Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Kezia DeGrey Hall (1837-1905)
Kezia DeGrey was the daughter of Maria Brooks and John DeGrey III, born to them on January 21, 1837, in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. She was one of ten children, namely: Sophia, Alfred, Selina, Ann, Elizabeth, Maria, Charlotte, Sarah, and John, Jr. Four of her brothers and sisters died in infancy.
Kezia's schooling was very limited. When she was twelve years old her father died, leaving a mother and six children, the oldest of whom was Alfred, who was about eighteen years old. To Kezia's mother, Maria, went the responsibility of rearing the six fatherless children -- no small task, particularly in the face of relative poverty. Maria needed the assistance of those children who were old enough to work to help her in earning a livelihood for the younger ones. So at the age of twelve, Kezia began working as a nurse girl, tending babies, and was never able to gain any further schooling.
Her mother had to take in washings to help supply the needs of her family. Because the country was so smokey in the winter time, the clothes had to be dried in the house and this required an extra quantity of coal. Kezia, as she grew older, would go to the coal refuse dumps, after she would come home from her own work, and pick up any lumps of coal she might find. When she had her basket filled she would be assisted by others who were nearby in lifting the basket to the top of her head. She often said, in relating this incident, that after the basket had been lifted down, it would be several minutes before she could turn her head.
In 1853, when Kezia was sixteen, a young missionary from Utah came to their humble home and talked to them of a wonderful new religion. His persistence and the sincere message which he brought soon found a spot in the hearts of the DeGrey family, and it was not long before Maria and her children entered the waters of baptism. Kezia was at an impressionable age when she was baptized. She felt something extremely important had come to her. Then, too, there was the thought of that Utah-land so far away at the moment and which, only a few months prior, had been quite unknown to her. She loved to listen to the missionaries talk of the land of Zion, and of the promises that they too could go there if they lived faithful to their new-found religion. She had a few wild, exciting dreams tucked away in her breast of which no one knew.
There was a wave of resentment against any and all who had anything to do with "Mormonism." So it was natural that Mother DeGrey and her little brood began to plan and save for the time when they might join others going to Utah. Regardless of the animosity against them, anticipation and anxiety rose high in the DeGrey household. They knew that it might be years before they would have the means to take them on the long journey to Utah. However, the Lord seemed to bless their efforts and the much anticipated trip came to them sooner than they had planned.
The DeGrey family sailed for America one year before the completion of Elder John Charles Hall's mission and his return with his wife, Selina, and children. The small family group arrived in Boston after many days on the ocean. Kezia enjoyed the trip on the ocean because she never was afflicted with seasickness. Although the voyage was long and sometimes quite monotonous, the young found never ending energy and curiosity. Their chatter and laughter was ever an inspiration and encouragement to those who were ill or depressed.
While awaiting the arrival of John and Selina, the DeGreys worked in Boston to secure additional funds for the remainder of their trip. They knew that John would be short of finances after his mission, and they were anxious to be on their way as soon as possible. So when the appointed time came, the group was willing to ensure some inconveniences in order that they might leave that particular spring (April 1857), heeding not the advice that they remain until the following spring. The determination and desire to reach Salt Lake Valley as soon as possible made the group undertake the journey with such handicaps as insufficient conveyance. The Saints traveled slowly towards the setting sun, ending each day in prayer and song, until the Sabbath Day, when the entire company rested and worshiped their God in Heaven. Many were the privations and hardships, but humor and comics found their way into the daily routine.
As the DeGrey and Hall family began their journey, Kezia, who was wearing some half-soled shoes she had had before leaving England, realized that her shoes would never last the entire trip. In many cases the Saints would have to travel three or four miles off the road to find feed for their animals and the roughness of the country would wear Kezia's shoes faster than regular wear under normal conditions. So, except for the times when the company turned off the road to make camp, where the grass stubble and rough ground forced her to wear her shoes, Kezia walked the entire distance barefoot.
In recalling her experiences across the plains to Utah, Kezia often said that the people who came in the hand-cart companies had a hard time, but that at least their carts would go when they pushed them. Many a time the wagons would hardly move regardless of how hard the Saints pushed and lifted. Those were the times when despair and discouragement found temporary lodging in the hearts of the faithful. However, after an hour of prayer and thanksgiving in song at the close of the day, even the weakest were filled with fresh hope and courage. As the Saints worked with each other, helping those in distress, their own troubles were forgotten.
