A Favorite Photo: Florence Matilda Creer

How do you pick a favorite photo? I have so many that speak to me – but for this week’s 52 Ancestors post, I’m choosing a photo of my grandmother in her early years. I only knew her for the last fifteen years of her life, but we share a love of books, learning, travel, family, scrapbooking, gardening, and more. I have written posts about Florence’s later years as a member of the American War Mothers and Daughters of Utah Pioneers but haven’t delved into the years before her marriage in 1916 at the age of 24.

Florence was born on 12 December 1892 in Spanish Fork, Utah, the oldest of eleven children. She died on 12 November 1977 in Burley, Idaho, the wife of Edward Raymond Kelsey and the mother of six children.

Florence Matilda Creer and friends at LDS business college

Florence may have been born in the 19th century, but the photo above shows her (on the left) with two friends and depicts her as a 20th-century woman with some personality. Either she’s not quite ready for the photo or protesting the arm around her shoulder. Notice her fashionable outfit with the white button-up boots, skirt, striped top, and hat perched askew. Florence loved having nice suits, hats, and coats for going out, and I have many pictures of her wearing a hat – always at an angle.

Despite loving this photo, I had some questions. Who are the man and the woman with Florence? Why was this taken? A special event? The photo is labeled “Florence Matilda Creer and friends at LDS business college,” but I did the labeling and am unsure if I identified the place correctly. Florence did attend the LDS business college during this era, but I decided to do some research and determine the description’s accuracy.

Starting with the clothing. Florence’s outfit looks to be the height of fashion as the November 1916 Good Housekeeping issue features a similar traveling outfit and the same laced boots. 1

Winter coats for women from Good Housekeeping magazine Nov 1916

Towards the end of her life, Florence wrote her life history, and snippets of it give clues to the photo. She describes a visit to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world’s fair held in San Francisco, California, from February 20th to December 4th 1915. Perhaps she treated herself to this new outfit before taking the train from Salt Lake City to San Francisco. Florence wrote:2

While I was a librarian, when I was around twenty-three or twenty-four years old, I joined a group of thirteen people and went to the World’s Fair in San Francisco – I had saved the money from working at the library. We stayed at hotels. Also, we went down to San Diego where there was a smaller fair. While at San Francisco, we’d sneak away from our chaperones and go to the stage play “Birth of a Nation” with Lillian Gish; also China Town. We stayed two weeks at the fair. We went by train.

As a teacher and librarian, Florence likely visited the Palace of Education at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, pictured below. For a young person from Utah, this must have been the adventure of a lifetime.flickr.com : accessed 15 Jan 2023. ">3

Could the setting of the photo of Florence and her friends be in San Francisco? That is a strong possibility, given the importance of the event. The note that they’d “sneak away” from their chaperones lets me know that Florence and her friends certainly had a flare for adventure.

That brings up the question of who were these friends, especially those in the photo? Another snippet from Florence’s history about her education gives a clue.

I attended schools at Spanish Fork. After I had completed my junior year in high school, Uncle John Creer, who was the County Superintendent, asked me to go to Castella (a little town in the mountains above Spanish Fork) to teach school. It was a most unpleasant experience as there was real deep snow and it was difficult for the pupil to attend regularly. Each weekend I would catch the train and go home. After one year, I came back to Spanish Fork and was a Librarian in the new high school. I was glad for the job so I could help out at home. I ordered all the books for the library. I kept this job for four years, then went to the LDS Business College in Salt Lake to learn how to type. I lived at the Hotel Utah with Ellen Anderson. I was offered a raise and a change of jobs if I would learn how to teach typing. I also took training at the Salt Lake Library under Joanna Sprague.

Ellen Anderson 1892-1934

Researching Ellen Anderson, I found a likely candidate for the woman in the photo with Florence. A photo added to Ellen’s Memories on the FamilySearch Family Tree bears a strong resemblance to the friend with Florence. Ellen’s obituary lends insight and correlates well with Florence’s own life.4

Miss Ellen Anderson 42, who taught school for a number of years in Payson and more recently in Spanish Fork, died unexpectedly Thursday morning at the home of her sister. . . She was born July 30, 1892 at Lake Shore, a daughter of George and Rosetta M. Anderson. She graduated from the Spanish Fork high school and the normal deparment of the B.Y.U. She taught in the Nebo school district until 1931.

My grandmother was also born in 1892, attended Spanish Fork schools, and was a teacher. Two like-minded women who valued education certainly would have been friends. Ellen never married, and my grandmother might have been in the same situation had my grandfather not written to her and asked if she’d move to his Idaho homestead and marry him.

Studying Florence’s life history, my best hypothesis for the photo is that it was taken during the trip to San Francisco in 1915 with her friend Ellen Anderson. The male remains unknown, but I’d welcome any ideas for identifying him.

Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!

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