This biography was printed in July 1976 by the William Halls Family Organization in its family periodical, Through the Halls of History
Kristine Halls Smith, Editor.
© 1976 William Halls Family Organization
John Halls was the 6th child and 5th son of William Halls (1834-1920) and Louisa Carritt Enderby (1840-1911)
By Mary Janett Grow Halls
Edited by Kristine Halls Smith
“Wait till I finish this row of potatoes,” William Halls told a neighbor. She had come to ask him to fetch a midwife for his wife, Louisa, who was ready to give birth to their sixth child. Whether John waited for the row of potatoes to be finished, history doesn’t record, but on July 11,1872, in Huntsville, Utah, he began a long and useful life. John was the last of Louisa Carritt Enderby Halls’ children, but not the last for William Halls, who had, at the time of John’s birth, recently married a second wife and would later take a third.
Life was not easy for William Halls’ children, and they learned early to work, but their mother was good to them, and they were devoted to her. John, like the others, did his share of tending to the chores and helping with the farm work. By the time he was nine years old his father had him herding cows on the co-op farm located southeast of Huntsville.
One aspect of John’s life that was very important to him throughout all his years was his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was baptized into the church on May 10, 1881 by Angus McKay and was confirmed by his father on the same day.
Though he knew toil, his life was not all work, however, and John attended school at the Old Rock House in Huntsville. He received the first certificate in the first class graduated in Weber County in ceremonies held at Lester Park in Ogden. Though John didn’t indulge in the sports most boys enjoyed, as he grew older, debating and dramatics were an important part of his life. In 1885, John’s father left Huntsville, taking his second wife and her children and also taking John’s full brothers William Jr. and Thomas. John and his brothers Mosiah and George were left to care for their mother, their only sister, Louisa Elizabeth, and their half-sister, Lottie. Lottie was the only child of their father’s third wife and was raised by Louisa after her own mother died.
Mosiah by this time was married and teaching school, so that left George at 18 and John at 13 to start over again on what was known as Halls’ Farm on the south bench of Huntsville. The land had been purchased from the Agricultural Department on both sides of Hawkins Creek. They hired cows from below Ogden and sold the cream to the creamery company. The skimmed milk was fed to the calves. The few cattle they raised were pastured on the south hills near the farm. Land was cleared as rapidly as possible, and they moved a house from Huntsville to the farm for themselves, their mother, and the girls.
John was married to Mary Janett Grow on February 14, 1895 by Bishop David McKay. They were later sealed in the Logan Temple on June 8, 1899. Mary, or Minnie, as she was always called, was born in Huntsville on September 1, 1876 and was the third of eleven children born to John Wood and Catherine McKay Grow. Minnie could be called a writer and a poet in addition to her other roles and has left us with some vivid descriptions of her life and John’s, particularly about her own childhood and their early married life at the ranch in Idaho.
“We made our playhouse between the granary and wagon shed, covered the top over with boards, made cupboards out of boxes and gathered old broken pieces of dishes the neighbors threw out. They were bright designs and looked beautiful to us. In all our lives we never had a doll or a real plaything. They were all make-believes, but we were happy as we never knew anything else. Children from all over town would collect at the end of the street in front of our house to play. Danish Ball, Rounders, Stealstick, Run Sheep Run, Pomp, and other games were played until time to go home.
“We each had our work to do. The older children milked and cleaned stables and fed animals. Others carried wood and piled it high in a box behind the stove, carried water from the spring up the steep hill, tended the smaller children, and helped in many other ways. It was fun to help Mother make candles and sauerkraut. The candles were made by pouring melted tallow (sheep fat) into candle molds. A heavy string or cord was hung in the center of these molds to provide a wick. When candles weren’t available a piece of cloth was twisted around a small button placed in a saucer full of grease and the tip of the cloth lighted. These were our only lights until lamps came on the market. The sauerkraut was made by putting a layer of cabbage on an old churn, sprinkling it with salt, and mashing it down with a thing that looked like a baseball. Other layers were added until it was full, then it was covered and used as needed.
