George Halls (1846-1917)
Mary Moiselle Hammond Halls
George was the youngest brother of William Halls
Note: there are two biographies of George in this file. The first was compiled by Kristine Halls Smith and published in the family periodical Through the Halls of History in November 1974. The second is copied verbatim from the 1918 Improvement Era, an official publication of the LDS Church, and was written by George’s former student Edward Anderson
On October 18, 1846, in Orsett Parish, Essex County, England, John and Susannah Selston Halls welcomed the birth of a new son whom they named George. John and Susanna Halls’ family consisted of three other sons, William Thomas, and James, and a daughter, Mary Ann. When George was still a toddler, his brother William, then about fifteen years old, heard the message of the Latter-day Saint missionaries who were preaching in their area. He became very interested in their beliefs and as soon as possible he and his brother Thomas were baptized. Soon afterward, when George was six years old, his mother and the other children also joined the church. When William was eighteen years old, he baptized his father and thus the entire family became active members in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
George was baptized and confirmed on November 26, 1855 in Orsett by Charles W. Penrose. George’s father was a farm laborer and the family was quite poor so the children were forced to begin working for wages when very young. There was little opportunity, therefore, for them to gain any formal education. Their mother, however, could read and was able to help develop the natural drive for knowledge that her children apparently displayed. William and George both worked hard to gain an education on their own both in England and later when they came to Utah. In 1861, when George was fifteen years old, his father died, and one year later, in 1862, he left England with his mother to join his brother William in America. William, with his new bride, Louisa, had left England in 1861. George and his mother crossed the Atlantic on the ship William Tapscott and then joined the ox train of Horton D. Haight to come to Utah. Eventually George, William and Louisa, and their mother settled in the little village of Huntsville, Weber County, Utah. In 1866, George went back to the Missouri River as a teamster in Horton Haight’s company to bring back more immigrants.
During George’s early years in Huntsville, his time was spent working for wages in the summer and attending school in the winter. He spent most of his time as a sheepherder, but since he was very persistent in his effort to gain knowledge, he used his leisure time in the camp studying. He became a teacher in the little village school and was very active in the various church and community activities. He was a Sunday School teacher, a member of the ward choir, and a leading actor for many years in the Huntsville Dramatic Association. In 1872 he joined with his brother William in farming and stock raising. They owned and operated a section of land with a successful dairy and cheese factory.
Five days before his thirtieth birthday, on October 13, 1876, George married nineteen-year-old Mary Moiselle Hammond in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Moiselle, as she was called, was the daughter of Francis A. and Mary Jane Dilworth Hammond. She was born May 18, 1857 at Beaver Dam, near the junction of the Santa Clara and Virgin Rivers in southern Utah. Moiselle’s father was an important figure in early church history and at the time of her birth her parents were returning from a mission in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Her mother, Mary Jane Dilworth, is known in Utah history as being the first school teacher in Utah. She was a member of one of the companies that arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and during her trip to the valley, she taught the children in the wagon train. When the train was met by Brigham Young on his way back to Winter Quarters, he asked her to set up a school as soon as she reached the valley, and three weeks after they arrived there, Mary Jane opened the first school in Utah in an old tent. After her marriage to Francis Hammond, she spent much of her time accompanying him on his missions to the Sandwich Islands and in his other church activities until finally, in 1865, when Moiselle was eight years old, they settled in Huntsville, where Moiselle’s mother was again a school teacher. When Moiselle was nine years old she was baptized by Thomas Wilson. Her childhood years were spent learning to spin, knit, do all kind of housework, milk the cows, and churn the butter. She attended school during the winter and generally gained the kind of an education that would prepare her for a life as a wife and mother.
After their marriage, George and Moiselle were both active in ward affairs. She was a teacher in the Sunday School, and a counselor and president of the Y.L.M.I.A. She also served as president of the Primary Association for a number of years. In all these positions she acted with zeal and success.
In 1885, George and Moiselle left Huntsville and moved to Bluff, and the next spring moved on to settle in Mancos, Colorado. They took over the land that had been developed by a man named Webber who gave his name to a small settlement of Mormons about two miles south of Mancos.
