James Florence: Progressive Businessman

by

Gary Wilkie

 

Mr. James Florance was born on November 5, 1871. Littledid he know that he was to be one of the great pioneers of Kittson Countyat that time. Mr. Florance, now living in Clarkston, Washington with hisbrother Edward, is a man of fine quality with a fine head on his shouldersfor business decision making. James Florance's name will always be on theminds of Kittson County residents.

James Florance comes from an important and honorable family.No other family has been more closely identified with the developmentof Kittson County than the Florances. The first settler in this area wasE. C. Florance, who settled in St. Vincent. He opened a prosperous shoemakershop. His goods included shoes for men and women both with latest styles.In 1897, E. C. Florance and two of his sons engaged in the general merchandisebusiness at Northcote. This business was conducted until 1904 when all butone brother, Edward, went to Washington. This same merchandising businesswas later run by James Florance. Edward Florance in partnership with M.J. Nelson, opened a general merchandise and machine business at Humboldt.

Florance also opened an excellent banking business loaningto many farmers throughout the area. The Florance family was a very activefamily with many contributions

Mr. James Florance spent more time than anyone else inhis family living in Kittson County. At the age of ten James came to theUnited States by way of the Owen Sound. He first lived in Duluth, Minnesotaand at the age of twelve moved to St. Vincent.

James Florance's store in Humboldt was the busiest placein the surrounding area. He kept very long hours in running the store, fromseven in the morning to twelve o'clock at night. Sometimes he stayed openedeven longer, especially on Saturday night, because this was when most ofthe farmers came in for supplies or just to visit with each other. As statedby one of the issues of the Kittson County Enterprise, "We find Humboldtgaining a new lease on life with the advent of the Florances', with theopening of general store and farm machinery firm in 1900 did much to acceleratethe business pace in the village!"

In addition to the lively store business, his wife waspostmistress from 1916 to 1926, the year she passed away. After that Jamestook over as postmaster. The very building which Mr. Florance ran his storeis still owned and operated by Mamye Jury.

In 1914, Ted Florance, James's brother, built a new storyon to it. This was the location of the first movies in Kittson County andthe first basketball hall was in the upstairs half of the building. Thisstore was also used for many social gatherings such as the Ladies Aid.

Mr. Florance worked very hard to achieve his success. Withthe excessive hours put in at the store and also the postmaster job therewasn't much time for leisure. But, with what little leisure he did have,he read his favorite books and poetry. He also took vacation trips. Someof Mr. Florance's favorite authors are: Longfellow, Shakespeare, Ingersoll,Wilcox, and Sir Walter Scott.

Mr. Florance retired as postmaster in 1943 at the age ofseventy-two. He later retired from his store occupation in 1949. He soldhis store to one of his employees, who owns it at the present time, MamyeJury. This store is still open but it is not the prosperous business ituse to be.

Mr. Florance has a great deal to be proud of, he had thefirst light plant in Kittson County. This plant supplied current for allthe village of Humboldt. Mr. Florance, who is 100 years of age, has votedin every election since November 5, 1891 when he was twenty-one years old.This is quite an accomplishment which would inspire every young American.

Since his retirement, he had been living in an upstairsroom of the new proprietor, Mamye Jury. He had been living there for 33years. He recently left there to live with his son, Edward, in Clarkston,Washington.

Many people who knew Mr. Florance tell of how he lovedhis trips across the Atlantic Ocean to England and various other countries.He visited Belgium, Holland, and Italy. His stop in Italy was far from enjoyable.While he was there World War II broke out. Mr. Florance experienced difficultiesin attempting to return to the United States. When he first entered Italyhe was required to change his American currency into Italian currency. Whenhe decided to leave for home he requested his American money back. The Italiangovernment was very reluctant. When he was refused his money he had to sendfor money from back home. If James had not received his money he would ofbeen forced to stay in Italy.

Besides traveling in European countries Mr. Florance hastraveled in all the United States except the lone states; Alaska and Hawaii.

Kittson County would of been at a great disadvantage withoutMr. Florance's contributions. Perhaps it might not of been at the pointit is now, that we will never know. Mr. James Florance, progressive businessman,has been without a doubt one of the' great blessings on Humboldt. He putall the best years of his life in the running of his store and post office.This store kept the Humboldt area.supplied for years. At 100 years of ageMr. Florance can look back on his career and relax. His contribution hasbeen completed, the rest is up to the future generations.

Bibliography

"Florence Dates Back to Pioneer Days" KittsonCounty Enterprise pg. 36

Mathews, Silas, Interview, December 23, 1971

Turner, Burton, Interview, January 12, 1972iew, December 23, 1971

Turner, Burton, Interview, January 12, 1972