This biography was printed in July 1983 by the William Halls Family Organization in its family periodical,
Through the Halls of History, Kristine Halls Smith, editor. 
© 1983 William Halls Family Organization

Herbert Halls was the eleventh child and fourth son of William Halls (1834-1920) and Johanne Marie Frandsen (1855-1913)

by Kristine Halls Smith


It may seem a bit unusual to begin a person's biography with an obituary, but on June 12, 1969 the Mancos, Colorado Times‑Tribune published such a good summary of the life of Herbert Halls that it seems a good place to begin.

“Funeral services were held June 2nd in the Eleventh Ward Chapel in Salt Lake City for Herbert Halls, a native of Mancos, who died May 29th in a Salt Lake City hospital.  Interment was in the Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park in Salt Lake City.  Larkin Mortuary was in charge of arrangements.  Bishop Derek F. Metcalfe conducted the services.

“Herbert Halls, 77, was born October 5, 189l, at Mancos, the youngest son and eleventh child of twelve children born to William Halls and Johanne Marie Frandsen Halls.  He died in a Salt Lake City hospital on May 29, 1969, after suffering two strokes and other complications over the past ten years.

“During his high school days he played on the crack Mancos High School basketball team that put his hometown on the map. There were only five players:  Byron Brown, Ira Kelly, Arthur Ogle, Charles Rash, and Herbert, so there were no substitutes.  In his book A History of Montezuma County, author Ira S, Freeman states: 'The boys won the western slope championship by defeating the Mt. Lincoln team of the Grand Valley on its home floor.  The Mt. Lincoln team had never before been beaten.'  The team also played exhibition games.  Through his lifetime Herbert valued the friendship of his fellow teammates.  Ira and Byron are the only two surviving.

“After high school graduation, which he accomplished in three years, Herbert attended the University of Utah.

“Herbert served in many capacities for the LDS Church.  He was the first stake clerk when Young Stake was organized.  He fulfilled a two‑year northern states mission with headquarters at Chicago.  He was president of the YMMIA, Sunday school teacher, counselor in the Sunday school superintendency, and a bishop's counselor.  He was a student of the Bible and an avid reader.

“Herbert was always very civic-minded.  He served for a total of ten years as president of school boards, eight years at Mancos and two years at Rico.  He served on the town board in both towns, was a member of the Mancos Chamber of Commerce, a member of the American Legion, and a volunteer fireman.

“He was raised on a farm and walked the four-mile round trip to attend high school. Walking never went out of style for Herbert and he preferred to walk to his destination if at all possible.

“From the time of his marriage until 1936 he owned and operated his own ranch, raising alfalfa and grains to sustain his sheep and a small dairy herd.  With the purchase of the ranch, he acquired two fine fruit orchards planted by his uncle, George Halls.  The fruits were a source of joy to him and his family.  When he bought his town home he immediately set about to buy extra lots and planted an orchard, berries, and raised an abundant garden.  He loved the good earth and it responded to his two green thumbs.

“He enjoyed sharing his garden produce and fruits from his orchard with friends, especially those less fortunate than he.  He was quick to make a cash loan or an outright donation of money to the needy; indeed, it may be said of Herbert Halls that 'He lived in a house by the side of the road and was a friend to man.'

“Herbert loved his family.  With three little daughters in a row, he claimed he was partial to little girls, but when the long-awaited son finally arrived, it was plain to see that he was also partial to a little boy.

“Herbert was a veteran of World War I and during World War II assisted with the effort by attending a welding school at Pueblo and going to work in the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland, Oregon.

“While thus employed he suffered a broken back when he stepped onto an unsecured scaffold.  The healing process was long and painful, but always looking on the bright side, he mentioned many times how fortunate he was in having one of the best bone specialists in the United States, a retired specialist called back into duty during the war emergency.  Lying on his back in a rainbow position with his head downhill he wrote the following message to his wife, 'Do not worry, the Lord had His arm around me all the time.'

“Home at last and while still in a heavy back brace, with the help of two daughters he dug the trench necessary to connect to the new town sewer system, and with the help of his brother, Dave, installed a bathroom.  He recovered in due time and was once again straight and tall.

“In 1946, when the family had dwindled to the parents and son they moved to Rico, where Herbert had secured employment.  In 1952, tragedy struck again when the ceiling of a new mine room caved in, breaking his neck.  He was flown by chartered plane to Denver and again felt fortunate in having such excellent medical care.

“The healing process at home was slow, but being assured by his doctor that it was safe to do what he could as long as the brace remained in place, he built and enclosed a porch at the family home and worked on a patio.

“The family moved back to its home in Mancos in 1956.  Robert entered his junior year in high school and Herbert set about remodeling and painting their home.  This kind of work was always sheer enjoyment for him.

