• Life of William Halls, Jr.

    By Nina Halls Braithwaite
    Compiled by Kristine Halls Smith

    My father was a gentle man in every sense of the word. I can never remember feeling a sting in his reprimand. And yet we knew, in a way, that his word was law so far as we were concerned. I cannot remember his being other than calm, at least outwardly. He would never allow profane or obscene language in his presence.

    Father enjoyed orderliness, having a place for everything and everything in its place. He insisted upon regularity of meals, never to my knowledge neglecting to return thanks or having each of us in turn do so. He would remark jokingly, that that was the only time we were all quiet, a welcome state of affairs in a large family. We knew our place at the table and remained until the meal was finished.

    His desire for orderliness probably came from his mother (Louisa Carritt Enderby Halls.) I remember her as a sweet little English lady who called him “Willie,” made luscious cookies, and kept an immaculate house. We sat on a chair with our hands folded whenever we were allowed to visit her, due to orders from Mom.

    William was born in Huntsville, Utah on September 6, 1863 to William Halls, Sr. and Louisa Carritt Enderby, the second of five boys and one girl. He was blessed on March 20,1864 by Thomas Bingham and baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by P. C. Geertsen and confirmed by Charles Wood on June 6, 1872.

    William’s boyhood was spent helping on the farm until he was seventeen years of age, when Grandfather (William Halls, Sr.), along with others, was called to settle the San Juan country in southern Utah. William and Thomas accompanied their father on the arduous trip by wagon.

    Later, Grandfather acquired a home in Mancos, Colorado where William later met and married Ellen Melissa Barker who had emigrated with others through the famous “Hole-in-the-Rock” from their home in Parowan, Iron County, Utah.

    My knowledge of the happenings there is only by word of mouth, a snatch here and there as told by my parents. Father was twenty-five and Mother was seventeen when they married on June II, 1888. They homesteaded some land and built a home much like the early homes in Huntsville.

  • Shortly before their first baby boy was born, a plague of smallpox went through the town and they both contacted the disease. It was an especially severe form from which many died. As a result, the baby died at birth. I remember hearing them tell how they buried him under a large tree on their property.

    In Mancos, five of Father and Mother’s children were born, Earl, Ruth, Maud, Clyde, and Nina. In 1901, it became necessary for them to move to Huntsville so that Maud could attend the school for the deaf in Ogden. Maud had been left deaf as a result of spinal meningitis at the age of sixteen months.

    So my mother bid her mother and sisters goodbye, bundled her family and baggage and came to Ogden by train. My father came by wagon with some of their possessions. I’m sure I did my best at the age of twenty-two months to make it a weary trip for Mother.

    Mother arrived in Ogden on a cold January night and found there was no one there to meet them. Luckily for her, the only man she knew in Utah came through the station after taking someone to board the train. He saw her and offered to help. He hired a livery to move us to our new abode. What a dreary approach, through Ogden canyon in January.

    That first winter we lived in one room on the old Halls Ranch south of Huntsville. In July, another baby boy, Dale, was added to the chorus to help celebrate the 24th of July. Later, Ruby and Pearl were also born in Huntsville.

    My memories of the ranch were of a well, with two brown buckets to bring up the water right on the front porch. I also remember the fenced-in garden and fruit trees where Dad taught me the art of irrigating by making a ditch at the head of the rows and letting the water soak slowly into each row. We all learned the art of weeding, crawling under the granary for eggs and shocking hay and grain. We climbed the hills for wild flowers and for berries which Mom made into jelly and jams. In the meantime, we were taught to keep a wary eye for rattlers which were known to frequent the hills.

    Mother was obliged to keep a sharp eye out the window, for when eleven-thirty came, the men unhitched their teams and dinner had to be ready by the time the horses were fed so that the men could have a short rest before going back to the fields. The evening meal had to be ready by six.

    My father would never ask a hired man to do that which he would not do. Sunday was the day of rest, other than to pull the proverbial ox out of the mire on some rare occasions.

    We children rode horseback to school the two miles down “Old Dust,” as we called the hill, which was not so dusty after a hard rain or early in the spring.

  • Later, we moved in the winter to our house in town and Father would drive to and from the ranch where we girls cooked for the men and our brothers.

    A casual observer, knowing Father, would have thought him not a religious man. True, he didn’t attend church, but he did insist upon our attending and he supported Mother in her desire to do church work, even though all the while he made teasing little remarks about her doing church work. He would donate generously, always giving wheat at harvest time to store in the church granaries.

