Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Selina DeGrey Hall (1833-1901)

Selina DeGrey was born of goodly parents, who bequeathed to her the fundamentals of a strong character through the laws of inheritance and correct teaching in her tender and growing years as a girl in old England.

Her parents were John DeGrey and Maria Brooks and at the time of Selina's birth on August 1, 1833, the family was living at West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. Selina was the third child born to these parents who were poor English working folk of the kind who constitute the very fiber of Britain: honest, frugal, independent in thought and action.

Selina's childhood was a normal, uneventful one. With her young playmates and friends she had a happy childhood. As she grew older she accepted her share of the household responsibilities and learned to assist her mother to manage the home. Because of the economical condition of England at that time, her parents were unable to gain, financially, so Selina led a rather conservative childhood.

When she was but a young girl, her father died after a brief illness. Because of her age and since she was the oldest daughter, Selina felt a portion of the responsibility which befell her mother. Her grief at the loss of her father was deep felt because the family had been so close.

Sometime after the passing of her father, Selina, her mother, and the younger children visited at the home of a cousin where they heard two young missionaries representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints explain the principles of their comparatively new church. The sincerity and plainness with which the young men expounded their Gospel appealed to the DeGrey family. After that first meeting the Elders returned many times to visit the DeGreys, and always found a receptive audience.

In 1853, the family was baptized and confirmed members of the Church. They were opposed by friends and neighbors because of taking this step, which only seemed to heighten their determination not to falter. They chose to suffer opposition and resentment in order that they might "worship according to the dictates of their own conscience."

Selina as a young woman was attracted to one of the young Elders more than just because of the Gospel he taught. Something within her seemed to say that he was the one she wanted to marry. The attraction was mutual and soon Elder John Charles Hall, who was formerly of England, began to make plans for the future. Elder Hall had received permission to marry while he was laboring in the mission field if and when he found both a pretty and a suitable wife and companion. So on April 26, 1853, the young couple was married. They managed to have a home even though John was very busy doing his missionary work.

Their first child, a son, was born in Dudley, England, on February 16, 1854, and was given the name of Charles Alma. The following year on June 28, 1855, a second child was born to them. The tiny baby was a girl and they christened her Charlotte Maria -- Charlotte for her paternal grandmother, Charlotte Wright Hall; and Maria for her maternal grandmother, Maria Brooks DeGrey.

Soon after the second child was born, Selina's mother and sisters sailed for America, leaving her alone for the first time in her young life. However, she was too busy taking care of her husband and two babies and too full of plans for their own trip to America, to be lonesome. Her John would soon be released from his mission after five years of diligent and faithful work.

In 1858, Selina and John and their two small children sailed from England on the ship "George Washington" for America and their new home. They arrived at the Boston harbor after a pleasant voyage of only twenty-one days. Ordinarily, the trip required six weeks, but they were fortunate in sailing on a faster boat.

On their arrival in Boston, Selina was happy to meet her mother and her sisters who had been working in Boston for about nine months. A few days later the group traveled by train to Iowa City, where John purchased what provisions and supplies he could with the combined earnings of the group. The trip across the plains was by no means a pleasant one, but the urge to be in Utah with the Saints where they might build a home and spend a life of peace and contentment kept up Selina's spirits. She was young and able to make the best of the problems and privations. As long as her children were well, she was content. She was proud of her young husband who accepted the responsibility of taking nine persons in one wagon across the prairies to Utah.

Near the end of the trek, she began to feel weariness, as she was carrying her third child. So when the company, under the leadership of Jesse B. Martin, reached the Salt Lake Valley on September 12, 1857, Selina was tired but indeed happy to be home. As compared to England, America was so vast and so different to her.

After a few days rest, Selina and John were sealed in the Endowment House on September 17, 1857, by Heber C. Kimball, just five days after their arrival in the Valley. Now her dreams were fulfilled ... she and her husband and their children were sealed in the House of the Lord for "time and for all eternity." On the same day, her little sister, Kezia, then twenty years old, was also sealed as the second wife to John.

On October 9, 1857, a third child was born to Selina and John. The baby was given the name, Kezia Elizabeth, named for Selina's sister, Kezia, who was so sweet and helpful during the time of her confinement. On June 11, 1861, a fourth child, a son, was born to them. He was blessed and given the name of John Thomas.

The little family worked together and soon built a home in Sugarhouse, where they lived until the year 1861 when, in answer to a call from the church authorities, John disposed of their property and moved his families to Rockville in Southern Utah. Their first home was a dugout, which was eventually replaced by an adobe house, built of adobes or sun-dried bricks. The roof was composed of brush covered with dirt. When the families moved into the new adobe house, there were no floors other than hard-packed earth.

There were no modern conveniences in early pioneer homes. Most of the home furnishings and even working tools for the farm were hand-made. Light was received in the daytime through one or two small windows in each cabin. In the evenings the glow from the fireplaces assisted the burning rags in dishes of oil to illuminate the pioneers' home.

In due time, perhaps after harvest time, Selina's home received a floor made from logs, flattened on one side with the adze (?). Later the floor was covered with a home made carpet.

As time passed and the family became more settled and adjusted to the community, John again replaced the adobe home with a more durable home built of stone.

To John and Selina, after they moved to Rockville, were born three more children, two daughters and one son, namely: Sarah Ann, born May 17, 1863 and died September 22, 1864; Eliza Evelin, born November 21, 1865 and died on June 30, 1866; William Brooks, born May 2, 1867. The latter grew to maturity and had a fine family.

After living several years in Rockville, Selina became discouraged with her life there because of the hardships and privations. She took all but three of her children, Charles Alma, Charlotte Maria, and John Thomas, who chose to remain in Rockville with their father and Aunt Kezia; and returned to Salt Lake City. She never remarried and she found it very difficult to care for her children. Nevertheless, she bought and sent to John and Kezia the first cooking stove they ever had in their home. She always sent clothes down to Rockville to her loved ones. Her thoughts were constantly concerned with them and their welfare.

She took in washings to make a living for herself and her family. Selina's mother, who was getting too old to be left alone, lived with her and made extra work for Selina. She took care of her mother until she died on April 2, 1876. Selina worked very hard to give her children the advantages they needed.

When Charles Alma was about sixteen years old, he joined his mother in Salt Lake City. Later, Charlotte Maria, at the age of twenty-one years, also returned to Salt Lake to be with her mother. They both, Selina and Charlotte Maria, worked for Brigham Young in the Lion House.

Selina was always very religious and was a willing servant whenever called upon to fill a position. She worked hard and diligently both in her temporal and spiritual endeavors. She had a gentle, unassuming disposition, but was very determined in spirit. She was never too proud to help others or accept help from a friend. She was a good and charitable woman. Her belief in the Gospel was proven by the fine sons and daughters she bore.

"Character is the product of daily, hourly actions, and words and thoughts; daily forgiveness, unselfishness, kindnesses, sympathies, charities, sacrifices for the good of others, struggles against temptation, submissiveness under trial. It is these like the blending colors in a picture, or the blending notes of music, which constitutes the man." (Macduff)

As Selina advanced in age and became ill, she went to the home of her daughter, Charlotte Maria Hall Foulger, where she was taken care of until her death on August 11, 1901. Those who remained and those descendents who followed after her will long remember Selina for the heritage she left by her acceptance of the Gospel and her determination to build a home for the children in the Gospel.

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