“Herbert married Nina Mae Carroll in the Salt Lake Temple on Nov.1, 1922.

“Survivors include his widow of Salt Lake City, three daughters. and a son:  Mrs. Merrill W. (Dorothy Mae) Ellis and Robert Halls, both of Salt Lake City; Mrs. Alvin M  (Beth) Decker of College Park, Maryland; and Mrs. Florence Banwell of Fort Dodge, Iowa.  Also surviving are 10 grandchildren; two brothers, Frank Halls of Monticello and J. Lewis Halls of Salt Lake City; and a sister, Mrs. L.E. (Florence) Gerdel of Vallejo, California, as well as numerous nephews and nieces who adored him.

“Herbert's death came as a blessed relief from his long years of suffering”.

Herbert was usually called Bert.  Bert’s parents, William and Johanne Halls, had come from Huntsville, Utah to Mancos in 1886, after an unsuccessful year in Bluff, Utah. Huntsville was where William had homesteaded in 1862 with his first wife, Louisa Enderby.  He had emigrated from England with Louisa in 1861.  Obedient to the instructions of his church that the leaders should participate in polygamy, William had married Johanne as his second wife in 1871 and Eleanor Howard as his third wife in 1880, all three families living in Huntsville.  William and Hannah, as she was called, had their first eight children in Huntsville.  In the 1880s federal marshals were in Utah arresting men who were living in violation of federal laws prohibiting polygamy. 

William, along with Bishop Francis Hammond of the Huntsville Ward, to whom he was counselor, were among the many Mormon men who evaded arrest by moving to more remote parts of the territory.  William took his second family and two sons from his first family, William Jr. and Thomas.  Louisa remained in Huntsville with her younger children and also took care of Eleanor’s only surviving child, Lottie, after Eleanor had died in childbirth in 1884.  William wanted Hannah to care for Lottie with her own children as the family left Huntsville, but Lottie had grown used to Louisa’s daughter Lizzie while her own mother was ill and insisted on staying with Louisa. 

Bert, once his youngest sister Florence was born in 1894, was thus the second-to-youngest of 19 children born to William Halls by his three wives, one of the four born in Mancos.  Bert wrote in a letter about his mother's feeling for the Mancos Valley: "When Father described the Mancos Valley to Mother in the early days he spoke in such glowing terms he feared she would not believe him, but when she actually saw the place and their future home, everything so exceeded her expectations she said no one could overdraw the grandeur of the region.  The Lord had surely led them to a choice land ‑‑ a land choice above all other lands."  Bert obviously shared his mother's feelings about the place where he grew up.

Because William Halls believed his time should be devoted to work in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints, he turned the responsibility of running the ranch and providing for his family over to Hannah and her sons.  Though he was the youngest son, Bert still had much to do in helping to keep the ranch going.  He was baptized a member of the Church on his eighth birthday, October 5, 1899, by his father.

He attended school in Mancos, and his sister Anna remembered that her mother took a special pride in Bert due to his high scholastic record and his ability to play on the basketball team "that put Mancos on the map".  She said that their oldest brother Dave would often complain because Bert spent so much time with basketball that his chores were neglected.  Their mother would walk way down to take the cows to pasture or to bring them home for milking and do her share and Bert's share, too.  She would go into Bert's room and sit on the trunk with her knitting needles flying while she visited and laughed with him as he packed his clothes to go out on the road trips.  Bert adored his mother and in later years his wife enjoyed hearing him tell about her.

After graduating from high school, Bert went to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah with financial help from his sister, Eliza.  Dave felt that he was needed at home to help run the farm, so when Dave suffered a bout of sickness, Bert quit school to go back to Mancos to help the family.

In 1915, Bert left home to go to Chicago to serve a two‑year mission for the LDS Church.  His mission was successful, but it was not without its difficulties.  His wife Nina said, "His mission was something else, poor boy.  He went out there without purse or script.  Grandfather Halls helped some of the boys, but he just helped Bert morally by writing him fine letters.  Bert slept in hay stacks and straw stacks and in the doors of the business houses.  He almost froze to death.  That's just terrible to send a boy out on a mission like that without anything.  I cried when he told me about it.  His father thought it was good for him."  His missionary journal tells of other happier experiences and reflects the spiritual growth he gained during these years.

Soon after returning from his mission, Bert joined the Army, for World War I was in full fury.  He spent his army days stationed in Texas, as the war ended before he was required to leave the United States.

After Bert returned to Mancos, he became better acquainted with Nina Mae Carroll when the two of them began taking parts in hometown three‑act plays.  They had both lived in Mancos for several years and so had known each other, but because of a ten‑year age difference, they had not been well‑acquainted until they began playing the leads in these plays.  Eventually this friendship led to their marriage in the Salt Lake Temple on November 17, 1922.

