• The Shadows is the first National Trust for Historic Preservation site in the Gulf South. The home and garden are as breathtaking as the history preserved here.

Lily Weeks Hall

Mary Lily Weeks was born in 1851, the daughter of William F. Weeks and his wife Mary Palfrey Weeks. Nine years old at the outbreak of the Civil War, Lily spent those early years on the plantation at Grand Cote, the much loved and pampered daughter of a doting father. For a young girl, the war was at first exciting, with music and parades of marching soldiers. But soon, the realities of war became apparent even to a child, as everything she had known and taken for granted, began to change.

By June 1863, Lily’s father had made the decision to take some of the Grand Cote slaves to Texas to avoid confiscation by the advancing Yankee army. Though he made sporadic trips back home, Lily, and her mother, were on their own for the next three years as the war moved up and down the Teche. As the war progressed, changes at home increased. Food that had been so abundant on the plantation before the war became much less so, and as Lily’s fine clothes became too small or wore out, they would have been replaced with articles of less fine homespun. And the daily operations of the sugar plantation, so familiar to Lily, slowed and almost ceased entirely by the end of the war, as the mill and buildings fell into disrepair and the fields were overrun with weeds. 

Two happenings which greatly affected Lily’s life, occurred within a few weeks of each other. Her grandmother Mary C. Moore’s death in December 1863 brought Lily and her mother to New Town to live in grandma’s home which was to become her home for the next four decades. The second event occurred not even four weeks later when on January 24, 1864, Mary G. Weeks gave birth to a baby girl named Harriet. Lily was 12 1/2 years old when her new sister was born, and devoted much time to her care, and would continue to do so for many years to come.

After the war, William F. Weeks came back home to his family, made the decision to reside in the old home place at New Iberia, and began the huge task of rebuilding the plantation. As his grandson recalled, “There was a huge difference in age between the two sisters. During the first third of my aunt’s life, she was what was known then as a nervous invalid.” This meant that much attention was given to Harriet, or Pattie, as she was called by the other three members of the family.

We have almost no letters from Lily Weeks, but we do have a wonderful set of letters written to her by her suitor (later husband) Gilbert L. Hall. Hall courted Lily from their first meeting in New Orleans in 1881 until their wedding ten years later. It is in Hall’s letters that we catch some glimpse of Lily’s life during those years. By the time Hall became acquainted with the family, Lily was 29 and Pattie was 16, and Hall’s letters support Weeks Halls stories about the family. “My languid and fragile young aunt, as she approached womanhood, was the center of all solicitation in the family. Her attacks at this time were foreseen and prevented by the gratification of every desire and every wistful request.” (Weeks Hall Tapes (transcribed by Morris Raphael) pp. 18-19)

As the 1880s progressed, Lily not only tended to sister Pattie, but also was called upon to care for her ill parents. With the death of Mary G. Weeks in 1888, Gilbert Hall increased his efforts to persuade Lily to marry him. Lily and Gilbert were married in 1891 and after a honeymoon trip to Mexico, they resided in New Orleans with frequent trips to New Iberia. Three years later, their one and only son, William Weeks Hall, was born. This happy event was shadowed shortly thereafter with the death of William F. Weeks in January, 1895.  Born on Halloween Night of 1894, William Weeks Hall, great-grandson of David and Mary Weeks for whom the Shadows was built, would be the last of the Weeks Family to live in the old homestead. He was born with that “lusty yell” to a mother, Lily Weeks, in her mid 40s and a father, Gilbert Lewis Hall, in his early 60s.

In December 1907, Lily, Gilbert, and Weeks Hall left Shadows to stay with Gilbert’s relatives in Kansas City, MO. Following her husband’s death in 1909, Lily and her son moved to New Orleans. After contracting an illness, Lily spent part of each year in the higher altitudes of North Carolina until she died in New Orleans in 1918.