Sickness and death struck so many families during the trek, but the Hall-DeGrey family was fortunate. Their only misfortune was that on their arrival in Salt Lake City on September 12, 1857, they were without sufficient funds to store provisions for the coming winter. Those who could tried to find any type of work to assist in preparing for daily sustenance.
Kezia tried vainly to find work in some of the homes. No one had work nor the money to hire assistance. Often she was told that she could come into the family and share with them by marrying the man of the house. So it was quite natural that she accepted John Charles Hall when he asked her to marry him. She admired and respected John, but she accepted partly to assist her sister, Selina, who was soon to have her third child. Kezia and john were married and sealed for time and all eternity in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on September 17, 1857. It was a very happy occasion for Selina and John were also sealed on the same day.
Kezia finally found employment digging potatoes for which she received potatoes in payment. The family, consequently, had all the potatoes they could use and some they traded to their neighbors for other items they needed badly.
Kezia was a beautiful girl. She had the lovely lines and feminine graces inherent in the DeGrey family, which back in the middle ages had almost made Lady Jane DeGrey queen of England. But combined with those fine qualities was a tremendous physique, and the resoluteness of the long line of DeGrey conquerors and rulers.
The story is told that while the family was living in Sugarhouse, a neighbor came in to make trouble about a horse belonging to the Halls, which had wandered in to forbidden territory. A difference of opinion developed to the extent that the neighbor gave John Charles a nose-bleed. All the DeGrey fighting blood came to the aid of Kezia's family pride and she strode out of the house with fire in her eyes. An onlooker related that Kezia gave the man such a beating that he was glad to crawl away on his hands and knees. Then only about three weeks later her first child, Alfred Lorenzo, was born on November 15, 1858. Another son, Henry Orson, was born two years later on September 1, 1860, but he lived only tot he age of six years.
In 1861, when Kezia's husband volunteered to take his families and go to southern Utah in answer to a call from the church leader, Brigham Young, she, naturally, was sad at the thought of leaving their new home and friends. Nevertheless, she, like so many faithful wives, was desirous to do the will of the Lord. And if it meant going to the unsettled area in southern Utah, then she meant to do it.
On their arrival in Rockville, located on the Rio Virgin, after a long, tiresome trek over rough, rock roads, Kezia and her sister, Selina, immediately began to make ready another new home. At the hand of a loving woman even a dirt dugout can take on a tidy, cheerful aspect. They both were accustomed to hard work by now and accepted the task at hand without complaint.
The new arrivals were warmly greeted by those who had already preceded them. So it was difficult to remain discouraged. There was a work to be done; each person had a part to fulfill, consequently, men, women, and children of all ages assisted in the building, planting, and harvesting during those first few years after their arrival in Rockville.
Because John suffered from heart trouble, the hardships of the rugged pioneer life were sometimes injurious to his health. Both Kezia and Selina were compelled to work along side of their husband in the fields. On one occasion the incident was related by one who witnessed the scene of Kezia carrying a bed sheet filled with cotton on top of her head. She had to cross a narrow foot log over the river. Part of the farmland was across the river from their home so whenever the team of horses was being used somewhere else, Kezia would carry the cotton from the field in this manner. She was a sturdy, energetic, and faithful pioneer mother, who in time of need was just as capable and kind while she doctored those who were ill.
The Hall family had been instructed, as had many others, to raise cotton as the major crop. They also raised sweet potatoes and any surplus they happened to have was taken to Pioche, Nevada. In this way they were able to buy doors and windows for their new adobe house which replaced the dugout and was built soon after their arrival in Rockville. Most of the furnishings in their home and the implements used on their farm were made by hand.
The pioneer women were very versatile and capable of accomplishing their many tasks with the materials supplied by nature. To illustrate this fact, the story of how they made water-softener or lye-water is very interesting. The women would hollow out a log, nail strips of board closely together in the bottom of the log. Into the log they would put cottonwood ashes and then pour water over them. The water which came off clear was used for lye. Often this home-made lye would be hauled as far north as Parowan and traded for grain or other items needed by the pioneer families in and near Rockville.
To make suds for washing their clothes, the women would use the roots of the Yucca or Oose Plant. These roots they would pound until soft. Later through their own ingenuity, the wives and mothers found a way to process soap from animal fat. After the lye water had been prepared, it was taken to the back yard and heated in a large kettle. All the grease which had been saved from fat scraps, rinds from the pork, and trimmings from the meat was brought out and added slowly to the lye water. This cooking process continued for several hours until a rich honey-like syrup formed. Then with saucer and spoon, the busy mother would test it, first with plain water, then with lye water, until her trained eye found that the soap was just right. When the mixture became firm and white, then the soap was done.