“The house where all eleven children in our family were born consisted of two rooms and an attic. We larger children slept in the attic, the boys on one side and the girls on the other. We slept on the floor on straw ticks that were washed and filled with fresh straw as soon as the threshing was done. Later on this straw was replaced by feathers which fell or were plucked from our ducks and geese at molting time and from the wild ducks and chickens that Father killed.
“In spite of many little hands and feet our house was always clean and neat. For the most part the furniture was made of dry goods boxes placed one on top of the other to make shelves and room to store clothes. The top and outside of these boxes was covered with bleached muslin trimmed with Mother’s hand-made knitted lace. The window curtains were attractively trimmed with the same kind of lace. Mother used white sand to clean the board floors, the sand being placed on the wet boards and scrubbed with a brush made by knotting oat straw together. A fairly strong solution of lye, which was used for washing wood and clothes, was made by adding the wood ashes to a large barrel of water.
“Father provided most of our meat, wild ducks, chicken, and deer, by hunting. Deer and pork meat were salted and smoked, or jerkied, for winter use. This was the only way we could prepare fresh meat for future use. Since fruit was scarce, we gathered service berries and dried them for winter. These berries, along with popcorn and molasses for candy, were our treats for cold winter evenings and parties. Fat pork, potatoes, water gravy and molasses was our main diet. We got very little milk since the cream was sold to furnish cash for other needs and the skim milk fed to the baby calves and pigs.
“During my first sixteen years we had much serious illness and death in our family. We lost brothers Angus at five years and Clarence at eighteen months, and sisters Favorett at eighteen and Rosell at Thirteen. Our youngest brother, Lorin was very ill for many months. During those years I learned to depend upon prayer and the power of the priesthood as doctors were not available.
“The winters in Huntsville were so cold that milk would freeze in the cupboard even when there was a fire in the house, and snow was so deep that when it was crusted in the spring we drove across the top of the fences. One of the town holidays was a general sleigh ride. Everyone turned out, sleigh bells jingling, and the families tucked into the bob-sleigh with straw underneath and quilts on top to keep them warm. All were equal, and old and young mingled together in dances, debating societies, theatricals and other entertainment. Amusements, meetings, and school were all held in the Old Rock House, which filled every need.”
Of John and Minnie’s marriage in February 1895 she wrote: “The weather was very cold and the snow was deep. Mother provided a nice dinner for relatives and friends. We slept on the floor in the living room and early the next morning Father came in and pulled John out of bed to get even with him for using Father’s nice kindlings which he always had ready for morning. John would use them when we came home from the dance before he went home.
“John and Emil Nelson went to the ranch in Raymond, Idaho, to get the old log cabin ready before I went there. We started as soon as the snow would permit. All of our earthly possessions went into the wagon -- our wedding presents, three quilts I had made from the best parts of worn-out clothing and lined with wool I had washed and carded, and two pillows and a feather tick Mother had stuffed from her ducks and geese. We had forty dollars in cash and owed Mosiah for a half interest in the wagon, harness, and the horses, Swayback, Curley, and Browney.
“We found the going rather hard, as the mountain roads were muddy and soft. On the way, John became ill, and the best I could do for him was to heat a rock on the campfire and put it on his stomach. With him lying in the back of the wagon, I pulled the covers down so he could not see my tears and drove on.
“When we reached our new home at the ranch, we found a two-room log hut from which not so much as a knot had been hewn off. Emil had white-washed the house, and with charcoal he had printed at one end ‘What is Home Without a Mother’, and at the other end was ‘God Bless Our Home’. I looked around, unpacked, and began a new life.
