Spirit of pioneer South Dakota doctor lives on at USD

Spirit of pioneer South Dakota doctor lives on at USD
South Dakota has a long history of pioneers � pioneer farmers, pioneer store owners and pioneer doctors. Thanks to the generous donation of Jim Griffith, an Avon native, some of the pioneer spirit will live on at The University of South Dakota's I.D. Weeks Library.

Griffith, who as a child was brought into the world and often cared for by Dr. John Calvin (J.C.) Greenfield, a pioneer country doctor in Avon, has donated to the university an antique photo of the man, along with some of the doctor's rare books. Griffith learned that The University of South Dakota School of Medicine is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2007 and he felt that the state's only School of Medicine would be a great long-term home for the historical artifacts.

"There's no better place than the library at The University of South Dakota to have this historical photo and the books this pioneer doctor used to read," said Griffith.


Dr. J.C. Greenfield was born in 1875 in Forreston, IL, and after graduating from medical school in Chicago, he eventually made his way to Avon in January of 1903. He served Avon and the rural community for many years, until his death in 1948.

"Dr. Greenfield was inspiring to many people in the Avon area. He raised my father, who was an orphan. My father, who was staying with a family friend on a farm southeast of Avon, got ill, and Dr. Greenfield was running back and forth in his ?buggy' taking care of him and finally just asked my dad (Robert Griffith) to come and live with he and his wife so he would be better able to attend to him and his health," said Griffith. "He told my dad, ?When you get well, I'll have you drive my buggy.' So that's what my dad did ? moved into Avon to live with Dr. and Mrs. Greenfield and later got to drive the doctor's buggy for house calls in town and in the country."

Because Robert Griffith was considered part of the Greenfield family, and because the Greenfields had no children of their own, they provided him with a business college education at Huron College. When Robert returned from World War I, they also helped him get started in business with the Avon German Bank.

Dr. Greenfield was an avid reader and owned hundreds of books. When the Greenfield estate later came up for auction, Jim Griffith was able to secure many of the personal belongings of Dr. Greenfield, including many of his books.

"I think I bought over 60 of them. He also had three antique book cases and I got two of them so when we brought the cases home, I put the books right back in the cases," said Griffith.

But he soon wondered if keeping the books on his shelf was in the best interest of historical preservation.

Several of Dr. Greenfield's books were donated to the historical society in Avon, along with his physician's bag and hunting jacket. However, some of the books have great value and Griffith wanted those to be housed in a more secure location. Those books have now found a new home in the archives section of the I.D. Weeks Library.

"I was talking to Dave Lorenz (former dean of students), who just happens to be from Avon. He put me in touch with David Hulkonen at the library and we worked out the arrangements," Griffith said. "These books needed to be preserved. We are very pleased to be able to donate this to the university."

Griffith, who is not a graduate of USD, is now retired from a career in aviation and the hotel business. He and his wife Helen make their home in Horseshoe Bay, TX.

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