Tuesday, July 8, 2008

John Charles Hall (1821-1890)

The paragraphs of this history has been slightly re-ordered from it's original writeup to separate the historic section, in italics, from the personal history of John Charles Hall. I have corrected spelling and punctuation in a few locations -- any uncorrected errors are either original and intentionally left, or are mine formed in transcription.

In London there is a family of Halls, who have been merchants for many generations. Their beginning as a family is obscure, but is is quite certain that, like other English families of the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries, they came from a man who owned a castle, containing a large auditorium or hall. As an example, we might take the Manor Hall in Kent County on the London Road, where a man by the name of Fitz William was Lord. He became known as William at the Hall and finally William Hall. His family died out with no issue to carry on the name, so this cannot be the ancestors of this family of London merchants. However, it does seem probable that their name originated in a similar manner. They probably were feudal lords at one time, but as the field of ruling and lordship became crowded and the Crusaders created a new foreign commerce, the Halls of southeastern England left warfare and turned to the less painful but more profitable means of gaining riches, honor, and glory. They secured by peaceful trade the profits which others won in turbulent conflict. They searched the world for articles to enrich the lives of Englishmen, and in turn they helped to disseminate English-made goods throughout the world. they were good Christians, but found it more practical to live the Law of Moses. They bought goods cheaply as possible and sold them for as much as they could. They have lived as educated ladies and gentlemen for many generations, in relative economic security and physical comfort.

The Wright family of England and America was founded by two brothers who came from Normandy with William the Conquerer. They obtained the Wryta by virtue of their skill workmen. John Wryta was especially noted as a wood carver. The name Wryta was later spelled Wright.

Just how early the Wright family started showing political and business ability, is not known, but by the end of the fifteenth century they were well established. By this time the family had centered around two points. The Kelvestone family of Sussex Shire were the ancestors of many of the Wrights who became famous in American history. The Kelvedon branch of Essex Shire had built a great estate of several manors where Sir John Wright in 1525 built a magnificent mansion, which still stands sixteen miles northeast of London. He also built the Kelvedon church at the same place, where he and many of his descendents lie buried.

In 1797 there was born to John Hepstritch Hall and his wife, Elizabeth Murton, a son, Thomas Johnston, who, in 1819, married Charlotte Wright. Charlotte was a proud lady of a great family possessed of considerable wealth.

Thomas Wright, a London merchant of this branch of the family was the father of Charlotte, who was born March 27, 1800. So when Charlotte married Thomas Johnston Hall, a well-to-do coal dealer's son of Faversham, Kent Shire, she was not only marrying according to wealth and social position, but was forming a link between two great families of London traders.

They were married and happily settled in Favorsham in March, 1819, and the following children were born to them: Mary Ann, Eliza, and Charlotte, all of whom died in infancy; and John Charles and Thomas.

John Charles Hall, of whom we write now, became the father and patriarch of the family whose histories follow. He was born in Faversham, Kent, England on October 20, 1821. His name was entered in the Faversham Church register and he was baptized a member of the Church of England on November 5, 1821.

His father, Thomas, was quite prosperous for some time as he had property of his own, and he also assisted his own father, John Hepstritch Hall, who was a coal merchant. The use and development of coal had been slow. Smelters were the first to adopt the use of coal as it quickly increased the capacity of the foundries from a ton to two tons per day to the mammoth plants of industrial England. Only as the payrolls increased through the industrial growth, did the homes of the laborers enjoy the luxury of coal. These changes and growth came slowly, so by 1825, John Hepstritch Hall and his son, Thomas, were among the earliest pioneers of the coal industry.

Then when the family had began to enjoy the fruits of their endeavors, there was a great economic panic and many lost all their wealth. The Hall family was not one of the favored ones ... Thomas lost his home in payment of his debts and his father, John, was so overcome by humility and the fear of being jailed because of inability to pay his obligations that he took his own life with a pistol.

