Mary Isabel (Belle) Bernard was born in Wisconsin and came to California. They settled in the evergreen district with her parents, five brothers and her sister, Margaret. When the family moved to Cottonwood, both girls worked for a French seamstress. Both did beautiful needlework all their lives.
Will and Belle were married Nov. 20, 1895) and became leaders in community and social activities. Will was known as a hunter, fisherman and catcher on the cottonwood baseball team. In the 1920's or early 1930's Will and both his sons played on one Cottonwood team. Belle played Whist (later Bridge), served luncheons and teas and was a charter member of the stitch club. They attended local dances and boarded several of the single schoolteachers.
The couple had three children:
William Bernard 1896-1958 married Virginia Webb..2 daughters. He worked with his father in the store and in later years managed and owned it.
Leland Laughlin 1898-1971 married Gladys Cunningham..2 daughters. He worked in the store until 1930 when he became State Right-of-way Agent.
Bernice Loraine 1902- Music supervisor in Santa Clara County. She retired to help parents when they were ill. Still resides in family home.
In 1945, despite wartime fuel shortages, more than 300 friends and family came to Cottonwood to help Will and Belle celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Will commented that the first fifty years were the hardest.
In December, 1910, Will, in partnership with Harry Abernathy, and later Fred Stoekel, took over the store that was Rose's until 1961. When his sons returned from service in World War I, they became partners in the store. Leland left to work for the state but Bill remained in the store and assumed responsibility as his father got older. Will's generous credit policies and good nature endeared him to his customers and many friends. In addition to the fact that many farmers paid their accounts once or twice a year, during the depression he fed families through the winter with only the promise of wood cutting the next summer. He remained active in the store until his death, January 19, 1950.
Belle stayed in the family home with her daughter, Bernice. She enjoyed visits with friends and family including one memorable afternoon with eight great grandchildren. She died April 26, 1956, at age 84.
Source: Shasta Historical Society