Do you have memories of visiting the cemetery as a child on Memorial Day or other special days? My maternal grandparents are both buried in my hometown, and we decorated their graves every Memorial Day without fail. We would pick the May flowers and make beautiful baskets of iris and lilacs to fasten to the ground in front of the headstones. This tradition cemented in my child’s mind the importance of remembering those who have gone before. In this 52 Ancestors post, I revisit my Kelsey grandparents,
Who were my maternal grandparents, and how did they end up in the small town of Declo, Idaho, for the majority of their lives? Ed and Florence were about as different in their interests and hobbies as two people could be. They hardly knew each other before marrying in 1916, but like so many couples of that era, they worked hard, raised a family, and made a go of it.
Edward Raymond Kelsey
I only knew Grandpa Kelsey as an elderly man, but like all people, he was once young. Born on 12 November 1886 to English emigrants Selina Beddoes and William Henry Kelsey, Jr., he grew up in Springville, Utah. His father began building the Victorian-style red-brick home with gingerbread trim in 1889 and completed it in 1891. Ed would have been about five years old when the family moved into this grand home. I visited the Kelsey home as a child and still love seeing it. I wrote about the home in Family History Serendipity: Revisiting the House That William H. Kelsey Built.
Edward completed his eighth-grade education when he was 18 and spent the next several years as a fireman on the railroad and then as a hobo traveling in the northwest. When he tired of riding the rails, he purchased forty acres of land in southern Idaho. His father, William Henry Kelsey, Jr., had purchased the land in 1907, and Ed sold the land in 1914, sight unseen. That fall of 1914, Ed went to Burley and bought forty acres of land in a different location with the ambition to get into the livestock business.1
On February 16, 1915, Ed left Springville with a team and wagon and traveled alone north to the Declo/Burley area, arriving on February 25th.
Florence Matilda Creer
My Grandma Kelsey grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, about 5 miles south of Springville, where Ed lived. She was six years younger, born on 12 December 1892 to Mary Margaret Peterson and Charles Cannon Creer. Florence was the oldest of nine children and helped out at home considerably, especially after her mother had an accident and could no longer walk. At the time, Florence was 15. She wrote about this time.2
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. I spent every weekend during that summer at Saltaire with a group of teachers. That fall, I returned to Spanish Fork and began teaching typing at the high school.
While I taught at Castella, I lived with the Southworth family. Mrs. Southworth was a sister to the sculpturer, Siris Dallen, who lived at Springville.
With my first paycheck, I bought a fur neckpiece and muff – I had my picture taken with it on. I also bought several things for my parent’s house, such as curtains, a bedspread, etc. I enjoyed the pink and black willow plum I bought for myself.
How did Ed and Florence meet? The Creer home was located across the street from the park, where dances were held regularly. Florence met Ed at a dance, and they occasionally went out, mainly to dances, for about three years.” Florence wrote:
I received a letter from Edd saying he was tired of living alone and that he wanted to get married. I remembered how “dashing” he was so I decided to marry him. On November 12, 1916, I took a train to Minidoka where he met me and we went to Rupert where we were married by a judge. I wore a black suit and a pink blouse. After the wedding, we came directly by horse and buggy (of course) to this place. The neighborhood girls thought my pink nightgown and blue robe were formals.
Like any couple starting out with new land, there was much to be done in planting, building sheds and corrals for the animals, and of course, building a home to accommodate the growing family. When Florence arrived in Idaho as a new bride, Ed welcomed her into his one-room “squatters shack” where he had been living for the previous year. Although he had fixed it up with a red carpet, round oak table, cot, dresser, kitchen cabinet, rocking chair, and small stove – it would have been a far cry from what Florence was used to. Her childhood home in Spanish Fork had two stories, indoor plumbing, and many rooms.
Florence had her first child, Helen, in the one-room home, but by the time the next three children were born, they had purchased forty more acres that had a long narrow building on it. They moved it next to the little house. In time they moved a nicer home onto the property and eventually added on to it. They lived the remainder of their years in this home.