“The dirt roof of our cabin leaked and mud dripped onto everything. In the spring when it began to thaw, the mud would drip all over in the house from the roof. I had to put containers all over even on the table to catch the mud. One day when I found books covered, I said I wished it would burn down. Next morning John built the fire in the little kitchen stove and went out to feed cattle. When I came out the fire was burning the boards around the pipe. I looked out at the weather and it was at least 40 below so I took a bucket of wash water, climbed on the roof, scraped the dirt away and put out the fire. I had accumulated enough newspapers and pasted them over the logs. This helped to some extent. Later on I purchased unbleached muslin, sewed it together, and covered the walls, making it more like home. This cabin was our home for seven years.
“We had one bedstead and bought four kitchen chairs in Montpelier. All the rest of the furniture we made. We had much company, and while they were there we slept on the floor and gave them our bed. We made a single bed for Emil to sleep on in the kitchen. One spring while John was in Utah to buy cattle, I gathered dry goods boxes to make a combination book case and writing table. I was justly proud of this, used it many years, and then gave it to a neighbor.
“All we could raise was cattle and wild hay. At the end of the first year, we sold seven dollars worth of this produce and went back to Huntsville for the winter. The next spring, in 1896, we returned to the ranch, bought a cow, and put up hay to feed the cattle we had borrowed the money to purchase. When sold, these brought us our first income, and we continued this each year with increasing success. My husband also taught school in Geneva to raise a little cash, and I made dresses for which I received one dollar each. This was small pay indeed considering all the steels we sewed into the seams and the way the dresses were made and finished. I also drove our slow old team forty miles to Cokeville, Wyoming with a few pounds of butter and a few dozen eggs to exchange for food and an occasional dish for the house. We received ten cents a dozen for the eggs and ten cents a pound for the butter. During this time our only soap was made by combining a can of lye and seven pounds of fat. The best part of the fat from the beef and pigs we killed was rendered out in the oven and placed in cans for cooking; the reminder furnished fat for soap. The lye and fat were placed in a tub about half full of water and boiled until all the fat was dissolved. After this had stood overnight it was cut in bars and dried.
“My first mattress was made by sewing together any rags which could not be used for quilts. These were made into strips the size of a mattress and when enough had been accumulated to make a layer about five inches deep, they were smoothed out and put inside a mattress cover and tied. This, with Mother’s feather tick, made the best bed we had, and we used it for many years.
“On my return from visiting home and family I would bring back Mother’s rags and wool, make them into quilts and rugs, and take them back to her on my next visit. This was a big help to her and gave me something to do to help break the monotony of the very lonely life on the ranch. A dog and cat were sometimes my only pals.
“We hauled water from the river until the men dug a well in front of the cabin. Emil was in the hole filling the bucket and John drew it up to empty it but he always managed to let a little fall back on Emil, who swore vengeance, but he had to promise to be good before John drew him out of the well. How that man loved to play tricks on someone, even his mother. John never failed, when he found her in her cap and night gown, to insist on dancing with her.
“On the ranch in the spring squirrels would dig through the deep snow. When they came out on top we would shoot them with our 22 rifle. The government paid us a bounty of one cent per tail that we brought in.
“In winter it was so cold and the snow so deep that I sometimes looked toward the old log cabin and wondered if I would ever reach it. We had to depend on the faithful horses who had learned to walk that narrow strip made hard by the sleigh runners. If they stepped off this strip they would sink in the snow, become confused, and seldom get back on the road. When that happened we would have to unhitch the horses, let them struggle out as best they could, and generally pull the sleigh the rest of the way home ourselves. The snow fell so deep it covered the lower half of our windows, and it was often from forty to sixty degrees below zero. In the winter the cattle were generally fed before sunrise as it was warmer then. Relief Society meetings were held in private homes to which the women drove their own teams. Often babies’ fingers or cheeks would become frost-bitten on these drives.
