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
musical goods and artistic pictures. But in the decades around 1900,
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
In 1898, Will married
Mary Etta Creager (18691948).
had been married previously to George
Thomas Harris (1860–1896) and had four children: Lillian Lewis Harris (1889–1978), Lloyd Debow
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
630 West Chestnut Street. In 1900, in addition to Will, Mary, and the
children, the house held four roomers.
"Residence of W. H. Halton
Frank M., comp.
[N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 48.
owned a music store at 324 West
Main Street, where he sold pianos, organs, and musical merchandise.
W. Chestnut Street
by Mavis Anne Bryant
"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
short-lived. Mary was still there in 1903, when the City Directory
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
one of the surnames placed on her gravestone at Denison's Fairview Cemetery.
Caskets & Mouldings
508 - 510
W. Main Street
: "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
McGee. The business at 510 West Main was listed as
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
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
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
Goff Alford Constantine (Mrs. Jules Constantine)
In front of
W. H. Halton & Company
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
Swank was an "undertaker, in town" and Will Halton was a
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.
partner in the music business was Walter
S. Nelson. By 1925, Will had no partner, and Halton's Music
moved across the street to 411 West Main, where it remained through
wife Nell worked in the store.
During the 1920s,
Will and Nell changed residences several times. Leaving 911 West
were at 414 West Gandy in 1925, then at 127 West Main in 1927, and at
Walker by 1929.
The 1930 Census found
the Haltons working in their music store, but John Swank was listed as
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
years, John Swank was living in Dallas and working as a traveling
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
at 631 West Chestnut Street. He listed no occupation. He passed away in
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
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.