[From my personal collection]
Bernice was born on a farm near Whitewood in Lawrence County, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, that her English paternal grandfather had bought a year after his arrival in the United States in 1881, and was the second child** and only daughter of William R. and Mary A. (Grant)*** Grenfell. In June 1902 when the midwife was summoned to assist Mary with the birth she broke a smallpox quarantine to do so and the mother and baby caught the disease. Although both survived, that probably contributed to Mary's lifelong antipathy toward her only daughter.****
[Map Of The Black Hills Of South Dakota And Wyoming With Full Descriptions Of Mineral Resources, Etc. By Samuel Scott, M.E. Custer City, S.D. 1897 ... (on verso) Copyrighted 1896 By Samuel Scott, M.E. E.P. Noll & Co. Map Publishers No. 9 N. Sixth St., Philadelphia, Pa.
Source: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.]
Along with the other children on nearby farms, Bernice, Gilbert and Richard attended the tiny one-room schoolhouse down the road. In none of the surviving photos does she look happy.
[Bernice in dark dress in front row]
[Gilbert, Bernice and Richard at schoolhouse]
[Color slide of old schoolhouse taken during out trip to South Dakota in 1953]Nor did she appear to enjoy family picnics.
[Grenfell family, undated photo from my collection]
A very unhappy little girl's life was about to change for the better.
(To be continued)
*Most of the information about her life before I arrived in it comes directly from her.
**Her older brother Gilbert was born the preceding year and the baby (and favorite) Richard came along two years later.
***Mary Grant was an obviously unstable woman who probably came from a family with a history of abuse.
****Mother recalled hiding as a child and overhearing her mother confide to a neighbor that it sickened her to even touch her daughter. She also said that when in a rage her mother tried to kill her more than once but that her brothers would pick her up and run with her to keep her away from her mother.
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