Grayson County TXGenWeb 
William Henry "Will" Halton

W.H. Halton
Member of Charter Committee for the City of Denison, 1907

Today it is hard to imagine a business establishment combining funeral parlor with the sale of musical goods and artistic pictures. But in the decades around 1900, burial practices differed greatly from those we are familiar with today. William Henry "Will" Halton (1864–1942) flexibly made his living dealing with death and the arts.

Will H. Halton probably was born in May 1864, in Minnesota or New York. His parents' identities are unclear, but he said that his father immigrated from England.

In 1898, Will married Mary Etta Creager (18691948). She had been married previously to George Thomas Harris (1860–1896) and had four children: Lillian Lewis Harris (1889–1978), Lloyd Debow Harris (1891-1972), Nathaniel Creager Harris (1894–1945), and George Thomas Harris (1896–1959).

The Haltons moved to Denison, Texas, around the time of their marriage, living in a large house at 630 West Chestnut Street. In 1900, in addition to Will, Mary, and the four children, the house held four roomers. 

"Residence of W. H. Halton
630 Chestnut Street."
Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 48.

630 W. Chestnut Street
Denison, Texas
ca. 2005
Photograph by Mavis Anne Bryant

Will owned a music store at 324 West Main Street, where he sold pianos, organs, and musical merchandise.

"Music Store of W.H. Halton & Co."
324 West Main Street
"Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co.,  [ca. 1909]. Page 48

The marriage was short-lived. Mary was still there in 1903, when the City Directory listed Will as "funeral director, pictures, picture frames" at 508–510 West Main. However, the 1910 Census listed Nell Jewett Goff Halton (1878–1939) as Will's wife. Mary later remarried to Henry Peter Wilson, and Halton was not one of the surnames placed on her gravestone at Denison's Fairview Cemetery.

W.H. Halton
Coffins, Caskets & Mouldings
508 - 510 W. Main Street
Denison, Texas
(real photo postcard)

NOTE : "Mouldings" indicates that the business also sold picture frames and framed pictures along with their coffin & casket business.

In 1905, Will had a partner in Halton & Company, Miss Maud McGee. The business at 510 West Main was listed as "undertaker and embalmer." That year Will was living at 520 West Woodard Street. Maud wasn't listed in 1907, when Will was rooming at 117 North Mirick Avenue. In 1909, Will was living at 531 West Chestnut Street, and a student named Leslie Halton was living with him.

Will's new wife, Nell Goff, was the widow of James H. Alford (1861–1908) and had a daughter, Nellie Goff Alford (1901–1944), later the wife of Jules Joseph Constantine (1897–1953). In 1910, the daughter Nellie was eight years old. Will's newly widowed mother-in-law, Emma L. Goodman Goff (1853–1946), was living with them, too. That year the Census listed Will as a retail merchant selling "pianos and coffins." For the next few years, he remained an "undertaker and embalmer" at 508–510 West Main, while continuing to live at 531 West Chestnut.

Nellie Goff Alford Constantine (Mrs. Jules Constantine)
ca. 1912
In front of W. H. Halton & Company
508–510 West Main Street
Nellie is participating in a campaign for an Exposition in San Francisco

By 1917, Will had taken a partner, John L. Swank (1873–1950), forming "Halton & Swank, Undertakers and Embalmers," remaining at 508–510 West Main. The 1920 Census reported that Swank was an "undertaker, in town" and Will Halton was a "dealer, music."

In 1921, the Denison City Directory advertised "John L. Swank, Funeral Director" at 510 West Main, while the W. H. Halton Music Company was at 406 West Main. Will's partner in the music business was Walter S. Nelson. By 1925, Will had no partner, and Halton's Music Company had moved across the street to 411 West Main, where it remained through 1930. Will's wife Nell worked in the store.

During the 1920s, Will and Nell changed residences several times. Leaving 911 West Morton, they were at 414 West Gandy in 1925, then at 127 West Main in 1927, and at 1025 West Walker by 1929.

The 1930 Census found the Haltons working in their music store, but John Swank was listed as a salesman in Dallas. Then, in 1934, the Denison City Directory placed "Halton & Swank Funeral Home" at 229 West Gandy. Will and Nell Halton were living on the premises. While the partnership lasted for a few years, John Swank was living in Dallas and working as a traveling salesman selling "wholesale products." Apparently the Haltons were running the funeral home in Denison.

Nell Halton passed away in 1939. The 1940 Census found Will living back in his old neighborhood, at 631 West Chestnut Street. He listed no occupation. He passed away in Tyler County, Texas, on November 27, 1942. He was buried beside "Nellie" (as her gravestone read) in Fairview Cemetery in Denison.

In 1943, the City Directory for Port Arthur, Texas, listed John L. Swank as a "funeral director and embalmer" in that city. He was still there in 1947, but he died in Dallas on September 29, 1950. His wife was Helen C. Swank.




Elaine Nall Bay