Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

Grace Sylvia Pillsbury

Arthur Francis Pillsbury

Ernest Sargent Pillsbury, Jr.

Introducing the children who lived it.

The Kids

Winkey, the donkey who pulled the Pillsbury cart, is not quite in the picture, but you get the idea.  The four children in the carriage pausing in front of the Pillsbury Studio in Old Village, Yosemite, are, left to right,  Ernest Sargent Pillsbury, Jr., Arthur Francis Pillsbury, Grace Sylvia Pillsbury, and Virginia Best.  It is the beginning of summer, 1912.

On November 9th last year the three Pillsbury children were legally adopted by their Uncle, Arthur Clarence Pillsbury because their parents, Dr. and Mrs. Ernest S. Pillsbury, were killed in an auto accident on Casitas Pass Road near the line into Santa Barbara County.  All three children were in the Auburn 30 when it went over a washed-out road and plunged into a ravine 45 feet deep.  They were thrown out.  Their parents suffered fatal injuries and bled to death on the scene.  

Dad, little Arthur, told me he crawled down to his mother but could not help her.  He was then six years old.  

Dr. Ernest and his wife, Sylvia, died Intestate.  A corrupt court allowed Title Insurance Company, then teetering on bankruptcy, to come in to handle the Probate.  It would be nine years before the remains of the deceased couple were buried.  By that time the large estate had been stripped, sold off to friends and cronies of Title Insurance.  The company had attempted to take physical control of the children but failed when Pillsbury took them to his home in Oakland and immediately adopted them. 

Their new father, Arthur Clarence, Dr. Ernest's younger brother, told them to put the trauma behind them and keep busy.  His wife, AEtheline, had grudgingly agreed to let him adopt them - but only if she received the monthly allowance, $100, allocated to their care by Title Insurance Company.  

So life went on.  The kids spent six months of the year in Yosemite to save AEtheline any bother - but especially little Arthur and Grace, fell in love with the peaceful wonders of the Valley, extinguishing their nightmares as they learned to climb the rocky cliffs which felt, to them, like a protective friend.  

Arthur C. Pillsbury, Ernest, Arthur F., Grace & Virginia Best - 1912.

The kids spent, each in their own tent, in the area allotted to the Pillsbury Studio.  MAP of Old Village Dad's tent was directly behind the Yosemite Chapel in the back of the Pillsbury Studio.   The Best Studio was located three buildings from the General Store, which was across the street from Pillsbury's at a slight angle.  It was a very small town, just the place for three children who had suffered extreme trauma.  

Virginia Best was Grace's best playmate and Virginia and Arthur F. were less than a year apart in age. Virginia was always at birthday parties, played with Arthur and Grace in the meadow at the side of the Pillsbury Studio and later worked for Pillsbury when, as was often the case, the business was slow for Virginia's father, Harry Cassie Best.  
During the Season, which lasted from May until September, the people and action were at the Pillsbury Studio, where young people, students from Stanford and Berkeley, worked tinting specimen cards, developing photos, framing these, selling postcards and packets of small photos, purchased by tourists for their albums.  Along with this, of course, were the nature movies which included lapse-time of flowers as they live out their cycle of life. 

Pillsbury rented dark rooms so people could take and develop their own photographs, the only studio to do so in the Valley.  

The Pillsbury kids, adopted by their Uncle Arthur on November 14th the year before after their parent's tragic death in an auto accident, played with all the kids in the Village.  Virginia Best was a close friend of Grace's.

We trust our friends, never imaginging how we can be betrayed. 
L - R. Virginia Best, friend of Grace's, Ernest Pillsbury, Jr., Arthur F. Pillsbury, Ellen Boysen.

Dr. Ernest Sargent

Dr. Harriet Foster Pillsbury ​​​​

Narrative ​​

Foster Family

Ball Family

Sargent Family