Idaho

Former Idahoan tracks down 1796 Bible that belonged to ancestor

The 1796 Bible that belonged to his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather had a list of Roger Baker’s ancestors.
The 1796 Bible that belonged to his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather had a list of Roger Baker’s ancestors. AP

It is not often you can flip through a book that was printed during George Washington’s presidency.

But Roger Baker has a Bible that belonged to ancestor Andrew Baker in the late 18th century.

Andrew (1749-1815) was a pastor who lived in North Carolina and Virginia with his wife, Elizabeth Avant (or Avent, depending on where you look). Andrew had nine children and fought in the Revolutionary War.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to say I know who owned this, and it’s 220 years old,” said Roger, who was born in Kendrick and is now retired and living in Worcester, Mass.

Roger has had the Bible, which includes the Old and New Testaments, about a month. Roger said it was printed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1796, and it appears the Psalms of David pages were added in 1797.

The Bible also had papers in it, including a song most likely written about the Civil War and a Sunday reading by Henry Ward Beecher, an American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer and speaker in the 1800s.

The Bible has the birthdates of Andrew’s children written on one page inside it. A page with the youngest child’s birth date was lost when the Bible was given to a university for a study, Roger said he was told.

Roger, 67, was tracking down his family history online when he came across a picture of Andrew’s grave and pictures of the opening page of the Bible and names on the back of the Bible.

From his online search, Roger knew the Bible existed, but he did not know who owned it.

Roger drove from Worcester to Jonesville, Va., location of the Lee County Historical and Genealogical Society. There, he visited Andrew’s nearby grave at Robert Clark Cemetery and stopped at Thompson Settlement Baptist Church, where Andrew was a pastor more than 200 years ago.

The church clerk, Carolyn Jerrell, told Roger she had an idea of who might have the Bible.

Jerrell put him in touch with a woman who took him to Delores Ramsey, across the state line in Tennessee, he said.

Ramsey, 74, had the old Bible. It turned out that when the Bakers moved west to Ohio probably more than 100 years ago, the Bible stayed with the Ramsey family.

“Somebody in the Baker family gave it to the Ramsey family for safekeeping,” and it was passed down through their family, Roger said.

Ramsey gave Roger the Bible, and he will soon give it to the Lee County historical society, he said.

“It’s always nice to hold something in your hand and say my fifth-great-grandfather read from this and people heard it,” Roger said.

Roger said the Bakers eventually came to Idaho and homesteaded in Deary in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Roger said he has driven to California, Oregon, Washington and now Idaho to share the Bible with his family.

Roger said the family will remember the Baker family members who are buried at Elwood Cemetery and revisit old stories.

On his way home, Roger said, he will show the Bible to his daughter in Georgia and his son in Alabama, and then drop the Bible off at the Lee County historical society, along with a notebook signed by those who have seen the Bible.

Roger said that usually when tracing your ancestry you are likely to find only a name and possibly a date of birth and a date of death on a tombstone.

He actually has physical evidence of what his fifth-great-grandfather did, and who he was.

“I look at this (Bible), and I get a sense of this is where my family began,” Roger said.

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