November 29, 2022
101 North Commercial Street Morgan, Utah 84050
Life Style

Women of Morgan Series – Evadna Roberts Francis

The talent of Morgan citizens displayed in April at the Morgan Valley Art Extravaganza.  Twenty-one visual artists participated in this event along with hundreds of performing artists.  Many visual artists lived in Morgan over the years.  This month’s Women of Morgan series focuses on the life of one of Morgan’s artists, Evadna Roberts Francis.  

Francis was born on March 8, 1910, in Frankburg, Alberta, Canada to Walton A. and Olive Corbridge Roberts.  She was the fifth child of eight children.  Her family was from Layton, Utah.  Her parents were called by their church leaders to move to Canada to help homestead the area.  They had lived there for about 10 years when they decided to move back to Layton in 1911.  Francis grew up in Layton with her family where she graduated from Davis High School in 1928.  Her senior quote was, “What is lovely never dies, but passes into other loveliness”.  Even in her youth, she had an eye for beauty, a skill that will become apparent in later years from her beautiful landscape paintings.

After graduating High School, she attended the University of Utah and joined the Gamma Sigma Sorority.  At the end of 1931 she married Austin Oscar Malan.  In Jan of 1932 Francis moved with Oscar to Los Angeles, while he attended embalming school. By the end of the year, they moved back to Utah and settled in Ogden, so Oscar could work for his father.  Over the next few years Francis would exercise her skills in the world of performing arts.  Her most notable performance would happen in 1933 when she played Constance Neville in the play “She Stoops to Conquer”, which was described by critics of the time as “not a historical study for literary students, but a bright comedy of eighteen century manners”.  Sometime in 1933-34 her marriage with Oscar ended.  In 1937 she began attending nursing school in Ogden.  Francis immersed herself in her education, and was active in student life, attending dances and chairing social events for the nursing students.  

1939 was a big year for Francis; in the spring she graduated from the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital School of Nursing and on Sept. 13, she married Joseph H. Francis in the Cardston Alberta Canada temple.  The couple then settled in Morgan and lived there for the remainder of their lives.  Almost exactly a year after their marriage they  welcomed their first and only child into the family.  Blair R. Francis was born on September 27, 1940.  In 1943, she joined the Fine Arts Study Group, a club for Morgan women.  The object of the group was to “coordinate and maintain an organization of women for the purpose of educational, social and civic advancement and achievement”.  Francis was a member of the group for many years and served as both president and the historian during her time.  She was also on the organization committee that helped to form the Culturette Club for the young women of Morgan.  Both organizations helped to bring culture and the arts into the community at large.  Francis was involved in other parts of community life in Morgan.  She participated in the PTA at the school and served as the president in 1947-48.  She was also president and a teacher in Relief Society and served as a temple worker for eight years.  She spent a season taking care of her ailing parents before they each passed away.  In 1964 she was installed by the county commission as the County Nurse for Morgan, a position she held for 15 months.

From the research, it isn’t clear when Francis started painting, but it can be seen  that by the early 1960’s she was getting more attention for her artwork from the public.  From donating painting’s and having art shows, Francis became known for her artistic abilities.  In 1962 she donated a painting called “Nauvoo” to the Morgan Ward Relief Society and in 1965 she donated a painting to the County called “Early Morgan County”.  If you visit the county courthouse, the painting is still on display in the front lobby area, along with artwork from two other artists.  The painting was created from a sketch she made overlooking the valley from the South Morgan Cemetery.  The iconic mountains on the west side of the valley and the Weber River are easily identified in the painting while the rest of the scene gives you a sense of what the valley might have looked like for the early settlers.  In 1969 she had a solo art show at the Oak Birch Galleries, located inside of the Ma’s and Pa’s Restaurant in Roy Utah.  Her artwork was on display from May to July and was included each week in the calendar of events from the Deseret News.  That same year she donated another one of her paintings titled “Winter Reflection” to the newly built Dee Hospital, home of her alma mater.  Evadna continued to paint landscapes and places important to Morgan’s history.  In 1976 as part of the 50th anniversary of the seminary program in Morgan, she painted the first high school seminary building, which had been torn down a decade prior to this event.  That painting is now on display in the Morgan County Historical Society office.   

On December 9, 1986, Francis passed away from heart failure.  10 years after her passing, the community held an Art Show to celebrate her talents.  Even though she had donated some of her work to the community, most of her art was held in a private collection of the family.  This was a chance for the community at large to see more of her creations.  The Art Show was held at the middle school.  At the reception for the show, Linda H. Smith of the Historical Society, her art teacher Harold Olsen and other community members shared information about her life and stories about some of the pieces on display.  There was an art display from the middle school students in conjunction with this event.  This was an important event for Morgan’s art community.  Next time you see a piece of art in a Morgan school, church, or public building, take a closer look at the signature.  There’s a good chance it was painted by Evadna R. Francis.  

Do you have artwork, photographs or history on Evadna Francis?  If you do, please contact the County Historian Rachel Turk and let her know.  The Morgan County Historical Society is located inside the Morgan County Library, located at 50 N 100 W.  Office Hours are Mon-Thurs 12-5 p.m.  You can email rturk@morgancountyutah.gov or call (801) 829-6713.

Rachel Turk, MC Historian
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