After this distressing happening, the family was completely broken up. In 1827, John Charles was put in a boarding school, while his father tried teaching school at warsham in Doritshire, for the next several years. John Charles's mother took their losses very hard and sent to London. The family moved from place to place trying to find suitable work and home until August of 1833, when John Charles's father went to America and deserted his family. At this time John Charles had to go to work and he was only twelve years old. He was apprenticed to a firm which made pianos and organs where he worked for several years. He became very skilled as a piano finisher. He may have been a young man without means, but he certainly was not without ambition. He was more serious-minded and philosophical than his brother, Thomas, and through his zealous efforts, he became well-educated. Even so, he was unable to overcome the barriers caused by his family's poverty and get established in business in England.

So when he was a young man, the New World held out a beckoning hand to him and he emigrated to Canada, hoping to find his father and have him go back to England and straighten out his family affair, and maybe secure a better job for himself in the New World. His initial desires were unfulfilled, but soon after he arrived in Canada, he met a Mormon missionary, who talked to him concerning the principles of the gospel. At the close of their conversation, the missionary gave John a book, "Voice of Warning." John was quite interested and decided to read the book. He said of the book after he completed reading it, "With every statement I read of that little book, my mind told me that it was true. I could not stop reading until I had read every word of it." No longer was John in doubt as to his future course.

Later he talked with the same missionary, Elder Bailey, and became converted that he had found the true gospel. And in November, 1847, he was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Soon the spirit of gathering took hold of him and he longed to be with the Saints in Zion. So anxious was John Charles to go to Salt Lake City, that he only worked long enough in one place to get money to take him a little nearer to his destination. He arrived in Salt Lake City, in 1850, just three years after his baptism. He secured employment and soon found contentment and peace in just being associated with the many who had surged to Utah in order that they might "worship according to the dictates of their own hearts."

Two years later in 1852, he was called to go on a mission to his homeland, England. Naturally, he was anxious to return and give the Gospel to his family and others of his acquaintance. Before he left he was given permission by the church authorities to marry if he found a suitable companion.

Once in England, he reported to the mission headquarters at Dudley, where he began his labors as a missionary. During his travels, he met and converted a widow, Maria Brooks DeGrey, and her six children: Alfred, Selina, Kezia, Maria, Charlotte, and Sarah. He spent much time discussing the gospel whenever he visited the DeGrey family, and became well-acquainted with them. Their home became a place where the missionaries always found welcome. Love bloomed between John and Selina, the eldest daughter, and they were married on April 26, 1853. They made their home in England as best they could while John was yet laboring in the different districts, and later two children, Charles Alma and Charlotte Maria, were born to them.

John's mission lasted nearly five years, during which time Maria DeGrey and her children were working and saving for the future date when they would be able to go to Utah. John had told them so much about America that they could hardly wait. One year before John was released from his mission, Maria and her other four daughters came to America, where they worked in Boston, making further preparations to go on to Utah. Her only son, Alfred, came to Utah later.

The following year when John Charles arrived in America at the central place where all the saints made final arrangements to make the trip, he and the DeGrey family found they had only enough funds to buy one wagon, one yoke of cows, and one yoke of steers. Because there were nine of them in the group and only one wagon to take them on the long journey, John and his little group were counseled to remain until the following spring. They were all very anxious to leave, however, so John asked the captain of the company if he had any objections to them joining the company if they promised to cause no trouble. The captain said, "I guess we can't stop you if you want to go." The family felt relief and had the faith that the Lord would protect and sustain them if they but lived righteously, so they made the long trip without incident and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 12, 1857.

Enroute to Utah, John Charles was determined not to cause the company any trouble. On one occasion, when the company had reached the Platte River, the road was covered with a thick layer of mud. The river had flooded the road for miles and then had receded, leaving it muddy and almost impassable. The company doubled their teams, that is, all teams were fastened to a few wagons in order to take them through the mud, a few at a time, until the entire company was again on dry ground.

