Tuesday, July 29, 2008

John Thomas Hall (1861-1947)

The fourth child to make his appearance in the Hall household was a son, John Thomas, born June 11, 1861. He was born in Salt Lake City soon after the family had arrived in the Valley. The following year his father, accompanied by his two wives and their children, accepted the call to go to Southern Utah and settle. They were instructed to join with others, who had received similar calls, in the development of the southern section of the state. The family made the trip after much sacrifice and worry, and made their new home in Rockville, Utah, where John Thomas spent his early youth and manhood. The original site of Rockville was west of the present location. The settlers soon discovered the location was unsuitable. Their homes and farms were on a level with the river bottom and consequently, suffered much havoc from the yearly spring floods which roared down the Virgin River. So the Hall family and others moved east to a higher level of ground where the Langston and Hanson families were already settled.

For any young boy the rugged terrain of the West offered a "gold mine of adventure". When the parents were called to leave home and settle elsewhere and help build another community, the young boys and girls saw only new excitement. They little realized the struggle of their parents until they began to grow in years. Adventure and excitement still beckoned to many, but deep in their souls was more serious reasoning and thought. Maturity added greatness to the young, who dreamed a wish in their hearts.

During their youth the boys and girls took advantage of the facilities provided by Mother Nature for hiking, swimming, hunting, and riding but with the years those same youngsters came to realize that man must work his land to produce a livelihood. John Thomas was no different than the normal pioneer son, who enjoyed life in youth, and who accepted his responsibilities when the time was ripe.

John grew very rapidly, attaining his full growth before he became of age. This gave him the awkward appearance of an overgrown boy. However, he was an alert, active youngster and seemed not to notice his appearance. Tall or short, a boy could still have just as much fun and find perhaps as much mischief.

John Thomas was one of the unfortunate lads who was deprived of the full degree of schooling. Through practical experience and his parents' endeavors, he was able to secure the learning which he failed to receive during his school days. Schooling only teaches a person how to learn and to learn by doing often becomes the better teacher. John had an intense desire to learn so he took advantage of any knowledge which came to him, either through the text book or through actual experience. Because he was not able to think of going away to college, John Thomas began to think of his future as a homebuilder. When he was but a young man he began to buy a few head of cattle at time. He also purchased some farmland, which with stock raising constituted his income at the time he began to think of marriage.

At the age of twenty-six, John found the girl he desired to make his wife. She lived in Springdale. When he asked for her hand in marriage, she accepted and so on May 17, 1887, he and Adelia Gifford went to St. George in a wagon and were married in the St. George Temple by President David H. Cannon. They returned to Rockville, where they began to work and plan for their new home. Here they lived and reared their family. Three boys, Orson [Charles], [Arthur] William, and [Samuel] Lafel; were born to them while they were living in Rockville. The second son, William, died soon after his birth.

When Lafel was just a small boy, a severe epidemic of Red Measles hit the young community. There had been no cases of the disease for nearly twenty years, so all the young people, as well as the children, contracted the disease. Some were seriously ill and many bad effects were inflicted permanently on those who suffered the most severely. LaFel was one of the young ones who suffered impairments. He nearly lost his life, but through the faith of his good parents and the tender care of his mother, he recovered, but his speech and hearing were greatly hindered, leaving him handicapped throughout the remainder of his life. His parents gave him every advantage they were able to give him at that time, and provided the means to send him to a state school in Ogden for the Deaf and Dumb, where he learned to converse fluently by means of his fingers.

Together John and his wife worked in their church and their community. Both had been reared in good homes where religious teachings were the basis of their every thought and deed. They strived to teach their own children as they themselves had been taught. John worked in the Sunday School and for some years was one of the counselors to Bishop David Hirschi. The families of Rockville were closely woven together through their common interests in their church and home, both from necessity and relaxation from the toils of the day, and from the desire of companionship and association with friends and neighbors. The recreation and entertainment was furnished by the church to a large extent, so every willing body was given work to do.

John and Adelia were of the group willing to do their share. Whenever they could they offered assistance to those in need at times of sickness or death. At the time Adelia Hall Dalton, John's half sister, died leaving a small baby, they took the tiny baby girl, Arva [Adelia Arvella], into their home and loved and cared for her as they did their own children until the baby was three or four years old.

During the winter months, the men did not have much to occupy their time after their daily chores were done. So the sunny south side of the general store became a gathering place for the men. John often found the time to meet with others and talk. He had a habit of whittling on a stick with a whacking motion of his pocket knife. He soon acquired the nickname of "Johnny Whack" and would answer just as quickly to that name as his own when addressed as such by one of his friends.

When surveys were made to determine the feasibility of getting water from the Virgin River onto the Hurricane Bench, the steady pioneers moved along to develop further civilization for themselves and their families. As work began on the giant project, John spent many winter months working to do his share toward the completion of the canal. In 1907, the weary men and boys finally saw the fruits of their labors as water was turned onto the dry but fertile soil. Immediately families began to move to the town site and till the soil. John and Adelia, with their family, were among the first to settle at Hurricane.

They were happy in their new home, and planned for a pleasant future with their family. Then a few years after their arrival, Adelia became ill. It was necessary for a major operation to be performed, and sadness prevailed in the tiny home. The operation took place at St. George, and Adelia failed to respond and so passed away on March 6, 1912. Her body was returned to Hurricane, where on March 9 [it] was laid to rest in [the] new Hurricane Cemetery. It was a very sad time for John because together he and Adelia had planned and worked so hard for a home in Hurricane. Now without his companion, John's life seemed but an empty shell, and it became a difficult thing to go on without his wife. He finally found solace in the association of his grandchildren. The five children of Orson loved their grandfather and were always considerate of him so John filled, to a measure, his longing for the love and companionship of a mate.

A few years later, John married Mary R. Workman, a widow, and moved to her home on the corner from his own home. The union was a happy one and they enjoyed twenty seven years together. Again, with his mate, John found pleasure in participating in community and church activities whenever called upon to do so. He performed most of the baptisms for some years and came to be called "John, the Baptist", after being fondly recognized as [the] same by his bishop. He was a faithful Ward Teacher. His friends and neighbors enjoyed having him visit in their house because of his pleasant personality and the humble way in which he presented the gospel messages.

In November, 1941, John's second wife, Mary, suffered a heart attack and died. He was eighty years old at the time of her passing, and was unable to take care of himself. His children were grown and married, so he lived the remainder of his life with his son, Orson, in St. George and Pine Valley, Utah. He died, after a life of service for his fellowmen, on November 20, 1947. He was a good-natured, even-tempered, and likable man, and was highly esteemed by his friends and neighbors. He always determined to exercise fairness in all his dealings, both personal and business, with his fellowman. He had been blessed with two faithful companions and two fine sons who lived to maturity, and will be remembered by his descendants for the exemplar life he lived and the good he did for mankind.

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