George and Moiselle set about making their new property into a home. Their house was made of adobe and wood and eventually consisted of a large kitchen, bedroom, a living room where the family lived, a parlor which was strictly reserved for visiting guests, and upstairs, a large bedroom. The land was developed into a dairy farm with cows, hogs, chickens, and other animals and fields of grain and alfalfa. George planted and developed two large orchards which many people learned to cherish. There were many varieties of fruit of the best kinds possible. On three sides of their house they planted Lombardy poplar trees and at the back were planted cottonwood trees.
The development of their home had barely begun, however, when George was given a new responsibility to fill his time. On March 21, 1887, the Mancos Branch was made a ward and George Halls was set apart as the first bishop. Thus began almost twenty-five years of service to his church and his community that earned him the respect and admiration of all the people he served. Ira Freeman in The History of Montezuma County says of him, “George Halls, as bishop, proved to be a tower of strength among his people and a true leader. He was bishop twenty-four years, two months, and one day, and during this time the Mancos Ward was the strongest ward in the San Juan Stake and for some time there was a membership of almost 600. . . . Bishop Halls was an able and useful man in other ways. He served on the local school board, was elected County Superintendent of Schools and served two terms as County Commissioner from the Mancos district.” During his service as bishop, it was decided to build a new church, and what some remember as “the old Webber Hall” was the result. According to Freeman, “it was church dance hall, a place for all public meetings and was the scene of many a dance, play, program, and basketball game, and was popular with the people of Mancos as well as with Webber people.” In addition to his other services to the ward, George served as ward chorister for many years and sang at many church services.
Moiselle was well-fitted for her role as bishop’s wife. She was an efficient and orderly house keeper and her home was often used to house visiting church authorities who would come by train from Salt Lake City for conferences and other meetings. George and Moiselle became known for their generous hospitality and friendliness to visitors who came to the community. Visitors knew they could count on a warm welcome in their home. In addition to being a good hostess, Moiselle filled her role well by being very active in the Church. She served as president of the Y.L.M.I.A. of the San Juan Stake for many years. She was a teacher in the Sunday School, served in the Primary, and for twelve years served as organist. When the Young Stake was organized she was appointed president of the stake Relief Society. It is said that to visit all of the wards in the stakes, she had to travel over six hundred miles by team over a mountainous country, camping out, and exposed to all kinds of weather, but she never hesitated, faltered, or murmured. In later years, someone used these words to describe her: “Her endurance is marvelous, and she never tires of church work. For integrity and devotion to duty she has no superior, and now, though advanced in years, she has the fire and vigor of youth and is very hospitable to all.”
In 1890, after fourteen years of marriage, George and Moiselle were still childless and so when a little six-week-old girl whose mother had died needed a home, they decided to adopt her. They gave her the name of Harriet Moiselle after her two mothers, but she was known as “Lella”. Lella had been born on September 23, 1890.
Seven years later, a boy was born on May 31, 1897, whom they also adopted as their son. They named him George Dilworth Halls. Lella and Dil, as he was called, were given their share of duties around the house and farm as they grew older. Lella recalled some of her duties as a child by saying, “I’d kneel on a stool or a chair and if we didn’t rinse those dishes right before we washed ’em, we had ’em to do all over again! We had to rinse them first and take the water out in big cans that we used to feed the hogs. We’d always put that out without soap or anything; then we’d wash them and rinse them again. My mother was very particular about that, very careful and very particular about the house and about the housekeeping. And I had to make my bed every morning. When I was just a little tyke, I’d get on it and crawl across to get it to look like something. And I’d line up my shoes in certain rows there by the bed.” She also remembered the work she did out on the farm. “I used to drive what they called >slides’ in those days for loading hay into the big barns. I used to drive the teams. I’d go out and help when they’d cut the wheat and bind it. We used to have binders in those days. We would have to go out and chop that. Day after day, all during the summer.” She also told of having to help feed the animals. About their cows she said, “He had about eight cows. That doesn’t seem like many now, but it did to me when I used to help milk ’em!” Harriott recalled her experiences with her father by saying, “My father had the most wonderful personality. I just worshiped that man. He was always my friend. If I got in trouble I could always go to my dad, and he would take time to sit down and explain anything to me. My dad was always so good to me.”
