ELEANOR HOWARD HALLS
by Lucile Kunz Yerger (granddaughter) and
Kristine Halls Smith (editor, Through the Halls of History, 1973-1984)
This biography was first published in the family periodical of the William Halls Family Organization, Through the Halls of History, in July 1974
© 1974 by the William Halls Family Organization
Life began for Eleanor Howard on March 28, 1852 when Mary Ann Blundell Howard gave birth to her eighth child in Churchtown near Southport in the parish of North Meols, Lancashire, England. Between 1838 and 1857, Mary Ann and her husband, Richard Howard, an agricultural laborer and coal dealer, had eleven children -- Hugh, Catherine, Henry, Hannah, Alice, Jane (Jenny), Heber, Eleanor, Hyrum, Elizabeth, and Richard. Mary Ann had married very young and had given birth to her first child when she was fifteen. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not yet ten years old when missionaries visited Richard and Mary Ann in England and converted them to their doctrine.
Records show that Mary Ann was baptized on January 21, 1840. Richard and Mary Ann were staunch in their faith and eventually hoped to emigrate and join the Saints in America. Before their hopes were achieved, however, tragedy struck the Howard family when Richard was drowned at sea at Southport Beach, Lancashire, England on March 20, 1858. Eleanor was almost six years old at this time. Eleanor’s mother remarried late in 1859 to Hugh Hargreaves. They had one son, John, who was born in 1860. In 1862, when Eleanor was ten years old, her mother died at the age of 39.
After the death of their mother, the family was broken up and some of the children emigrated to America. The oldest son, Hugh, had come in 1860. In 1863, Eleanor’s sister Alice, then 17, took charge of Eleanor, age 11; Hyrum, about 8; and Richard, about 6 and with passage provided by the Perpetual Emigrating Fund sailed for America on the ship “Cynosure”. Hannah, age 19, reportedly had her way paid to Utah at about the same time by the family of George Q. Cannon, then mission president in England, for assisting his wife with her children during their journey. The ship “Cynosure” on which Eleanor and her brothers and sister traveled sailed from Liverpool on May 30, 1863 with 775 emigrating Saints on board.
A letter written to President Cannon by David M. Stuart, leader of the Saints on the ship shows the faith with which these pioneers began their journey. He says “Dear Brother, As the tug will soon leave us, before its doing so I hasten to send you a few lines to inform you of our well-doing… We now have a light, fair breeze, and the captain says he will not keep the tug over an hour longer. The people are all feeling fine; a good, contented, quiet spirit prevails in their midst, and the songs of Zion and Israel are reverberating from stem to stern of the ship. Grumblers and discontented ones do not appear to have embarked on this vessel, such is the spirit of unity amongst them. They do not seem to fear seasickness, but look forward to it as a natural consequence which they will endeavor to endure with fortitude and forbearance one to another... Yesterday, after you left us, was spent in counseling and instructing them relative to little matters which they found themselves at a loss to proceed in, and in the evening we went round the ship and organized the people into six wards… and have desired them to see that prayers are held in each ward at eight a.m. and eight p.m. each day, that cleanliness and good order predominate, and that no iniquity of any nature exists in their several wards... I think, Brother Cannon, with the blessing of the Lord, and his spirit imparted to us that we may have wisdom to direct everything in a right manner and faith to control the elements in our favor, that we shall have a safe and pleasant passage over the trackless ocean, and I trust that we may be able to reach New York without iniquity being found in our midst, that thereby we may have greater claims on the blessings of the Almighty.”
The ship arrived in New York on July 19, 1863 with the company “feeling first rate although the emigrants had several deaths among the children, from measles.” On July 20, the Saints from the “Cynosure” continued their journey by rail to Albany, New York and then on to Florence, Nebraska where church-provided wagons and teams were waiting for them. Most of the Saints who had traveled on the “Cynosure” joined the wagon train led by Captain Thomas E. Ricks, and it was probably this train that brought the Howard children to Utah. This company of 400 Saints left Florence on August 10, 1863 and arrived safely in Great Salt Lake City on October 4, 1863.
