• Ellen Melissa Barker Halls

    By Nina Halls Braithwaite and Kristine Halls Smith

    Ellen Melissa Barker’s parents, Joseph Barker and Mary Ann Doidge Barker joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England and came to America after the birth of their first daughter, Sarah Jane. Joseph obtained work driving a team across the plains to Utah and Mary Ann followed in another company. She walked most of the way and did the laundry for the captain of the group in order to get transportation for her baby and possessions.

    The family settled in Parowan and eventually five more daughters were born – Mary Ann, Emma Amelia, Catherine Maria, Ellen Melissa, and Georgina Madora.

    Ellen Melissa Barker was born on April 20, 1871 in Parowan, Iron County, Utah. She was usually called Ella. She was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by William E. Jones on June 17, 1879 and confirmed by John Robinson the same day. She had been blessed by William C. McGregor at Parowan.

    Like many others, they had very little of this world’s goods and Ellen’s mother and older sisters were forced to earn a living by gleaning in the wheat fields, husking corn, and working in the homes of others. Her father, being a tailor, found it hard to earn a living at his trade and spent much of his time freighting to Pioche, Nevada. He eventually established a tailoring business in Eureka, Nevada.

    Ellen’s mother was advised not to take a family of daughters to the rough mining camp where Joseph found work as a tailor, and so Grandmother was forced to care for her family alone. She taught school in their home taking produce or materials for her pay. She also did washing and anything she could to provide a living.

    One cold Christmas eve, the little girls had retired and their stockings were hanging for an expected gift. Mary Ann scraped the last flour from the bin to make some sugar cookies as a surprise. She had made a rag doll for each little girl. A knock came on the door and she opened it to see a neighbor lady with small baskets for each girl filled with molasses candy and other sweets. The girls remembered this as the happiest Christmas they ever had.

    Finally Ellen’s mother divorced Joseph Barker and remarried into polygamy to James Dunton. From this union came her first son, John Harvey Dunton.

    Some years after this, Ellen’s father, Joseph Barker, died when the theater building in which he had his shop and where he was sleeping burned. The “Eureka Sentinel,” telling of the incident, described him as a kindly man known as “Mormon Joe.”

  • In the year 1879, a call came from the church presidency for a company of men, women, and children to settle the San Juan country in southern Utah. Ellen’s four older sisters were put into other homes to work for their living, and James Dunton, Mary Ann and her three youngest children, Ellen, Dora, and John joined others in putting as many of their possessions as they could into a wagon and starting on the long trek across the Escalante Desert toward the “Hole-in-the-Rock.”

    Ellen was allowed to ride in the wagon to care for her little brother who was less than a year old. She was a motherly type and spent many hours caring for her little brother and carried him astride her hip. He was a husky child and she was just eight years old at the time. Thus developed a fondness for him that lasted throughout her life.

    After descending the precipitous road down through the Hole-in-the-Rock, they crossed the icy Colorado River on January 28, 1880 and arrived in Bluff City on April 6th. The first year was spent at Montezuma Fort.

    Mr. Dunton hauled lumber from Durango two summers and one winter, after which they moved to Mancos, Colorado and spent the next winter living in a dugout. Later they hauled logs and built a one-room log cabin.

    At first, the girls were unable to attend school because of a lack of clothes to wear. They had received some schooling in Parowan and also instruction from their mother. The school was two miles away and it was necessary to cross a river on a plank. One day their mother sent Dora and Ellen to town to get some groceries. She told them if they were able to cross the river without falling in, they could go to school the following year. On the way home Ellen had crossed safely, but Dora became dizzy when halfway across. She called to her sister for help. In going back for Dora, Ellen fell into the swollen stream and was washed several yards down the stream. A woman and her son, who lived close, had been watching the little girls, and when they saw her fall, the young man ran to the stream and rescued Ellen who was able to grasp a willow on the bank. They were finally allowed to go to school. Winters were cold with deep snow. Their mother used to wrap their feet in burlap to keep them warm.

    Ellen grew to be a beautiful, slender young lady with lovely, clear skin, wavy, dark brown hair, and blue eyes. She was about five feet four inches tall. She loved to dance and take part in sports. Many times after dancing nearly all night, she would go home and put on her house dress and help her mother in doing washing. She and her sister would ride horseback to gather and deliver the clothes which they washed for others.