John looked the situation over carefully and decided to go around the mud as much as possible wherever the countryside near the main traveled road was possible. When the captain of the company had seen all of the other wagons over the muddy obstacle, he asked, "Where is Brother Hall?" Someone standing near replied, "There he goes on ahead of us." This incident shows the typical determination of John Charles Hall. The many hardships and trials which the Hall family encountered during the trip were overcome by the zealous determination of all in the little group. Naturally there were those times when John became discouraged when he saw the hardships which the womenfolk had to endure, but beneath that discouragement and indecision was a deep reverence of the purpose for which they all suffered inconveniences and privations.

On their arrival in Salt Lake City on September 12, 1857, John and his group had very little to live on during the coming winter, and it was quite difficult to find work. Even the beautiful and wholesome valley, which meant home to them, could not stamp out the reality of necessity. Food was their main necessity at the moment and John found any work he could to secure produce for his family until they too could plant and harvest. Tired from the responsibility of the trek across the plains, young John worked hard and faithfully to establish his young family and those dependent on him in a new home. He obtained some farming land in what was then Sugarhouse Ward, now about 19th East and 14th South, Salt Lake City, and began the slow process of building for the future.

Just five days after their arrival in the valley, John asked for Kezia's hand in marriage. Although she admired him and respected him, she consented mainly to be able to assist her sister, Selina, when her third child was born. Kezia and John were sealed in the Endowment House on September 17, 1857, and on the same day John and his young wife, Selina, were sealed for time and for all eternity. For them it was a dream come true, after their simple marriage in England.

Not long was John and his family in their new home when the presiding brethren sent out the call for Saints to go farther south and build more communities. He willingly volunteered to go even though by now he was well established. He owned two or three city lots in the city and other property near the present site of Park City. What property he could not sell, he left behind, and he and his family went to southern Utah and settled at Rockville or, as it was called then, Adventure. The undertaking was a colossal one both from the standpoint that the new colonies were to be made on rugged, unsettled terrain and that many of the Saints were unacquainted with the life associated with such an adventure. Only the tried and true would likely endure without complaint the privations and hardships incident to such an exodus. It must be remembered that these Saints were headed for a wilderness where a road must be built most of the way, because there was no settlement south of Payson, and danger from attacks of roving bands of Indians was a constant source of uneasiness.

Rockfille was a small organized community, nestled in the foothills on the banks of the Virgin River, about five miles from Zion Canyon as we know it today. It was settled by those Mormon colonists in 1861 and stands today as a monument to and symbol of the sturdy, progressive, unyielding pioneer spirit of those hard, God-fearing Saints.

The climate in southern Utah is such that fig trees, cotton, peanuts, and semi-tropical fruits can be raised without difficulty. The early settlers took advantage of the cool breezes which swept down from the canyon during the summer, and the pleasant winters to till the soil and harvest their crops. There were many hardships and hazards accompanying the work of the rugged soil tiller. Sudden storms in the Rocky Mountains at the head of the Virgin River sent floods scurrying down the canyon to tear down fences, drown cattle, and even lap at the doors of the settlers' homes. Rocks had to be removed from fields to allow for planting, and time after time irrigation dams in the Virgin River had to be replaced because floods swept them away. Indian wars and other hardships drove some of the less sturdy members away to greener pastures. Much of the credit for settling the area goes to later families who moved in and plied their trades.

John Charles was one of such men. He was eager and ambitious to build and secure a section of the fertile land on which to build his future. On their arrival in the south, the family built a dugout as a temporary lodging and took a farm across the river from them. Later they built an adobe house, then sometime later, John built a rock house which still stands (as of March 1949) as a monument to him and his faithful family. Their home furnishings and even most of the farm implements which were used to work and till the soil were home made.

It was not uncommon to see the women and children of all ages working beside the head of the family in an effort to expedite the completion of a home or community building or the heavest of the crops. But to John, who had been reared as a scholar and a gentleman in his native England, was it doubly hard to have his wives assist him in his work. He had had high hopes and mountainous plans for his two beautiful wives and his children. Nevertheless, he welcomed their encouragement and assistance because of his weakened conditions due to heart trouble. The long journey to "a home in the tops of the mountains" had left its mark on John though he strived to convince otherwise.