The year 1864 was an important one for the Howard children in Utah. Eleanor’s brother Hugh died that year and since his sisters were too poor to buy a grave plot for their brother, he was buried in Pottersfield in the Salt Lake City Cemetery in an unmarked grave. In that year also, Hannah and Alice took on new responsibilities when Hannah married Stanley Taylor and Alice married Francis A. Hammond. F.A. Hammond figures importantly in the Halls story in that he was a good friend to William Halls and William served as his counselor both in the Huntsville bishopric and in the San Juan stake presidency. The two men traveled together with their families to help settle the San Juan country. Also, William’s son, Thomas, and his brother, George, married Hammond’s daughters. F.A. Hammond also gives us an important glimpse at the death of Eleanor through entries in his diary, which we will look at later. Hannah lived in central Utah and in Salt Lake City and eventually became the mother of eleven children. She died in 1923. Alice lived in Huntsville with her husband but died young after the birth of a child. Of the two younger Howard boys who came to America, Richard, Jr. returned to England in his boyhood where he lived the remainder of his life; and Hyrum left home and lost contact with his sisters’ families after 1883. All of Eleanor’s other brothers and sisters stayed in England.
After Eleanor arrived in Utah, she must have felt the obligation and necessity of providing for her own support. The story is told that when she was twelve in 1864 she took a job in Eden, a small town northwest of Huntsville. It is possible that she took this job to help pay her debt to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund. She worked hard as a hired girl to help a family, but she was very much overworked and mistreated. One day William Halls came to Eden on church work and stayed at the place where Eleanor worked. He felt she was being imposed upon and remonstrated the man and his wife and told them they were expecting too much from such a young girl. William also talked with Eleanor and tried to help her carry her burden. Eleanor never forgot the kindness William gave her. She said it seemed to be the first encouragement and appreciation she had ever had. After that he stopped a time or two and he always had a kind word for Eleanor. The family was a bit more considerate because of William’s intervention. Eleanor was very grateful and felt she had found a true friend.
How Eleanor spent the next few years of her life is uncertain, but it is known that she returned to Salt Lake City. In 1873 her sister Alice Howard Hammond died shortly after giving birth to her third child. It is known that in 1874 Hannah and Stanley Taylor and their growing family were living on First West between South Temple and First South on the west side of the street (where the Salt Palace is today) and it is possible that Eleanor lived with them. While she was in Salt Lake City, Eleanor helped run a restaurant. Here she must have been very successful for she accumulated many linens, silver, and beautiful clothes. She likely had many opportunities for marriage for she was very beautiful with flashing black eyes and black hair. Her hair was truly her crowing glory. However, she was getting older and still was not married, a disgrace in those days. One conference time, William Halls happened to come into the restaurant where Eleanor was. He remembered her and they renewed their friendship. From that time on, whenever William came to Salt Lake City he would call on Eleanor. One day he said, “Why don’t you get married?” Eleanor was silent for awhile and then answered, “Don’t you know why? There is only one man for me.” “Who?” William asked. Eleanor simply replied, “You.” William was dumbfounded. He told Eleanor that he already had two wives and as much responsibility as he could handle. Eleanor said she understood and told him that if she did not marry him she would marry no one. It is unknown how long a time elapsed until William asked her to marry him, but they were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on January 8, 1880 when Eleanor was 27 years old.
On April 29, 1881, Eleanor gave birth to a lovely daughter while staying with her sister, Hannah, who lived at that time in a small community near Salt Lake City west of the Jordan River called Brighton. She was blessed Susanna Selstone after William’s mother, but she was always called Lottie, and in some records she is called Charlotte Susanna. Soon after Lottie was born, William took his third wife and his new daughter to live in Huntsville. Her home was in the same block where William’s first wife Louisa lived and it must have been difficult for Louisa to share her husband with another younger woman.