  • In 1885, William Halls, Sr, and his sons, William and Thomas, were called with others to organize the San Juan Stake in Colorado. When Ellen was sixteen years old, she met William Halls, Jr., who courted and won her affections. She married him at the age of seventeen in Mancos, Colorado on June 11, 1888. In the course of time came the thrill of preparing for motherhood. With capable hands, she sewed and prepared the clothing for the expected baby. One day when her husband, William, was working at the sawmill, he gave a man along the way a ride in his wagon. The man was coming down with smallpox and as a result, William and Ellen contracted the disease in its worst form. Their bodies were covered with one great mass of pox. William Halls, Sr., who had had the disease and so was immune to it, came to their home to care for them in their illness. Ellen’s illness prove disastrous, for the new baby died at birth. The saddened parents laid him away in a little plot under the trees on the hill back of their home for it was the custom not to bury a child in a cemetery if it had not breathed the breath of life.

    It wasn’t long, however, before the house in Mancos was filled with lively, boisterous children for Earl was born on April 16, 1890, Ruth on January 6, 1893, Maud on January 21, 1895, Clyde on February 23, 1897, and Nina on March 7, 1899.

    In January 1901, the family sold their farm and moved to Huntsville, Utah so that their daughter, Maud, could attend the school for the deaf in Ogden. Maud had been a happy, healthy, and very alert baby, until at sixteen months she became deaf as a result of meningitis. It was hard for Ellen to leave her mother and sisters in another state, leaving many of her possessions so that they could make a new start among strangers.

    William went ahead with a wagon filled with household goods and Ellen followed on the train with her children. When they arrived in Ogden in the night there was no one at the station to meet her. While she was sitting there, in a strange city, surrounded by sleepy children and luggage, the only man she knew in Utah came into the station. She always felt that the Lord sent him. He procured a team and two-seated buggy and took her to her future home on the Halls ranch located in the hills south of Huntsville in beautiful Ogden Valley.

    They lived in one room the remainder of that winter. On July 24, 1901, another son, Dale, was born. They lived two miles from town, so the older children rode horseback to school. William worked on the ranch and Ellen cooked for her family and the hired men who put up the hay and grain. After two or three years, they moved to a home of their own, north of Huntsville on a little creek surrounded by green meadows. Here their last two daughters were born, Ruby on February 15, 1904, and Pearl on February 9, 1906.

  • Ellen was a real mother in every sense of the word, who understood the art of homemaking. She had a sweet voice and often sang songs with her children and read them stories from the best books. A favorite past time, to the delight of those who knew her, was shooting squirrels on their ranch. She was an ardent worker in the church and a great help to the sick and needy.

    One of Ellen’s nieces, Florence Bell, wrote, “I remember Uncle Will and Aunt Ella very well. Aunt Ella endeared herself to me as a kid, if for no other reason than one in particular. I was down there visiting. We loved to visit their family. Uncle Will was always great fun, and Aunt Ella was jolly and a wonderful cook. She had some pies baking in the oven and I volunteered to take them out. I dropped one upside down on the floor and all she did was laugh. Imagine such a woman! I remember how terrible I felt and how she made me think it didn’t matter at all. Bless her – I remember it so vividly.”

    Ellen kept a journal during many of the years of her life. Her short, concise entries are interesting and give glimpses into the type of life she lead. A typical entry reads, “Thursday 23 (March, 1911) “Ironed, patched in forenoon, went to meeting and was called on to talk on charity in afternoon. To see Grandma.” Some entries reveal days of long, hard work. On September 23, 1911, she wrote, “Cooked and bottled 7 gallon chilly sauce. Cooked three gal. pickles. Made three gallons tomato preserves. Baked 12 loaves bread. Made yeast. Did part of washing.” Few of her entries reveal her feelings, but on Friday, December 8, 1911 she wrote, “I helped clean mtg. house. Tired tired tired. Oh my. Will home.” Wednesday, June 11, 1913 was their silver wedding anniversary and Ellen describes the many gifts received from various friends and family members, then adds, “and last but not least a wedding ring from my dear husband . . . We had a jolly time. . . ”

    Occasionally her thoughts and feelings are expressed in her journals in poems she wrote. On January 20, 1916 she must have been feeling quite content for she wrote:

    The night is very cold and bleak.
    The shingles now they crack and creak.
    I am here now in solitude
    And burning up the coal and wood.