Needless to mention that all the Saints sensed the responsibility and necessity of pushing forward in unison. They knew that all must participate in the building program if they were to survive the hardships and disappointments so prevalent in this newly settled area. The Lord had blessed them, but they still needed further perseverance and determination to conquer the rough Indian country. There was much work to be done -- homes to be built, farms planted and harvested, public improvements in their town, exploration of the country round about to become acquainted with the natural resources that might enhance the financial interests of their community and assistance in bringing under cultivation more acres of land. The founding of the colony was made easier by the cooperation of every able-bodied man and his family.

The first winter was a hard one for the Hall family and they suffered considerably for the want of nourishing food, but the Lord was merciful unto them and preserved their lives. There was a scarcity of dairy and animal products; there were no fresh vegetables for the table such as can be secured in this day, and only in later years was there plenty of fruit. There was seldom a shortage of the basic foods. The food was usually wholesome but not too nutritious because of the lack of variety. The value of a nutritious diet was not understood by those early pioneers, who suffered along on coarse cane seed bread and potatoes as the mainstays.

Selina became discouraged with the way they had to live so she returned to Salt Lake city, where she lived the remainder of her life. The struggle even in Salt Lake City was rather hard for a lone woman to live and take care of a family of children. She also had to care for her mother, who was getting too old to manage for herself. Although Kezia never completely recovered after the birth of her first child, she became the mother of ten children. Three of her children died in infancy, but three of Selina's children remained in Rockville and lived with Kezia and John until they were grown and able to go out and find work for themselves.

While the Hall family was still living in the adobe house with the dirt roof, John bought an organ. Through his training as a youth he had acquired a deep love for music. And he meant to have happiness and song prevail within the walls of their tiny home through the medium of music. He felt that wherever there was music there would abide peace and forgetfulness of every day's toil and strife. His desire for music shows his belief of the following words: "Music is the universal language of mankind." (Longfellow), and "The meaning of song goes deep. Who is there that, in logical words, speech, which leads us to the edge of the Infinite, and lets us for a moment gaze into that." (Carlyle).

The organ became a precious and vital part of the Hall family and the community where they lived. Whenever it rained and the roof would leak, the oil cloth from the table was spread as a protector over the organ. It was the only organ in Rockville for a number of years, so it was naturally a prize possession to the owners. On special occasions it was not unusual to take the organ to meetings and celebrations, and sometimes it was even hauled by wagon as far as Zion where celebrations and outings were often held.

Indians were ever a menace to the pioneers who were struggling for existence as it were. Whenever Indians were known to be near to their community, the people were alerted by the loud blowing on a large sea shell, which belonged to John Langston. The shell made a sound similar to a horn, so everyone could hear it and be prepared for an attack or trouble from the "Red Man". One time Charles, son of Selina and John, was on a small nearby hill, digging oose (?!) roots. Someone saw the sun glistening on the shovel he was using, so he immediately gave the alarm of "Indians!" When the men had met together, John then relieved their fears by telling them that it was only his young son digging for oose roots.

Nothing came easy for those persistent pioneers. The men and boys had to go into the mountains to secure wood for fuel. Since there were no roads built for their wagons, much of the wood had to be carried or dragged by the men and horses to the wagons. Often the logs were dragged to the edge of a cliff and then thrown over and rolled as near as possible to their wagons. In this way fuel was hauled to their homes until later when roads were built for the wagons to travel.

During the early growth of Rockville, it became apparent of the necessity of a shoemaker and a nurse or midwife. John accepted the responsibility and borrowed enough money at 12% interest to finance the journey of a convert, Mr. Tuffield from England, and a widow, Ms. Campbell, and her two children, Billie and Tillie. After their arrival in Rockville, they both proved unsatisfactory in their professions, so the debt became very irksome to John before it was finally paid in full.

