Bibles, boxes hold family, local history

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1701 Bible Box

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Wanda Lassiter
Museum of the Albemarle

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Museum of the Albemarle has over 30,000 artifacts in its collection. Two types of artifacts in our collection are of great importance to families of the Albemarle Region: Bibles and Bible boxes.

MOA holds 13 Bibles and two Bible boxes in its collection. A majority of the Bibles date to the mid-1800s. The earliest dates to 1789 titled “The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, Appointed to be Read in Churches” and was owned by members of the Smith Gammon and Hanbury families. The most recent Bible belonged to Henry Clay Ferebee III dating to 1942. Mr. Ferebee served in World War II as a Navy Lieutenant in the Pacific Theater.

Bibles hold vast amounts of information including the word of God as well as family details such as genealogy notations, marriage, death and birth dates, as well as snippets of baby hair. Bibles include handwritten notes on the meanings of verses, photographs of relatives, and individuals notes to the next generation who receives the Bibles.

“The Beauties of the Bible: Being a Selection from the Old and New Testaments with Various Remarks and Brief Dissertations Designed for the Use of Christians in General, and Particularly for the Use of Schools, and the Improvement of Youth,” contains birth and death dates written on the front and back pages of the Hearring family of Camden County. The first inscription includes, “Thomas Jefferson Hearring the son of William Hearring and Louiza his wife was born on Sunday the 8th day of Sept.1822 and departed this life on Saturday night the 13th Sept. 1823.” Other writings include, “Negro Girl Charlotte child of Sarah was born Saturday the 10th May 1828.”

The 1853 “Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated Out of the Original Tongues and with the Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised” contains writings detailing the life of William Leigh. Leigh was given the Bible from the Elizabeth City and Pasquotank Bible Society March 8, 1856. One notation written in the Bible to William before he left for war states, “May he read this Bible and learn it well and be a good Christian is the wish of his family left at home.”

Bible boxes are used to store one of a family’s most precious possession, a family Bible. The boxes would have either been kept in a more private room in the home or have a locking system. The Bible box on display in our main gallery in the Jackson house is simple with no decorative carvings. Made of white pine and walnut, it dates to the mid-to late- eighteenth century. The second box is in our Collection Storage room and is marked with “WH 1701.” Made of red oak, the intricate details and motifs perhaps would have been carved by a person with expert woodworking skills. Throughout time, Bible boxes have also been used store photographs, wills, and other important documents.

 Wanda Lassiter is curator for Museum of the Albemarle.