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.”