John, because of his advanced age, did not feel that he was too old to learn. He had had a good education, but he still desired further learning. He was always reading and studying. He was genius at spelling and could spell almost any word given to him if it were pronounced correctly. There were those who were ever searching for new words to confuse John.

The first meeting and school house combination was one made of logs with a huge fireplace in one end. It had a board floor made from lumber hauled from Parowan by ox teams. Attempts had been made to fashion lumber from cottonwood logs found nearer to Rockville, but those attempts proved fruitless because the lumber which was needed for their buildings was brought from Parowan.

Later, an adobe school house was constructed and, still later, it was covered with weather siding. As more space was needed for amusement halls and more class rooms, additions were made to the old adobe school house. In 1893, this building was destroyed by fire and at that time the people and the county built a rock school house.

Utah's Dixie pioneers then hauled lumber from Kaibab, Trumball, and other remote forests requriing from ten to fifteen days for a trip, while on top of nearby Zion Park Rim, later called Cable Mountain, were choice forests of good quality pine. This was apparently inaccessible because of the 2,000 foot perpendicular drop to the bottom of the canyon.

Native genius, common sense, and dogged determination solved this problem under the leadership of one Dave Flannegan, who conceived the idea of bringing the timber down on wire cables. Dr. Decker, of the Branch Agricultural College, hearing of this scheme, went to investiate and informed this rugged, practical pioneer that the #14 wire he was using would have tensile strength enough to hold only its own weight for the proposed 3,000 foot span. He said that "scientists had determined this fact," etc.

Dave Flannegan replied, "Well, I ain't no scientist, so I don't know that it can't be done," and went ahead with his plans.

It is reported that Brigham Young once told the people of Dixie that "lumber would come down off those ledges like a hawk out of the sky." That was actually true, for millions of feet of lumber were brought down on cables from the rim of Zion Canyon. After Dave Flannegan proved the scheme to be practical, the cable was enlarged and used for many years. He said that during the time they used the #14 wire, there was not a serious accident.

The desire to learn and progress and the ingenuity of these strong-hearted men and women made their daily existence more livable as they learned of newer and better ways and means of accomplishing their tasks. "The prosperity of a country depends not on the abundance of its revenues, the strength of its fortifications, or the beauty of its public buildings; but it consists in the number of its cultivated citizens, in its men of education, enlightenment, and character." (Luther)

John Charles Hall, though a quiet, reserved man, was still a man who, through his own ingenuity, made a happier and more contented life for himself and his family as they became more settled in their home, church, and community. Each member of each family in the town strived to work harmoniously together in order to achieve satisfaction and the knowledge of work "well done." "Love thy neighbor as thyself" became a standard code of ethics for these early adventurers and home builders.

John always said that the anticipation of a difficulty was usually worse than the calamity itself. He believed that the Savior's words, "Take no thought for the morrow," if applied faithfully, would do more to make a man happy than those who had never tasted the truth of the statement could ever imagine.

Handicapped as he was, due to heart trouble, John was not ashamed of the fact that he was a working man. He loved his work and took a great deal of pride in whatever he undertook to do. He was thorough, reliable, and could always be depended upon to carry to a successful finish whatever he attempted to accomplish. He made his mistakes, as do all men, but his virtues so far outshone his weaknesses as to give him a place among the great and good of his generation. He was not known for his eloquence nor for brilliant achievement in that spectacular sense by which men attract the attention and the loud acclaim of their fellows, but was content to do his simple duty each day without ostentation and in the quiet retreat of his local environment. His life was dedicated to the cause of the Lord.

After years of kind service, both for his family and his God, John Charles Hall died at his home in Rockville of heart disease and dropsey on March 3, 1890. His had been a full and eventful life. There had been much toil and sorrow, but these were overshadowed by his being blessed with two good, faithful wives and seventeen sons and daughters.

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