Some stories still exist that tell of the difficulties the two wives had in trying to live near each other. Eleanor had a cow of her own that she milked herself that was included in the same enclosure with Louisa’s cows, and Louisa’s boys would go out and feed them all. Hay was scarce and expensive, not to be wasted, but Eleanor thought the boys were not giving her cow enough so she would go out when they weren’t around and throw down more hay for her cow and it would be trampled underfoot and wasted. Such things didn’t endear her to Louisa. It was said of Louisa that when William didn’t come home when she was expecting him, she would mutter under her breath with her English accent, “I know where ‘e is, ‘e’s with the ‘uzzy.” Apparently both wives got along better with the second wife, Johanne, but it’s thought that perhaps Johanne lived outside of town on the town’s cooperative dairy farm.
In spite of the difficulties that existed between the wives, Louisa’s only daughter Lizzie (Louisa Elizabeth), who was about twelve at the time, was often in Eleanor’s home. Lizzie later mentioned the beautiful things Eleanor had and how tastefully furnished Eleanor’s home was. Lizzie also took care of Lottie when Eleanor was busy or sick. Lizzie and Lottie were always very close.
Eleanor was a gifted woman. She was very sensitive and proud. William reported that she was an excellent cook. She could sew and make hats. She made wedding dresses and people were pleased with her designs and patterns. She could organize banquets and parties that were unusual and different. She helped in Relief Society and church affairs. She had apparently learned this art while working in the restaurant in Salt Lake.
When Lottie was an adult her father wrote to her and told her that her mother was a great comfort to him when life was tough. She never nagged or complained but gave him encouragement and love and a “heavenly peace in a life of burdens.” Eleanor must have loved him dearly.
Eleanor had a problem in bearing children. After her first child was born, her second pregnancy was most difficult. She couldn’t keep fluids or food down and for months she was seriously ill. She became so weak that she was often not even rational. Finally she had a stillbirth, a boy, but she never recovered. In one of Eleanor’s more sane moments when she was ill she asked Lizzie if she would take care of Lottie for her since she knew she would die. She had also lost so much of her beautiful hair that she had Lizzie cut it short and burn it. She didn’t want anyone to wear her hair as a wig or a hairpiece.
Lottie later wrote “I have my first memory when I was about two years old. Lizzie carried me one day to see my sick mother who had lost her second child and was not recovering. In going into the room I was intrigued by the latch on the door and I wanted to push it up and down. I remember no more about her and it was sometime later before I remembered anything more.”
Mary Heathman Smith, Huntsville midwife, kept a list of all the fathers who paid her $3.00 for her services to their wives. Sometime in January of 1884 is listed “William Hall, Boy, $3.00 paid.” This would be the stillborn son of Eleanor and William. After this, among the many other matters Francis A. Hammond records in his diary are several references to Eleanor: “Monday, February 4, 1884. Sister Eleanor Halls very sick. Has been unwell for six weeks. Tuesday, February 5, 1884: Laid hands on Sister Eleanor Halls and blest her. She has been better all day. We have hopes now of recovery. Tuesday, February 12, 1884: Sister Eleanor Halls is a little better they think. Thursday, February 14, 1884: Still clear and cold. Called on Bro.Wm. Halls. His wife Eleanor is still very sick. Snow fully three feet deep. Tuesday, February 19, 1884: Clear today. Called on Br.Wm. Halls. His family is sorely afflicted. His wife Eleanor still lies very low and his wife Louisa is also very weakly. Thursday, February 21, 1884: Bro.Wm. Halls spent the forenoon with me. Saturday, February 23, 1884: Clear and warm. Froze some last night. Sister Eleanor Halls amending a little. They took her over to the farm today some four miles across the South Fork of Ogden River, the old ‘Coop Farm.’ Friday, March 7, 1884: Stormed most of the day, latter part turned cold and snowed a little. Brother Wm. Halls came and reported the death of his third wife, Sister Eleanor Halls, sister to my second wife Alice Howard Hammond. She died about 6 o’clock this p.m. Saturday, March 8, 1884: Clear and pleasant this morning, froze quite hard last night. My wife Martha went with Bro. Halls over to the farm to assist in getting the body of Sister Eleanor Halls ready for burial. It is about 4 miles away on the south of the South Fork River.