George Halls never lost his thirst for knowledge as his years progressed. One side of the dining room in their home was lined with book shelves and was full of books. His extensive library was put to good use and he was always interested in reading and studying, especially in church books. Many winter evenings were spent in this way.
Shortly after Christmas in 1916, George became ill and developed pneumonia. After being ill a short time, he died on January 3, 1917. He is buried in the Webber Cemetery.
After George’s death, Moiselle lived in their home until 1929 when she moved to Provo, Utah to live with Harriott for awhile. Later, she moved to Springville, Utah and it was there that she died at the age of 74. She is buried in Springville.
By Edward H. Anderson
Improvement Era, December 1918, Vol 22, No. 2, pp 119-122
Among my early recollections is the old rock school house, on the west side of the public square, in Huntsville. The old building, still standing, is inseparably connected with the name of George Halls, who for many years presided in it as teacher of the district school and as one of the leaders in the little village. It was the civic center of the little community for many, many years, around which every interest centered, social, religious, educational. On its walls I first saw the pictures of Grant, Sherman, and other heroes of the Civil War, and here, on gala occasions I first saw Old Glory. Here also I first heard the harp of Giles, studied my first Sunday School lesson, first acted as secretary of a literary organization which was later merged into the YMMIA, first enjoyed myself in the dance, went to my first choir practice, and attended every other entertainment, civil, social, religious, and political that was uppermost in the minds of the people under the long and ever-to-be-remembered leadership of Bishop Francis A. Hammond. Here, too, I received my first lesson in school under the Halls brothers, William and George.
Just a half a block north of the old schoolhouse, lived Wilmer Bronson, my Sunday School superintendent, under whom I first learned the old Jacques’ catechism by heart, so that I could repeat it from beginning to end. On the opposite corner was the village store, and just a block west of the store stood a story-and-a-half log house. Here, with his good old English mother, lived my friend George Halls, student, philosopher, teacher, and Latter-day Saint.
He it was who induced me to study grammar, something unheard of in the village school up to the time that he undertook to introduce it. Six of us who accepted the offer of the teacher to take up this study were daily lined up for morning recitation. The experiment was looked upon with curiosity, not to say apprehension, by the good people of the village. It seemed to be useless and time-wasting. Our exercises were laughed at by the students, who were distracted from their studies. There was only one room in which all the grades both recited and studied. In a few days, the curiosity died out, and our little class dwindled down to two or three. Two who “stuck it out” were Professor Mosiah Hall, now the Inspector of the High Schools of the State of Utah, and myself. Before the winter was over, we were able to repeat “Pineo’s Primary Grammar”, answering every question, parsing every word in it, and repeating every irregular verb, and every preposition in the English language. The prepositions, in their alphabetical order, remain in my mind to this day: about, above, across, along, amid, among, around, at; before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, betwixt, beyond, by; down, during, and so on all the way through the alphabet.
Seeing that I took an interest in the matter, George Halls invited me to visit his home evenings to further pursue my studies in that line, and many an evening he sat helping me to learn English grammar. I enjoyed the privilege, notwithstanding I disliked to go home in the dark, for the lonely little cabin in which we dwelt, was far out of town to the west, on the brow of a hill overlooking the silent meadows and the willow-shaded creek and river; particularly I disliked to pass the old abandoned graveyard abutting the street, nearby which was located our one-room cottage made of hewed timber and adobe by father Nils Anderson’s own hands. But George’s attractive teaching, and his help in my studies, overcame even these fears.
I loved him for his kindness and considerate treatment of me in every way. Going early to school on frosty winter mornings, I invariably found him there preparing for the day. I had a great admiration, which later led to curiosity, for his ability to build a fire and make it burn the green maples in the great round stove in the center of the room. How he could make that green maple blaze up and make a hot fire as it did, was a mystery to me for long years; in fact I am not sure I solved the question, but in years later I had my suspicions. This was during the winters of 1869-72.
