David Russell Creer's Paternal Grandmother
Emma Elizabeth Robertson Creer
Emma Elizabeth Robertson Creer, wife of Willard Orson Creer, pioneer, was born April 9th, 1854, in the Old Fort at Palmyra, west of Spanish Fork. She was the eldest daughter of William And Eliza Woodyatt Robertson, who crossed the plains in 1852. Their eldest son, John, was born October 6, two weeks after their arrival in Salt Lake City.
The following year, Emma’s parents moved to the Old Fort. In March 1856 the Old Fort was abandoned and the families were instructed, by Pres. Brigham Young to move to a location three miles east, now known as Spanish Fork.
Her father drew property on the corner of Main Street and Second North Street. A dugout was provided for the family where they spent the first summer while adobes were made and a two-room house was built by James Miller.
This property was owned by the family until sold to the government for the building of a United States Federal Post Office. When the corner stone for the building was laid the following statement was enclosed. “Bought by William Robertson from the Government and bought back by the Government.”
In this home the family, consisting of nine boys and two girls were reared. As years passed, additions were made to the home until it consisted of eight rooms. In this home they family enjoyed the pleasures afforded in those days and endured courageously the hardships.
For years her father had charge of the sacrament. Her mother with her assistants made the bread and took care of the sacrament linen. Their Sunday evening meal consisted of crusts from the bread used for the sacrament.
Emma’s health was not the best during her girlhood, so she was spared the heavier home duties. She enjoyed sewing, so she took care of that part of the family needs and her sister Jane, who preferred housework, helped with the household tasks. Many are the reminiscences of her girlhood, such as shopping at the Rockhill store, a block building on the corner of the Rockhill block on Main and First North streets. The building was also the dwelling place of Mr. and Mrs. Rockhill, its owners.
The goods were kept on shelves on each side of the mantle place. There she purchased bleach at one dollar a yard, calico at 50 cents a yard, and 25 cents for a spool of thread. She and her sister Jane were happy owners of shoes. The tops and buttonholes were made by their mother and the soles by Charles A. Davis.
Emma and Jane helped their mother glean wheat each year from their twenty- acre field. The wheat sold for four dollars and fifty cents. Their mother liked to see her girls dress as well as circumstances would allow and with part of the money from a years gleaning she bought each of them a pair of shoes.
Emma had a weak back so she was allowed to wear her corset or stays as they were called, on washdays as well as Sunday. Hairnets were worn on all occasions.
Wool comforters were the headdresses for winter and she bought a comforter for $1.25, she earned from sewing for Mrs. James Miller.
Material for her dresses was made of linsey, for ordinary wear and delain, lawn, calico, and alpaca for special occasions. In one photograph she wore a dress made of black and white check. At one time she and her sister Jane had dresses made from their grandmother’s wedding dress, an English print with a green background, also a dress made from their mother’s wedding dress of violet English print.
Among the many things sent to them by their grandmother Thomas from Salt Lake City, was a brown alapa dress for Emma’s mother. The dress was trimmed with black velvet and a hat of black tucan straw with bead trimmings around the edge and a velvet bow in front. This outfit was the envy of her girl friends.
Emma split the straw, her mother braided it and Margaret Bjarinson sewed it for her hats. Her mother trimmed them with ribbon, some of which was attached to the front of the crown for her to hold to keep her hats on her head.
She wore her hair in braids also other styles except bangs. Some of the hairstyles called for circle combs, back combs and hairpins as long as five inches with bangles on them.
In her declining years she had permanents and often visited the beauty parlor. The first gold piece of money she saw was shown her by a peddler passing through to Camp Floyd.
The scriptures, especially the New Testament, were studied in her home and in Sunday School where verses were memorized or read by the class members. Once in a contest held for finding the most names used for Deity, Emma and her sister Jane found the most names, fifty. Jane remembered all the references and won the prize.
Recreation consisted of fruit cutting bees, wool picking, sewing and spinning, also dancing. On several occasions she carried her large spinning wheel to the Morrison Hall for spinning bees sponsored by Jane Warren. Dances were held in this same Hall. The music was furnished by John Murray playing the fiddle and Fred Lewis the delcimor. Private dances were held in homes for small crowds, mostly in the homes of Joseph Chapple and Captain Davis, with room for two sets of quadrille.
Mrs. Butler was Emma’s first schoolteacher. School was held in a one-room house located on Second West Street. Silas Hillman was her second schoolteacher. The schoolhouse was a one room building located on the east corner of the City Park.
Mrs. Mary Jones, mother of Jane and Mary Bradford, taught school first in her own home then moved to the little one room school house located where the Thurber school is. Later Emma returned to the Hillman school located in a small house located where the Rees schoolhouse now stands. That concluded her schooling until the fall of 1871, when she with Mary Elizabeth Miller Bowen and Eleanor Bowen Thomas, her girl friends, entered school in Provo, which held forth in the William Lewis building on Center Street.