Nina was born in Mancos on June 3, 1901.  Her mother, Elizabeth Emma Slade, had married into polygamy at the age of 15, the same age as Bert’s mother Hannah when she married William Halls, but at the age of 19 was left a widow with two small daughters.  They had moved to Mexico to escape government persecution because of polygamy, so in her widowhood this is where she stayed on the advice of church leaders.  When she was 22, she married Willard Carroll, and became a plural wife again.  She had five children as a result of this second marriage, one of whom was Nina.  Nina was born in Mancos when her mother had taken a trip back to her home for several months.  

When Nina was nine months old, they returned to Mexico, and Nina spent the next eleven years there, growing up in Colonia Dublan.  Nina's father died when she was almost five years old, so her mother, now 35, was again a widow, this time with five children to care for.  (One daughter had died at the age of three and her oldest daughter had married and moved away.) 

Political conditions in Mexico in 1912 forced the Mormons who had settled there to return to the U.S., so Nina came with her mother and other family members back to Mancos.  Again the whole family had to work hard to contribute to the support of the family.  When older, one of Nina’s jobs was for a druggist, assisting his family and learning to keep the books.  She later worked for a department store and rose to become a buyer.

After her marriage she continued working in the store for a few more months, and then she and Bert set up housekeeping in the old George Halls home.  It was a nice place with four large rooms, and they had two big orchards and a big garden.  Nina says that she had never had a hoe in her hand till she was married.  She says "I was a city girl, but I turned country."  Bert raised sheep and had a small dairy herd.  Here was where Bert and Nina's daughters were born:  Dorothy Mae on September 19, 1923, Beth Marie on October 9, 1924, and Florence on August 19, 1928.  

Nina told lovingly of how much Bert enjoyed being with the children.  They’d play, sing in the big rocking chair, and listen to the radio together.  When Robert was small, he’d  carry him from one window to the other and say "See the great big world, Robert."  Nina and Bert loved long conversations together.

While living in Mancos Nina wrote popular newspaper columns for two out‑of‑town newspapers, earning enough money to renovate her kitchen.  Bert spent much of his time working in church callings. 

Nina and Bert and their children lived on the old George Halls place (which it was still called, even after they'd lived there for thirteen years) until 1936, when they bought a house in town.  Robert was born while they were living in town on October 13, 1940. It was from there that Bert went to Oregon and worked in the Kaiser Shipyards during World War II.  He stayed there about two years, returning home only about twice each year.  When Nina was asked if that was hard on her she said, "Well, we took it -- we just took it.  I'll tell you it could have been hard if we'd let it."  Bert’s long, painful recovery after breaking his back was in Mancos. 

By 1946, Dorothy and Beth were married, and Florence was attending college.  Then Bert, Nina, and Robert moved to the mountain mining town of Rico so Bert could work.  They were reluctant to leave their Mancos friends but soon got acquainted in Rico.  Their first home, bought at a bargain price, was across the river from town and turned out to be too far from school, so they bought another house in town, where they had a nice garden and roses.

When Robert started school in 1946, Nina started working as a teacher for three years, teaching sixth grade and junior high and also working with young Navajo children.  To qualify, she attended BYU in the summers and took correspondence courses.  She had to give up teaching because of eye trouble but did manage to do substitute teaching for three additional years.  Their time in Rico included Bert’s convalescing from the mine injury that broke his neck.

When Robert had had all the schooling that Rico schools could offer him, the family moved back to their home in Mancos so he could attend high school.  He graduated in 1958.  Bert was retired by this time, but he wanted to keep busy, so he worked for different farmers in the valley.  It bothered him that the old Webber pioneer cemetery was in bad condition, so he asked permission to clean it up, and with Robert's help Bert became caretaker of that cemetery and the one in Mancos town, too.

In 1959, at the age of 68, Bert suffered a heart attack and stroke as he was walking home from town on Father's Day.  He was left paralyzed on his left side.  He was taken to the Grand Junction Veterans Hospital, where he stayed for 18 months.  Nina brought him back home to Mancos, where she cared for him for six months, but his care took its toll on Nina, so it was decided to send him to Salt Lake City where Dorothy Mae lived.  Nina and Robert moved into an apartment on East South Temple in Salt Lake and later bought a home on Second South.  Bert stayed in the Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake for nine more years, dying on May 29, 1969.

Nina spent her time in Salt Lake, first visiting almost daily with Bert in the hospital and then helping care for her grandchildren.  She became an invaluable source of information for many of the Halls biographies written for Through the Halls of History, answering editor Kristine Smith’s numerous inquiries and submitting to many interviews.  Kris wrote, “it is now a pleasure for me to be able to compile this story of her and Bert and their family.”

Nina was the last surviving member of the generation that included William Halls' nineteen children and their spouses.  It is fitting that their story close with a statement Nina made -- "I am proud to bear the name of Halls."