Published in SGES Quarterly September 2006 Volume 47, No. 199

THE CAPTURED BIBLE
J. G. Braddock Sr.

Photos courtesy DeKalb Historical Society

Thank God for the Golden Rule. Or perhaps I should say thank God for those who practice it. And I’m glad to say it is practiced by most who engage in the madness of researching their ancestors. Because of them, I have been able to expand my database—not only in the number of people but also in the amount of flesh I have been able to add to many of them—far beyond the size of what it would be if I had done it all by myself. I am constantly receiving information, solicited and unsolicited, in the form of obituaries, articles, web page links, photos, gedcoms, tips, and lengthy emails of genealogy laboriously keyed in from generous fellow researchers.  I received the most amazing piece of such information July 17, 2006.

My Wood ancestry means a lot to me. My Grandma Braddock was a Wood. After her son—my father— died when I was five, my brother and I lived with her and her old maid sister for two years. Their house on Buckman Street in Jacksonville , the second house from the sandy ruts of 7th Street , consisted of only two small rooms whose walls and ceiling were bare of any covering. A fireplace provided the only heat in winter and open windows provided the only air conditioning the rest of the year. The bathroom, in which we had to break the ice in the commode on cold winter mornings, was added onto the back end of the house almost as an afterthought. Much of what we ate came from a box of groceries a WPA truck dropped off once a week at Mann’s Store up the block on the corner of 8th for us to pick up. Yet, from the royal treatment lavished on us in our sojourn in that house, it was to us like living in a royal palace.

To add to our youthful pleasure, the neighborhood between Buckman and Tallyrand teemed with young cousins: Kinseys, Mainors, Hardens, Parnells—all Wood descendants—with whom we engaged in Tom Sawyer-like escapades almost every day. Some days, we played cops and robbers in the vast woods beyond the 7th Street railroad track. Other days, we played in and on tops of boxcars parked on the track. We skated at least once a week the 16 blocks up 8th to Main Street and slipped into the Capitol Theater after one of us paid ten cents to get in and unhooked the bathroom skylight for the rest of us to enter.  Our cousins took us on our first snipe hunt in a thick woods off 9th Street called Happy Hunting Grounds and chose my brother and I to have the honor of holding the bag. They also gave us a crash course in swimming by throwing us into the St. Johns from the Wilson and Toomer Fertilizer docks at the foot of 8th Street . Once, they rowed us across the St. Johns and back in a “borrowed” boat.

The quality that most endears my Wood relatives to me is there caring about others, especially their kinfolks, and their willingness to express it in concrete ways. Another of Grandma’s sisters lived a few blocks away at the corner of Danese and 7th. Although the sister was a widow with several children still at home, anytime she saw my brother and I in her yard at mealtime, she drug us inside and plunked us down at her table. One of Grandma’s nephews worked as a baker at nearby Ambrosia Bakery and made her a weekly recipient of a generous supply of reject fig bars, cakes, and cookies. Another nephew, who worked at the King Edward cigar factory, stopped by every few days on his bicycle on the way from work just to sit an hour or two to chat and see if there were chores he could do. Grandma’s youngest son, my late Uncle Eddie, had a wide-spread reputation for reaching out to others in need, including fulfilling for my brother and I many of the tasks of a father after our father died. One of her nieces died, leaving eight children from three to eighteen and a husband earning a meager salary. Yet, if we were at there house playing with some of them at lunch time, they became highly insulted if you didn’t have lunch with them, which most times consisted of no more than a slice of bread with cream and sugar on it and a glass of water.

The crowning example of the Wood family’s caring occurred when my Grandfather Braddock developed tuberculosis at the relatively young age of 42 and could no longer continue working as a section foreman for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. This was in a time when there was no workman’s compensation or other employee benefits to tide you over in time of injury or sickness. According to family lore, and which the 1920 Dowling Park , Florida census confirms, his brother-in-law, Ed Wood, who already had taken into his home and care a sister and an orphaned nephew, made my grandparents and their two youngest children—my father and my Uncle Eddie—part of his household. Even after my grandfather’s death within weeks after the 1920 census was taken, Grandma and her sons continued to live with Ed until the sons were grown and had found jobs in Jacksonville .

After getting bitten by the genealogy bug, being as equally proud of my Wood ancestry as I am my Braddock ancestry , I set out piecing together their limb of my ancestry. One of my Harden cousins gave me a copy of a genealogy compiled by another cousin, the late Annie Wood Taylor, who I knew when we both were little more than toddlers. Annie had traced our Wood ancestry back to a Thomas Wood who died in Gwinnett County, Georgia April 5, 1827, and his wife, Mary, last name unknown. According to Annie, one of their ten children, William Lewis, married Elizabeth Jane Pendley. William Rufus, one of their children, married Amy Jane Willingham and had six children. Shortly after the last was born, the family moved from the Atlanta area to South Georgia , then to the Lake City, Florida area and my grandmother met and married my grandfather.

Combining Annie’s information and information solicited from many cousins with what I knew, I put together a fair Wood genealogy, although it consists mostly of the descendants of William Rufus who migrated to Florida . I then made a web page of it to share with other Wood researchers: http://www.woodenshipsironmen.com/MyWoods.htm.

Very little happened in the genealogy since I compiled it four years ago, certainly nothing surprising or exciting. Then, an email I received July 17, 2006 from Verna Mae Braddock Campbell, a fellow researcher and Braddock cousin, but of no kin to my Wood family, suddenly changed that. Her message started out, “These Wood names are in your Wood family.” She then went on to inform me that the previous day’s issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution contained an article, “Angel returns stolen Bible from Civil War-era,” by Ernie Suggs, about the Bible of William L. Wood and his wife Elizabeth J. Pendley—my ancestors.

A quick search of the Internet turned up the article on the newspaper’s web site. It told of the family Bible of William L. Wood being “Captured in Decatur , Georgia . July 20th 1864,”—as inscribed on the Bible’s opening pageby Union soldier Amariah Spencer 140 years ago during the Battle of Decatur who took it back to Ohio and used it as his own, even to the point of recording his family’s marriages, births, and deaths in it. The interesting article goes on to tell of the Bible being passed on to Amariah’s son Wilbur before falling into the hands of Howard Winsor who kept it 63 years before deciding to be an “angel” by sending it to the DeKalb Historical Society in Decatur.

 

In a state of euphoria, I immediately emailed DeKalb Historical Society. After explaining that William L. Lewis was my 2nd great-grandfather, I asked if any photos of the Bible were available. An email arrived from the Historical Society the next day with nine beautiful color pictures of the Bible and several of its pages. The pictures were so clear that I could easily read the entries made by my 2nd great-grandfather of his marriage to Elizabeth Jane Pendley, their birth dates, and those of his eight children through the one born in 1859. For some reason, although the Bible was not “captured” until June 20th, 1864, the name of a son born in 1862 is not listed. Neither is the name of a daughter born in 1864, which is understandable.

 
The Golden Rule has been the catalyst for many a miracle. And the return of William Lewis’ Bible is nothing less than a miracle to us who descend from him.

 

 

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