How did Ed and Florence spend their time when not working or taking care of children? They danced and associated with their neighbors. Florence remembered:
Declo was the center of activity, in the wintertime especially. The sheep men and the cattlemen usually had a dance and they were held in a barn at the Mackey place. The women would wear their pretty dresses – Edd would bring me a special dress for these occasions. Of course, everyone took their children; they’d sleep on the benches. The Elk’s club had lovely dances too. When Helen was twelve or thirteen, she would go with us – Edd would dance with her. Now and then we’d go to the Jenkin’s, some close neighbors, to eat supper – we’d put Helen to sleep in a little red wagon.
The family grew to include six children, three girls and three boys: Helen, Ted, Bill, Bob, Erma, and my mother, Anna. As the youngest, Anna came of age during the Depression and World War II years when her three brothers were off to war on the Pacific front. She talked of working hard on the farm, but also the good times they had playing card games, riding horses, listening to radio programs, and dancing. When she was well into her 80s, Florence remembered with fondness those years of raising children.
Edd came home one day saying there was a new invention out – a box with talking coming out of it. We were one of the first to get a radio. It sat on a table, had a round top; we had to have an arial attached to it which went outside in order to hear the stations. Everyone would crowd around it and listen to the programs, music, news, etc.
Every Saturday night, we’d all get into the car and go to Burley. The children and I would shop for groceries then see a show while Edd would go to the Elk’s Club. We’d stop by the icehouse and bring home pounds of ice for our icebox. It was about the only night during the week we’d leave the house. Of course, everyone had to have baths in the tin tub.
Throughout their marriage and especially once the children left home, Ed and Florence pursued their own interests. Ed continued to build his livestock business and enjoyed hunting and camping with his sons. His daughter Anna wrote:
From the time he was a young man he was always interested in horses. He spent many hours at a time in the saddle carrying out the operation, maintenance and development of his grassland and taking care of his livestock. He was a member of the Cassia County Sheriff’s Posse for many years.
Dad had many interests; he was always interested in politics – he kept up with all the local and world affairs. He served as Precinct Committeeman in Declo for twenty-two years. He was instrumental in organizing the Declo Light and Power and was president of the company for many years. When asked about retiring when he was interviewed for the Livestock Hall of Fame, he said, “I get too much out of life to think about it.” A highlight of his life was when he was selected Grassman of the Year Award in 1963. He was seventy-eight at the time.
Florence, in the meantime, kept busy with her own activities. She was active in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, War Mothers during World War II, and church activities. She sewed all of her girl’s clothing – creating the patterns herself. She kept a large garden, supported her six children in all their activities, and loved to read. She also kept scrapbooks of the important happenings in her family’s life. I have loved pouring through those scrapbooks and learning more about her. I shared what I learned about her involvement in the War Mothers and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.
In later years, she enjoyed traveling to California and Indiana to visit her oldest daughters and their families. Florence enjoyed music and art – filling her home with beautiful paintings and books. She treasured her rose garden and her grandchildren. Any extended family driving through the Burley/Declo area knew they would find hospitality at the Kelsey home with a fine meal prepared by Florence.
Death and Burial
Grandpa Kelsey died in a car accident on 9 March 1972. He was 86 1/2 years old and still rode his horse every day. Grandma Kelsey was a widow for the next five years, then died on 12 November 1977 at the age of 85. She sewed and read up until the end of her life – continuing to serve and learn.
Both are buried in the Pleasant View Cemetery in Burley, Idaho. I love that their headstones have an image of something they loved in life – a rose for my grandmother and a horse for my grandfather.
Although my grandparents have been gone for over 40 years now, I still think of their unique contributions. Their fortitude and courage in building a home, raising a family, and continuing to lead full lives until the very end is an inspiration to me.
- Anna Mae Kelsey Shults, compiler, “Edward Raymond Kelsey, ” memories, Edward Raymond Kelsey (1886-1972) KVG6-HWB, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/4172779 : accessed 28 May 2023).
- Florence Creer Kelsey, Life History, Winter 1977, Florence Matilda Creer,(1892-1977) KWZL-MQ7 Memories, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/6478936 : accessed 28 May 2023 2023).