In the spring of 1872, he engaged with his brother William in farming and stock raising, and for twelve years owned and operated a section of land in the southeast part of the valley. Here he operated a dairy and cheese factory, with considerable success, later turning over the school to other hands, principally to Professor Charles Wright who for years succeeded the Halls brothers in the occupation of teaching and who also became one of my beloved early teachers, and a friend until he died.
George Halls was the son of John Halls and Susanna Selstone. He was born October 18, 1846, in the parish of Orsett, county of Essex, England. When he was six years of age his parents became converts to “Mormonism”. They were quite poor and could give him but very little schooling. Consequently he had to begin work for wages when very young. His father died in 1861, and the following year George left his native land with his mother for Utah, crossing the Atlantic in the ship William Tapscott, and the plains in Horton D. Haight’s company. Beginning to work for wages when only very young, George received but little schooling, and had no experience whatever in the pioneer life which now lay before him. He drove a team of four yoke of oxen across the plains. On his arrival in Utah, he soon after settled in Huntsville, and, in 1866, returned to the Missouri river for immigrants as a teamster in Horton D. Haight’s company. During the first few years of his residence in Huntsville he worked for wages in the summer, and like all others who could work, only attended school in the winter. He spent most of his time as a shepherd, but used his leisure in the camp studying grammar and preparing his mind educationally. Being very persistent, he obtained a wide knowledge by his own efforts. In the development of the material and intellectual progress of the settlement he was an active worker in every department of public interest: the ward choir, Sunday School, a leading actor in the dramatic association, a teacher in the district school, and in all the amusements and entertainments of the young people always took a leading part. His conduct, activities, and example were pillars of strength to the youth.
When within a few days of thirty years of age he married Mary Moiselle Hammond, Bishop Francis A. Hammond’s eldest daughter, whose mother, Jane Dilworth, was the first school teacher in the state of Utah. The marriage took place October 13, 1876.
In 1885, a large migration, accompanying Bishop Francis A. Hammond, went from Huntsville to new settlements in the south of Utah. Thomas Bingham and a number of others went to Ashley Fork, and settled Vernal. Francis A. Hammond and the Halls brothers, to San Juan county, where Bishop Hammond settled at Bluff. The following year, 1886, George moved to Mancos, Colorado, at which place the Saints that same year were organized into a ward, and he was chosen and ordained bishop which position he held for twenty-five years, a beloved leader in that pioneer community. He was not only the bishop, but he acted also as superintendent of the ward Sunday School, as choir leader, and was an active, faithful worker in every ward association and in every institution of education in the community. His accounts were always settled to date and no public interest in his charge ever went by default.
He aided in building the Rio Grande railroad from Durango to Mancos, served a term as commissioner of Montezuma county, Colorado, and took a prominent part in educational affairs.
Surrounded by the Colorado pine-covered hills, he built him a comfortable home, cultivated the earth, devoted himself to his books and his civil and religious duties, passing his lifetime in peaceful pursuits and contemplation. Having no children of his own, he and his estimable wife reared two adopted ones, George Dilworth Hall, who enlisted May 10, 1917, in Battery C, 82nd Field Artillery, now at Fort Bliss; and Harriet M. Halls, who married George W. Stevens, Tennessee, and who has four children.
Bishop Halls possessed the respect and confidence of the leaders of the Church and of leading citizens of the county where he dwelt, became well-informed on general and current history and literature, and enjoyed a general knowledge of the world’s work. In his mountain home he entertained many of the leaders of the Church, and with his kind wife extended warm hospitality to all who came. I enjoyed the great privilege of visiting his home after twenty-five years’ absence, again to shake his hand and thank him for his help to me in my childhood. With hundreds of other visitors to his home amidst the hills where once thrived the old Montezumas, I left my benediction of peace for Brother and Sister Halls.
He passed peacefully away from this life January 3, 1917, at Mancos, beloved by all, firm in the faith, having an abiding testimony in the divine mission of the prophet Joseph and the marvelous work and a wonder which he was instrumental in founding, and true to the gospel of Jesus Christ to the end.