“My father had given me a riding horse and side saddle before we were married. This and a work horse were our only means of transportation to church, visiting, etc. To make trails we would sometimes drive several cattle through to make trails in the snow. When we went to meetings or visiting we used the horses. John saddled the brown work horse, and I had my horse and saddle Father had given me. After a few years John bought a white top wagon. This was wonderful.
“We could buy a good hot meal in Montpelier for 25 cents, but we didn’t have the 25 cents, so we stopped before entering the city, fed and watered the horses, ate what we had, did our shopping, and went back to the ranch 17 miles away.
“I often saddled my horse and rode the range to look after the cattle while John was busy putting up hay, and I knew the cattle about as well as he did. John put the hay in the stack yards where it was stacked and the fence made safe from any cattle getting into it. When the hay was stacked and fenced, cattle were gathered and placed on the ranch to eat the grass while we went back to Utah for a short visit before winter set in in earnest. John’s time was so taken up haying, he didn’t have time to get the horses he was breaking in to work, so he got them used to the harness, drove them a few times with an old horse, then let me take them out for more exercise before they were safe for work.
“One day when the men were all away, the neighbors’ cows came into our field, and I saddled my horse to drive them out. In the spring, however, the river overflowed until that quarter section of land was nearly all under water, and it was hard to know where the river was. About halfway across, the horse fell into a hole. I scrambled out of the saddle and sank, having never learned to swim. On coming up for the third time I made a desperate effort to swim and my fingers touched the bank just sufficiently to hold me up. My horse was waiting for me on the bank, and, needless to say, I returned to the house.
“There were no highways; the roads led through from one ranch to another. We always had to get out and open and close gates in going from one ranch to another. Coyotes were so plentiful they would drive our dog to the front porch. I often took the gun and shot at them to scare them away to get rid of them. We fished and hunted wild chickens to help our meat supply. They were very nice.
“During the winter of 1898, we lived in Logan while John attended Brigham Young College. In the fall of 1901 we went to Huntsville for the winter and there our first child, Milton Enderby, was born on the fourth of February. We returned to the ranch the following spring and after seven years in the old log cabin, we built a frame house on higher ground on the east side of the ranch. I built the walks in front and back of the new house which we built near the main road. This was a five room house of frame and very nice, but we were not there long, for in 1906 John was called to Huntsville to be second counselor to A.P. Renstrom.
“Our second son, Julian Wallace, was born on December 10, 1903, before we left the ranch. After we moved to Huntsville, our daughter Edna was born on September 9, 1909; and Ada Favorett was born February 12, 1918.
“After moving to Huntsville, John managed the farm there as well as the ranch in Idaho, while his brother George was doing missionary work in Australia. John pioneered in raising the first dry land wheat in Ogden Valley. He cleared about 30 acres of large choke-cherry bushes with dynamite and his first crop in 1913 yielded fifty bushels per acre. Soon winter wheat was a thriving enterprise in the valley. We had the first modern convenience in the valley by installing a pump in our basement, which pumped water into the bathroom from the well.
“In 1916 the Halls Brothers’ property was divided, John taking the Huntsville property and George the Idaho ranch. Mosiah went in with George on the Idaho property.
“After having served as counselor and bishop in Huntsville for ten years, John was appointed second councilor to President Thomas B. Evans of the Ogden Stake, and we moved to Ogden after selling the Huntsville property in 1920. During the eighteen years he served as counselor to President Evans and President Thomas E. McKay, we had two lovely homes in Ogden.
“John also served on the Weber County School Board for thirteen years while we were in Utah. He had served several terms as City Councilman in Huntsville, Justice of the Peace in Idaho, County Chairman representing the State Agricultural College in Weber County, and as one of the directors of the Ogden State Bank. He was a member of the Board of the Dee Hospital and of Weber College, where he was instrumental in the building of the Weber Gymnasium.
“John served a mission to California from 1924 to 1926, and after enjoying parts of several winters there, we moved to California permanently in 1935. John served in the Los Angeles Stake High Council, and we were both serving in the stake and doing ward work when we moved to Long Beach in December 1941.
