he took part in a special delegation to Ottawa from B.C. with Sikhs and other South Asians. The purpose was to present a petition, “An Appeal for Fair Play,” to the Minister of the Interior. With Hall were Prof. Teja Singh, Dr. Sunder Singh and Rajah Singh and, in conversations during their four-day train trip to Ottawa, Hall delighted Prof. Teja Singh with his enthusiasm for the teachings of Guru Nanak. In 1913 he went to Seattle on behalf of the Sikh community to negotiate—with partial success—the  release of 195 Punjabis who had been detained by American authorities on arrival on the  SS Minnesota. And when the Komagata Maru arrived at Victoria in May 1914 he was in a circling launch full of South Asians demanding permission to go on board and being refused. In 1917, after he left the Chinese Mission Church in Victoria, he retired to Vancouver and there he lived for many years, although he died in Toronto of bronchial pneumonia, already at age 82 and suffering the loss of sight in one eye and a heart condition. 

Sources: Jennifer Nell Barr, Cumberland Heritage: A Selected History of People, Buildings and Sites, 1888-1950 (Corporation of the Village of Cumberland, 1997); I.M. Muthanna, People of India in North America. Part First (Bangalore: Printed at Lutus Printers, 1975); Teja Singh, Jeevan Katha: Sant Attar Singh Ji Maharaj (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag, 1981); The Sansar, Victoria, July 20, 1913, facsimile reproduction in Sohan Surindar Singh Sangha, Kainedian Sikhan da Itihas (Vancouver: Khalsa Diwan Society, 1999), p. 187.