Sunday, March 9, 1884: Stormy day. Half past 1 o’clock held the funeral services of Sister Eleanor Halls. Bro. P.C. Geertsen opened by prayer, D. McKay, Wm. W. Bronson, Joseph H. Perry, Loren Petersen and I made remarks. I thanked all brethren and sisters who had aided the distressed sister and the family in their long affliction. 3 o’clock the procession was started for the cemetery in the midst of a driving rainstorm. A few teams only could go on account of deep snow at the grave yard.” Eleanor was buried next to William’s mother, Susanna Selston Halls
When Eleanor died, her sister Hannah wanted to take Lottie as part of her family, but William said no, Lottie was to brought up a Halls and in a Halls home. William took Lottie to the dairy farm he ran, probably the home of Johanne. There were children Lottie’s age there and he thought she would be content. Lottie would have none of it. She bawled and sulked and would not eat. William spanked her and coaxed, but nothing would change her mind. She wanted to be with Lizzie. After three days William picked her up and took her back to Louisa and Lizzie. Louisa was not anxious to rear Eleanor’s baby but she could not resist when Lottie reached her arms out to her. Louisa became a true mother to Lottie. Louisa took great comfort from Lottie for they were alone after Louisa’s own children married. Lottie felt that she knew the real Louisa, her griefs, her problems, her strengths, better than anyone. Lottie loved Louisa dearly and considered her her real mother for she had never really known the mother who had brought her into this world.
Eleanor’s granddaughter, Lucile K. Yerger, writes: “From out of my memory and the impressions a child gets listening to elders talk, this was my grandmother: She was proud and very sensitive, and sometimes when she was hurt she would retaliate. She was very beautiful and had many admirers. I wonder why she wanted to marry a man so much older than she. Her linens, china, and silver were most unusual and her clothes were the latest. No wonder Louisa resented sharing her husband with her. My grandfather (William) told my mother (Lottie) that Eleanor brought him more joy, comfort, and happiness than anyone he had ever known. He could talk with her about so many things and she was not critical. I have wondered if he remembered the hardships and the burdens he left his other two wives to bear. He did his duty to the church and Louisa and Johanne brought up his fine children of whom he was so proud. I think I would have liked my grandmother for she accepted her lot, but she went after the man she loved and married him. And from this union was born one of the smartest women I have ever known, my mother.”
by William Halls
Estella Taylor Coombs, to whom this poem was sent, was the daughter of Hannah Howard Taylor, the sister of Eleanor Howard Halls. It was to her sister Hannah’s home that Eleanor went to give birth to her first child, Susanna Selstone (Lottie). The original was in the possession of Estella’s daughter, Alice Coombs Mills (died 1984).
The greatest gift sent from above,
to mortal man on earth is love.
Through our father’s and our mother’s love,
spirits were born in the world above.
In love our father laid the plan,
and formed the earth for mortal man.
In love he gave us day and night,
and caused the sun to give us light.
In love he sent the gentle showers,
and filled the earth with fruits and flowers.
In love then Adam came to earth,
to give to man his mortal birth.
Then Eve by sin was overthrown,
and Adam was left to dwell alone.
Through the love he had for mother Eve,
he fell that man might life receive.
And when in death all men were lost,
the savior with love paid the cost.
As on the cross his life he gave,
to prove his love the world to save.
A man will compass sea and land,
to clasp a loving woman’s hand.
A woman through her love will give
her mortal life that man may live.
The greatest hope of a woman’s life
is to be a loved and loving wife.
A man for love will spend his life
in ceaseless toil to bless his wife.
It’s by the love of man and wife,
a child is born in mortal life.
Should all else fail beneath the sky,
a woman’s love would never die.
It’s love that lifts the mother’s arm,
to shield her infant child from harm.
Without a mother’s love and care,
no child would live to breathe the air,
No fear of war, nor hope for peace,
all human life from earth would cease.
Although the morning sun might rise,
and moon and stars illume skies,
If the banner of mother’s love were furled,
they’d shine upon a barren world.
The spirits in the world above,
have faith in mortal mother’s love.
Cut off that love, then great despair
would sit enthroned forever there.
Their hope alone above all others
is in the love of mortal mothers.
Oh father hear our humble prayer:
still grant us mother’s love and care.