The soap was set in tubs to stand over night and cool. The next morning the soap was cut into bard and stored for use for the family. Some of the soap was even perfumed if it was to be used for hand soap. Many talents were brought to light through the rugged pioneer life of these sturdy men and women.
Selina, when she became discouraged with her life in Rockville and went to Salt Lake City, left three of her children who wanted to remain with their father and their "Aunt Kezia." 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 with the three children of her sister, Kezia mothered ten boys and girls to maturity.
Kezia was a woman of great faith, high ideals, conscientiousness in her home and her community. Her aim was always to better her life and her home for her family. She was a person of religious living and self sacrificing. Her thoughts and actions were always in behalf of those who were sick and in need. Her special gift lay in the realm of nursing. From her patriarchal blessing, received when she was first married, she found her calling. Among other things, she was told that she would go among the Saints of Zion, nursing the sick and afflicted. She devoted her life to work of service, in alleviating distress and bringing joy to those who were afflicted.
The Saints were more less isolated in Southern Utah because of the slow travel throughout the state. Medical assistance from a doctor was hardly known to those early settlers, and those who had any inclination for doctoring or nursing helped in any way they could in time of sickness. Kezia DeGrey Hall was such a woman. She was forgiving, sympathetic, and tireless in her charitable efforts towards all of her neighbors and friends. She spent long hours studying medical books on obstetrics and all known diseases. At one time Kezia was the most sought-after woman in the nearby towns of Springdale, four miles away, Shonesburg, five miles distant, Grafton, one and one-half miles away, and Virgin, nine miles, because of her willingness and work. Regardless of the weather or the conditions of the roads which she had to travel, she was ever ready to serve. She delivered between 450 and 500 babies and she charged only $3.00 for the delivery and ten days' care of the mother and child following the birth. Ofttimes she collected no pay for her work because the families were unable to give anything.
It was almost impossible to secure patented medicines, so Kezia made her own remedies. Some of them were unique in their contents, such as, charcoal poultices made of charcoal, vinegar, bran, and catnip, cooked together and put in a small sack and applied hot; cough medicine made of Sweet Balsam; "Bitters," as she called it, was made from grape wine and certain proportions of Mountain Grape root, Quakenasp bark, and Chokeberry bark.
Life in the many communities in Utah, regardless of size or location, was not all weary strife and toil. On Friday night there was usually a dance and social in the old bowery or the newly constructed recreation or church building. Everyone, both young and old, joined together, dressed in their "Sunday best," for a full evening of fun. Tiny babies were brought, snuggled in their baskets, and deposited behind the orchestra to sleep while their elders "Circled a...", "Do-si-doed", and "Grand right and left." The atmosphere seemed charged with gaiety and laughter, as the eager men and women forgot the worries of the day in dance.
When the Saints first began to surge across the plains in search of religious freedom, it became a practice of necessity to sing and dance at the close of each weary day. Hundreds of the Saints died en route to Utah, many others suffered cold, hunger, and other sicknesses. Brigham Young saw the need of something to make the grieving mothers and discouraged fathers retain their courage in order that they might face the difficult journey still ahead of them and the task of building homes in a frontier land. So music was furnished by brass bands, the violin, or the accordion; and everyone danced the quadrilles and minuets on the hard ground around the campfires. Then, natural enough, this activity became the most common amusement for the early founders of Utah. Music and drama also became an important art in most every community.
To Kezia, like every pioneer wife and mother, the socials and dances were happy times in her life. She looked forward to each one. She scrimped and saved that she might have a new, frilly dress for just such occasions. There was music in their home, too, and everyone who was musically inclined had the opportunity to develop his or her talent.
Even though much of her life was more or less spent in the service of others, Kezia was a good and wise mother to her children. Because of the privations she had experienced after the death of her own father, Kezia was a very sympathetic and tireless woman. She had great ambitions that her children would have just a little bit more than she herself had had as a child and young girl, as does every mother.
To Kezia and John were born ten fine children, seven of whom lived to make them very happy parents. There were six daughters and four sons, namely: Alfred Lorenzo, born November 15, 1858; Henry Orson, born September 1, 1860; Maria Laura, born on November 30, 1862; Alice Maude, who was born on April 5, 1864; Anne Selina, born on March 14, 1872; Arthur Wright, born on December 9, 1875; and Dora Martha Murton, born on January 8, 1878.
So after a full and serviceful life, Kezia DeGrey Hall died at Rockville, Washington County, Utah, on July 25, 1905. The memory of her good life will long be endeared by her descendants and friends.