    When Father was a young man living in Colorado where there were many more Gentiles, as they called them, than there were Mormons, he studied the scriptures religiously and would often go to the barber shop, post office, and public places to preach Mormonism. Many times I have asked his help in giving a lesson in the organizations. He was amazed at what I didn’t know and always helped me out.

    In his teens he acquired the habit of smoking, which must have contributed to his staying away from church in later years. I remember his being asked to work in the church and his answer was, “If I can take my pipe.” 

    Long after his death an uncle told me the reason for his turning away from the church. It was the custom when he was young to square dance. The young people would meet at different homes, furnish their own orchestra, and dance. Waltzes were considered taboo by the church. One evening someone asked the fiddler to play a waltz at the close of the dance and some of the group waltzed. Grandfather was stake counselor to President Hammond and to them the waltzing was a scandal, so everyone who had attended the party was required to stand in church and ask forgiveness. My father said he had not danced and would not ask forgiveness. Later, one of the General Authorities came to a stake dance. At the close, he requested the orchestra to play a waltz and he led out in a waltz with his wife.

    My father was a tolerant man. Seldom did I know him to criticize anyone. He taught by example. He didn’t go to school much, but was considered an educated man, well-versed in affairs of state. It was not uncommon for younger college men to call on Father and spend an hour or more in discussion. He could have been a great teacher. Dad always urged us to read good books and teach our children to do the same. In early days he would drive a team to Ogden through the canyon to see a play or a sports event. He enjoyed the things of culture.

  • After the death of my mother, it was my privilege to have Father living with us. My husband had purchased his home with the agreement that he spend the remainder of his life with us. My children learned to look upon him as a third parent. He was a fine influence on their young lives and he took an interest in their welfare. Watching from the sidelines, he could see where we failed and often would pick up the loose ends, giving bits of comfort and advice.  

    On May 17, 1939, he went from our home in Ogden to the old home in Huntsville where his club met once a week in the grove of trees where they had a small club house. As he walked from the table to his chair, his heart gave up and one of his good friends caught him as he fell and carried him to his chair.

    His funeral was a simple one, just as his life had been, with the little country church filled to capacity with friends and relatives who admired and loved him for just being a good neighbor.

  • Incidents from the life of
    William Halls Jr.

    As related by his eldest son, Earl Halls, as of March 27, 1956

    William Halls Jr. was born in Huntsville, Weber County, Utah, September 6, 1863, on a Co-op farm in the southeast corner of Ogden valley. His father owned a large farm there and the family ran dairy and beef cattle. Father and Uncle Mosiah were the oldest boys and naturally got in on the working end. Times were very hard and very little money to go on. I remember my grandmother telling me how she and little Willie, as she called my father, used to glean grain from field corners and ditch banks in order to get more grain for food. They would thresh it out by hand with a flail. A flail is made by hinging two pieces of wood together with a piece of rawhide; then, by holding to one end you could strike the grain with the other and knock the grain out of the straw. In father’s younger days, he and his brothers must have been mischievous, as the older Danish people called them the “damn bad Hall boys.” 

    Father has often told of the dances they had in those days. They were operated by the church, and with strict rules, there were no waltzes allowed because the boys would have to put their arm around his partner and that would be terrible. Quadrilles and such were the only type of dances then. Father, and some of his friends, were expelled from the dances at one time for drinking something besides water and were not permitted to attend the dances of the valley unless they had a recommend from the Bishop, and his name being William Halls, the same as fathers, it made it perfectly legitimate for father to make recommends for himself and his friends. Therefore, by using these perfectly good recommends, they attended the dances in Eden and Liberty, and somehow got by without getting their church cut off.

    When father was 21 years for age, grandfather, along with Bishop Hammond, was called on a mission to help settle the San Juan Country in Southeastern Utah and Southwestern Colorado, the idea being to start a new Mormon settlement. Grandfather took his second wife and family, also Uncle Thomas and father. Father related an incident of the trip. It seems one morning they were late finding their horses which they had to turn loose to feed at night. Breakfast was ready when they came in, and Hammond called on his oldest son, Sammy, to ask the blessing. Sammy gave a long drawn out blessing which aroused the old man’s ire. Hammond said: “Sammy, you don’t have to bless the plains of Abraham, the Israelites, and all. Don’t you know we are in a hurry? Besides, we covered all of that in our family prayers.”

  • When they reached the Colorado river, they put the wagons on a small ferry, but they had to force the stock to swim. They had a fine mule drown. Father said, “the whole trip was bad enough, but when you lose your ass, that’s worse.”