    ‘Tis cold mid-winter come again
    With first a snow and then the rain.
    But then our house is warm and snug
    And I am comfy as a bug.

    They’re all gone to a picture show.
    They faced the frost and ice and snow.
    They tramp through snow that came quite high.
    To see the diamond from the sky.

  • (Continued)

    Then she added: “(They came home and disturbed me.)”

    On March 1, 1916 she received a letter from her son, Earl, living near Monticello, Utah. His letter inspired the following poem:

    I have a letter from my boy.
    Oh how these few words bring me joy.
    It brightens up this stormy day
    To hear from loved ones far away.

    Father bless them still I pray
    And keep them in the narrow way.
    Keep them always safe from harm
    Whether in the shop or on the farm.

    Give them blessings great and small
    For you know I love them all.
    Bless all our friends so kind and true
    That they will put their trust in you.

  • One wonders about the circumstances that prompted this poem.

    My Feelings Today – April 27, 1916

    These words are not for you now dears,
    But after I am dead
    When you look on this and reflect dears
    You may remember what you said.

    I may seem cross and crabby
    Though I meant it for the best.
    You will realize it better
    When I am called to rest.

    The Lord calls home the weary
    When they seem a burden here.
    Then your thoughts come fast and many
    But as quickly disappear.

    Many times I hide my troubles
    When my heart is full of aches.
    But with a prayer to Heaven
    The still, small spirit spake.

    It whispers words of peace and love
    And comfort yet to come
    The blessings of a mother
    When God shall call her home.

    Many times I’m weary
    And my patience all give out.
    I fret and scold and fuss and crow
    And sometimes I may pout.

    All my prayer for you forever
    That from right you’ll never stray
    That the spirit of our Heavenly Father
    Will be with you every day.

    Guide you in a world of sunshine
    Keep the shadows all away.
    Keep your spirit always humble
    That to Him you’ll ever pray.

  • Her journal entries tell of days filled with the work of raising her growing children – the washing, ironing, patching, cooking, cleaning; but also show the pleasures of attending meetings, plays, dances, and picture shows, trips to Ogden by wagon, streetcar, and auto, and occasionally to Salt Lake City to conference and to visit with friends and relatives.

    In 1916, Earl wrote to her to ask her to come to Monticello to help his wife, Eliza, during the birth of their second son, Lyle. Earl had homesteaded on land east of Monticello and had built a small house to which he had attached a tent over a wooden floor to use as a bedroom. In late November Ellen helped with the wedding of her son, Clyde, had Thanksgiving dinner for the family, and soon after, on December 3rd, left for southern Utah. She traveled by streetcar, train, auto, and truck to get to Earl and Eliza’s home on December 9th. Her journal entries at this time are interesting:

    Sunday 24: We put building paper on two sides of the house and ran out of tacks. Snowed 16 inches that night.
    Monday 25: Christmas day. We made believe all we could. And had plum pudding and beef soup for dinner. Eliza gave me a nice linen handkerchief with tatting on.
    Tuesday 26: Eliza and I have been crocheting most of the day. We received Christmas parcel with nice presents for all and letters from Pearl and Nina. Earl has gone after Mrs. Nielsen. They came about 9 o’clock. We went to bed at 12 and slept some.
    Wednesday 27: Did general house work. Baby born at ten to eight p.m. We all slept good all night.
    Thursday 28: Wrote letters to Nina and card to Sade then washed white clothes. Earl hung them out.
    Friday 29: Washed colored clothes and scrubbed floor. Blacked stove.
    Saturday 30: Bathed Eliza and baby. Did general work. Sprinkled clothes. Earl made sleigh.
    Sunday 31: Earl got meat and flour from Taylors. Mrs. Doyle came to see Eliza and baby. 9:20 p.m.

  • The old year is dying.
    The new one will come.
    The folks are a-snoring.
    The fire does hum.
    The air is so frosty
    It makes the house crack.
    The coyotes are howling,
    The dogs on their track,
    The cats are snuggled
    Away in a sack,
    The rabbits are hunting
    A place in the stack.
    Here I sit rocking
    Myself in a tent.
    I’m quite warm and cozy.
    My heart is content.
    Way out near Blue Mountain
    Among the pine trees
    Where they raise cabbage,
    Potatoes, and peas.