“Our Christmas Day 1941 was pleasantly spent at the home of our son and daughter, Wallace and Erma, with all our children and grandchildren present with the exception of Fay and her family who are in Holland, Michigan. It was an enjoyable gathering in the midst of peace and plenty, perhaps more than we can hope for in years to come, for we must all do our share to feed the world and make of it a place where all of God’s children can have peace and freedom and plenty.
“I feel that after the treacherous attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, we will see many things that will test our faith and courage. I am ready and willing to do anything I can to help in this time of great strife, but so far the call is for younger people with better eyes than mine.”
And fifteen years later these were her words written after John had passed away on October 29, 1956 at Long Beach, California: “We lived in harmony for 60 years before my sweetheart was stricken. I cared for him for months, keeping him happy and comfortable until the last three weeks, when we had a nurse night and day. We were all grateful to see him happy, and we carried out his every wish and kept him at home.
“During this time I was going around with a broken back, which is still painful. In spite of major and minor operations and accidents. I served as mother, wife of Bishop and rancher. I served in Relief Society for 50 years, in Primary for 25 years, and in Mutual for 35 years, and many years in genealogical work in the ward and stake as teacher, all these years doing our research on the Halls and Grow lines.
“In the past few years I’ve made and given away 65 quilts; 18 to my eight great grandchildren. Now I am helping my granddaughters with their genealogy and Books of Remembrance. I am living with Wallace and Erma, who are taking good care of me. I am trying to finish my third Book of Remembrance. They are full of history, biography, poems, and travels and pictures. I will be 81 on September 1st, 1957.”
Minnie lived seven more years until June 15, 1964. She and John are both buried in Long Beach, California.
Poems by Mary J. Halls
Have you ever listened to the birds
As dawn begins to break?
One sending out the first alarm
Soon is answered by his mate.
How interesting to watch them
As they seem to plan each day,
Just where and when they’re going;
Then take wing and fly away.
How can I learn bird language
To more fully understand
The most interesting language
Ever used in any land?
Love songs, calls, and answers,
Stern rebukes, and friendly chatter,
Scolding, and threats to intruders,
Discussing all other matters.
Bob-white, Whippoorwill, and Sparrow
Each a tribe of their very own;
From the Hummingbird to King Eagle,
Alike only in flight and form.
All are a creation never surpassed.
Only humans would dare to say
As this simply came by chance
There could be no other way.
A Tribute to our Noble Pioneers
With a knowledge of God and a faith sublime,
Leaving homes and loved ones far behind;
Equipped with much faith, they followed each day
Their fearless leaders over a trackless way.
As they trudged along, no murmur of fear
Escaped their lips, for their course was clear.
Footsore, ill, and short of bread;
Yet only praise and thanksgiving when prayers were said.
They forded the streams and cooked their meals
From a scant supply of hoarded meal.
Then they sang and danced to make others gay,
Though none knew their fate on another day.
Yes they must be brave, no turning back
Ahead were Indians, and an unknown track.
Though the future beset by many a fear
Ahead was freedom for loved ones dear.
To progress according to God’s holy plan
Ordained in Heaven for the good of man.
A promise was given this little band
That freedom awaited in the unknown land,
Where they could save themselves and kindred dear
Who lived when the Gospel was not here.
Their work in these temples is now being done
For days each week by a mighty throng.
‘Tis the faith and standard of these pioneers
The world needs today, to calm their fears;
Unless this is found and practiced again
Confusion and chaos must come to men.
Let’s hold high the standards of these pioneers
Whose praises we sing and memories revere.
They builded better than they knew
Culture and art enjoyed by me and you,
Beautiful valleys and cities fair to see,
Their handiwork from the mountains to the sea.
It should be an honor and privilege to us
To carry on and sacredly guard this trust.