It was the first brick building erected south of Salt Lake City. Their teachers were Wilson Dusenberry and John E. Booth. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic and geography.
The school is now known as the Brigham Young University. The girls boarded with Mrs. Simms, the mother of Mrs. Mary Nuttal of Salem.
When the girls came home for Christmas holidays, Emma decided to get married to Willard Orson Creer. The event took place on the 15 Jan. 1872 in the Salt Lake Endowment House. They were five days making the trip of team and wagon.
The first night they stopped at the boarding house of Mrs. Lucy Andrus, located just north of the point of the mountain. The following evening they arrived in Salt Lake City. Emma spent that evening with her grandmother Thomas. The next day they were married in the Endowment House having previously had their endowments.
Emma’s parents being in moderate circumstances, her father gave her a dollar to spend the morning she left home. The morning after her marriage she went with a friend to Z.C.M.I. store to spend her money while Orson attended to some business. The clerk must have thought she wasn’t a very prospective customer because he didn’t seem anxious to serve her, in fact he was snobbish. She finally decided on a pair of vases.
When Orson came to do shopping, she told him about the incident. He resented such treatment, so they went to Walker’s store. There they spent $6.00. The bill was paid in twenty dollar gold pieces. At that time Orson freighted to Pioche, Nevada by mule team.
Among the things purchased were feathers for a bed and pillows, a clock and a lamp, the only ones in the store. They also bought a bed room set, a cupboard, a set of plain white dishes, a stand table, cook stove, enough three ply state carpet for one room, sheeting in two yard widths, the first she had seen.
She made the sheets, feather bed and pillows. Ready-made articles were not thought of at that time. The feather bed, dresser, cupboard and table are still in use.
Emma and Orson started house-keeping in their home, one half block east of Main street on Second North. The following summer she bought her first sewing machine.
She sold peaches she dried and bought kitchen chairs, a heater, and a bolt of factory. She also made sacks for the Co-op store and a bolster for the Flourmills. With the proceeds she bought black silk material also fringe for trimming for a dress. Aunt Grace Matley took it to Salt Lake City to be made and was fitted for it.
She made her own soap of saleratus and maple ashes, dried corn etc. The first musical instrument in the home was an organ from Mrs. Mary Angel, a cow was given in part payment. This was later traded in for a piano.
Emma carried all her babies, not owning a baby buggy.
In 1882, Orson built a brick two story house on the corner of Main and 2nd North, where she live until after Orson’s death June 6, 1917. Later she sold the corner and built a home at 44 East and Second Street.
She was head of the quilting committee also was in charge of the burial work. She and Orson were members of the Old Folks committee for twelve years. She was a member of the Genealogy committee and was actively engaged in Temple work.
In 1938 she decided to keep a record of the names and dates of those for whom she had done work. The records show nearly four hundred names, for two years, part of which were for charity. She also has a record of names she paid to have done.
Her needlework has brought her renown, which may be found in many homes as wedding, shower, birthday and Christmas gifts. Her work has been displayed in fairs. She won a special prize at one of the Utah County Fairs for holding the largest premiums at that Fair.
She has worked many Temple aprons, presented to her sister, brothers, and wives, in which to be buried, also some sister and brother-in-laws and close friends.
During the influenza epidemic she was called to prepare burial clothes for victims of that dreaded disease.
During World War I, she spent a great deal of time at the Red Cross room as head of bandage making. She also knitted a great many sweaters and pairs of socks.
In her second home she had lived within a radius of one half block for sixty-three years.
In her declining years, she always had a piece of fancy work on hand to occupy her casual moments. At the age of eighty-eight she finished a beautiful tablecloth.
She was the grandmother of 33 grand children and twenty-two great grand children.
Emma experienced the various modes of travel except the airplane. She also experienced the electric iron over the old rod iron heated over willow fire or coal fire and a furnace over the old fireplace, the electric light over the glow of the candle, or fireplace, the cement pavement over the mud and dusty path. The papered walls over the lime white washed walls. The electric sewing machine over the little steel needle and the treadle machine.
For many years Orson sold his grain and made an annual trip to Salt Lake City where he and Emma purchased a year’s supply of groceries, a bolt of factory, bleach and calico.
The material was made into shirts, drawers, nightgowns, aprons, dresses, pillowcases and sheets. Among the groceries was a box of raisins, tomatoes in gallon cans, syrup in five gallon barrels, sugar by 100 pounds and a large bucket of candy for the holidays, a box of soap, currants, and sacks which had been washed and dried ready for use.
Coats for the boys, also suits, shoes and material for Sunday dresses were also purchased. The things were sent by freight. On the day of arrival, it was a holiday to the family to watch the unpacking.
Six of Emma’s children also her husband, preceded her in death. She died 27 August 1943.