Wilfred Thomason Grenfell was born on February 28th, 1865 in a small coastal town in the north of England. He was an adventurous, impetuous boy who loved the outdoors and the sea.
In 1883, Grenfell entered the London Hospital Medical School. While in London, he listened to the American evangelist, Dwight L. Moody. His words changed Grenfell’s life and he decided to commit himself to Christ.
Grenfell joined the Royal National Mission To Deep Sea Fishermen, an organization which provided medical and spiritual services to North Sea Fishermen.
In 1892, Grenfell was sent to investigate the conditions in the Labrador fishery. “We’re wonderful glad to have you,” a fisherman said, “We’ve never had a doctor in theses parts before.” This was the start of Dr. Grenfell’s lifelong work on a coast that was ice blocked and inaccessible for several months of the year.
Dr. Grenfell was devoted to improving the life of the people. Dr. Grenfell practiced medicine, built hospitals, established schools and orphanages and when not working on the coast travelled in the UK and North America looking for support and labour.
During his life, Grenfell received many honours and awards for his dedicated work. In 1928, he was made a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George.
By the late 1920’s, the hectic pace had begun to take its toll and Grenfell had the first of a series of heart attacks. He died in Vermont on October 9th, 1940. His ashes were brought back to his beloved coast and are buried on Tea House Hill behind Grenfell House here in St. Anthony.
Anne MacClanahan was born in Chicago, the daughter of a Confederate Army officer. She met Dr. Grenfell on board the Mauritania. He was returning from a fundraising tour in England.
They were married in 1909 and came to live in the Grenfell House (which they designed together) in St. Anthony, Newfoundland.
Anne gave Dr. Grenfell’s life comfort and refinement. She became totally involved in his work. She organized his fundraising tours and lectures, edited his books and helped secure scholarships for the children of the area to continue their education.
Although Anne was ill towards the end of her life, she kept her pain hidden from her husband and took care of him until she died in 1938.