Week 3: #52 Ancestors – Unusual Name
By Eilene Lyon
How my great-great-grandmother, Meltha Lucinda, came by her name is a mystery. There is a place name “Meltha” in the Domesday book. It’s located in West Yorkshire and now known as “Meltham.”1 It’s not a particularly common name.2
One thing is clear: Meltha Lucinda Painter didn’t much care for it. She always went by “Lucy.”
Her Painter ancestry in America goes back to an English immigrant named John Painter, her 3rd great-grandfather. He settled in the Quaker community of Evesham, New Jersey, and married into the Braddock and Hancock families – notable early Quakers in America.3
Lucy grew up in Winneshiek County, Iowa, where the Painters were the second white family to settle in the area.6 William’s primary occupation was miller in the county seat, Decorah, but he later settled on a farm in Highland Township next to the Robert Halse family.7 The “boy next door” was Richard “Dick” Halse, who’d been born in Northern Ireland.
Dick looked like someone who could have starred in a movie Western (if he’d been born a century later). Lucy was a bit plain, but sturdy, and the two were married November 19, 1869 and remained together “‘til death did them part.”8 They had only two children: Hillard LeRoy (known as Roy) in 1872, and Ernest Guy Tresselyn (known as Guy) in 1873.
Roy had just two children, with his first wife, but Guy had eleven, so Lucy didn’t lack for grandchildren to dandle on her knee. Roy has an odd distinction. His second wife was first married to his son! Yep, he married his daughter-in-law (after his son’s death, it should be noted).9
Dick and Lucy Halse farmed on rental property in Winneshiek County until they migrated to Codington County, South Dakota, along with most of the Halses and some of the Painters. They acquired homestead land in Section 15 of Dexter Township.10
They hired a talented carpenter named Al Ramsey to construct a large boarding house in 1885, which became known as the Halse Half-Way House, because it was half-way between Watertown and Webster. In those pioneer days, travelers depended on the Halses for food and lodging, there being few other houses in the vicinity.11 In addition, their establishment served as post office, giving the “town” of Halse a place on the map for a short time.
Lucy was an excellent cook and also served as the local midwife. The Half-Way house sported a croquet court, horseshoe pits, and a billiard table to entertain the guests. The visitors Lucy and Dick hosted included land agents and bird hunters from back east. Dick recalled some hunters asked him to bring a wagon to where they’d been shooting in a nearby slough. They filled the bed of the wagon with snow geese they’d killed that day. 12
After Lucy and Dick retired from running the hotel and moved to nearby Florence in 1907, the building was rented out to lodgers. The Half-Way house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, but sadly its final owners allowed it to fall into ruin and it no longer exists. It was removed from the listings in 1987.13
Lucy’s parents migrated to Codington County even before she and Dick left Iowa. Lucy’s mother, Betsy Painter, passed away in 1900 and her father, William, two years later. They were both interred in the Dexter Cemetery.14 Lucy and Dick are also buried there. Lucy’s life came to an end in 1928 when she had a massive stroke on New Year’s Day, just shy of her 82nd birthday. Dick passed away the following year from myocarditis – heart inflammation – just after turning 82 himself.15
Feature image: Lucy and Dick Halse in their later years in Florence, South Dakota (Courtesy P. Neal).
- https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/ancient-origins-huddersfield-place-names-13344555 ↩
- https://www.mynamestats.com/First-Names/M/ME/MELTHA/MELTHA-by-race.html ↩
- https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/104164263 ↩
- Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. ↩
- https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/22745619/person/1300542943/facts ↩
- Alexander, W. E. 1882. History of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties, Iowa. Western Publishing Company, Sioux City. p. 241. ↩
- Copy of Highland Township Gazetteer map from ~1875 (no source citation given on copy) ↩
- Ancestry.com. Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. ↩
- Alma Wellnitz and Raymond Halse. Ancestry.com. South Dakota, Marriages, 1905-2017 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Roy and Alma Halse. Year: 1930; Census Place: Florence, Codington, South Dakota; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0004; FHL microfilm: 2341955 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=SD1770__.483&docClass=STA&sid=5dhkn3xa.cot ↩
- Allen, Don. “A Glimpse of the Past…” undated clipping from Watertown Public Opinion. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Register_of_Historic_Places_listings_in_Codington_County,_South_Dakota ↩
- Watertown Regional Genealogical Society. 2006. Dexter Cemetery, Codington County, South Dakota. pp. 18 – 19. ↩
- Ibid. p. 12. ↩