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.