    After reaching Mancos, Colorado, all of the men folks took up desert entry claims, and there had to be a six mile ditch dug from the Mancos river to their claims. Mostly hand work, no bulldozers, no digging machines, and their horses were poor. Father worked in logging camps and coal mines, or wherever he could get work. He and the two Butt boys, Parley and Dick, were the first white men the Indians would allow on the Elk mountain with cattle in San Juan County. This story was related to me by Parley Butt in 1915: He said the Indians rode into their camp and one of them was riding Dick’s horse, and when he claimed the horse, the Indians laid back over their horses and pointed their rifles at the three of them. Parley said he and Dick were scared to death, but dad was sitting on a log reading a yellow back novel. He just looked up and grinned and went on reading. When I asked dad about it later, he said, “Well, if you are going to die, you might just as well grin.”

    My grandmother on my mother’s side had five daughters and she was the first school teacher in the Mormon settlement. Father married one of the daughters, Ellen Melissa Barker. Of course, that was a great mistake, as eight ornery kids were the result of it, everyone of which are mighty proud to have been his kid.

    After the marriage, they built on father’s desert entry claim close to Uncle Tom’s. Uncle Thomas married one of Hammond’s daughters, Lowella.

    Father worked in the coal mines and lumber camps. He was exposed to smallpox and took sick. On going home, he exposed mother, and they both came nearly dying from the disease, mother, being in the family-way, her first baby was born dead.

    Some years later, father, with three other men, made a trip to Salt Lake City, a distance of three hundred miles, after a threshing machine. They had to take four teams with them. Two for the thresher, one for the horse power, and one for the chuck wagon. On the way back with the machine, they had many sideling places where they had to put poles over the top of the machine and hang rocks on them to keep the machine from tipping over.
    In 1900 we moved to Huntsville. My sister Maud was left deaf from meningitis, and was now old enough to go to the deaf and blind school in Ogden. Father and Peter Frandsen, a brother of grandfather’s second wife, made the trip with a wagon and four horses. Mother and the kids came by train later.

    On this trip with the wagon, they also had a saddle horse that later threw my Uncle George on his head into a service-berry bush and about broke his neck. I have been told they tied his neck together and he was all right thereafter.

  • After returning to Huntsville to live, father worked for his brothers who owned the Halls brothers ranches, one in Huntsville, and one in Raymond, Idaho. Later he bought a home and a small farm on Spring Creek on the north of Huntsville. There he raised fish, I know, because I mixed all the cement with a shovel on a mixing board to build the cement ponds. The fish business went on for several years until fish sold for twelve cents a pound, and the electric railroad was built, the road chose to go right through the ponds and that ended the fish.

    Father was a great sportsman. He loved baseball, and in his early days, pitched for the Mancos team. He would kill rabbits and sage hens by throwing rocks at them. He was a very accurate horseshoe pitcher. No son of his could hold a candle to him. David O. McKay would often stop, and he and dad would play a few games. On one occasion, David O. asked why dad never came to Salt Lake to conference, and dad said, “Well, it’s like this, I can sit at home and listen to the radio, and when I get tired, I can turn it off, and if I were down there I would just have to sit and listen.”

    Twenty odd years before father’s death, he joined a club composed mostly of Ogden businessmen, doctors, lawyers, etc., Uncle Christian Wansgard being the only other member from Huntsville. For many years they held club every Wednesday afternoon in their club house on Joe Read’s farm on Spring Creek. After the dam was built, the clubhouse was moved to father’s grove. Hodson, the architect of Ogden’s million dollar high school, and Joe Read, were two of dad’s best friends. Mother never liked the club. She knew they played cards there, and she feared he would lose money.

    Confidentially, dad let me see his little book shortly before his death, and it showed several hundred dollars to the good. On a Wednesday afternoon in May, 1939, club met again. Games were played as usual, and they had their evening meal, as was always their custom. It was dad’s turn to help with the dishes. He took some leftovers to the door to empty them in the garbage can just as Joe Read was coming in. Dad had a heart attack, and Joe caught him, put him in a chair, but he was gone. That is what comes from living right. David O. McKay and Joe Read were the speakers at the funeral. A poem recited by McKay was “When you get to know a fellow” by Edgar A. Guest. At the cemetery, Mosiah, dad’s brother, came to me and said: “Earl, a few years ago your father bet me five dollars he would live to tromp the dirt on my grave. I called his bet. Now there lies Willie. How in hell am I going to collect the five dollars?”

    And such is the Halls brothers’ wit…

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