    But now the ground’s covered
    With new fallen snow
    But that is what causes
    The flowers to grow.
    I’m away from my home
    And those I love best.
    Will I ever return?
    The Father knows best.
    He cares for His children
    Whether home or abroad.
    He expects us to humble
    Ourselves to our God.
    To pray for His blessing,
    Thank Him for His care,
    I’ll close this epistle
    By kneeling in prayer.
    I’ll thank Him for blessings
    Bestowed on us all,
    Then pile into bed
    Turn my face to the wall.

  • Ellen stayed with Earl and Eliza until February of that year and then went on to Mancos, Colorado and stayed for two more months visiting with her sisters and the friends she had left behind when she moved to Huntsville fifteen years earlier. She returned home to Huntsville in April 1917.

    Ellen’s journals continue to record the events of her every day. She notes the marriages of her children and the births of her grandchildren. Her entries increasingly say “not feeling well” and make references to her heart problems. Finally, on February 20, 1924, she died in Huntsville at the age of 52. She is buried in the Huntsville cemetery.

  • Ellen Melissa Barker Halls Autobiography

     Ellen Melissa Barker Halls, born 20th April 1871 at Parowan, Iron County, Utah. I am the daughter of Joseph Barker who was born 29th September 1835 at Bramley, County Yorkshire, England, and Mary Ann Doidge, born 11th April 1837 at Brayshop, Cornwall, England. My mother was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the 4th of August 1857 at Devenport, Devenshire, England. My father was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 5th of June 1860, and on the 11th of June of the same year was married to my mother. On the 24th of April 1861, their first child Sarah Jane Barker was born. My parents both worked to obtain money to come to Zion. My father had consumption and their baby girl was also very sick. They were told by the doctors that crossing the sea would either kill or cure them both. They had sufficient faith in the Lord that He would spare their lives, to make the start. Mother thought for days that she would yet be compelled to bury them both in the ocean, but it seems their work here had not yet been finished for their lives were both spared and they were made strong. After landing, they continued their journey by crossing the plains about the year 1861, going through the many hardships that were known to the pioneers in their journeys those days.

    Photo Detail: In 1915, Ellen filled out a genealogical form (see below) for the Relief Society which provided information about herself. This is what she wrote: 

    Mother was the only one of her people who joined this church, and it was said her coming to Zion and leaving her home and parents was the cause of the early death of her mother.

    My parents received their endowments and were sealed in the Salt Lake City Endowment House on the 25th of November 1872. They had six children, all of whom were girls. All are living at the present date. My parents had a very hard time to raise their family, but remained steadfast to their belief. Mother was secretary and afterwards president of the Relief Society at Mancos Ward of the San Juan Stake. She also taught school both at Mancos and Parowan for several terms. My father met his death October 29, 1896 at Eureka, Nevada by being burned to death, the house catching on fire during the night and he was unable to escape. Mother married a second time in plural marriage to James Harvey Dunton at the St. George Temple. They had one child, a son, John Harvey Dunton.

  • Parowan, my birthplace, was just a small Mormon town. I was baptized at the age of eight years. I remained in Parowan until I was about ten years of age when a call came from the head of the Church for people to help settle San Juan Stake when I, with a part of the family, removed there. My sisters and myself from this time on worked away from home to help maintain a living. This, of course was a great hindrance to us in obtaining an education.

    In 1885, William Halls, Sr., with his sons William and Thomas and others were also called, from Huntsville, Utah to go and help settle San Juan Stake, thus two years later, I chanced to meet his son William and later, on the 11th of June 1888, we were married civilly. His occupation was farming which he continued in. We remained in San Juan Stake until the year 1900 when we took our family, now of five children, and removed to Huntsville, Utah for the purpose of placing in the School for the Deaf and Blind at Ogden, Utah, our daughter, Maud, who had been left deaf at the age of sixteen months from an attack of pneumonia.

    My husband and I with four of our children have received our Patriarchal blessing which have been great comforts to us in life. I received my blessing the 17th of October 1908 from William Halls, Sr.

    At the present time, I hold the office of presiding teacher in the Relief Society Association of Huntsville Ward. I feel good in the work and feel like doing as nearly as I can what those placed over me in authority ask me to do. I have a testimony within myself that this is the true church. I am much interested in this genealogical work and hope that my efforts in getting these records thus far, will be encouragement and help to the generations to come in getting and keeping their records and doing work for their dead.

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