Family’s Bible story at key juncture
Margaret R. Baker Williams is desperately seeking Margaret Ann Holmes Rhodes so she can pass along to her a valuable family heirloom after she dies.
Williams, 85, of Grand Junction, inherited a 178-year-old Bible from her cousin, Margaret L. Holmes Pruett, after she died in 1999.
It’s a family tradition that’s approaching 200 years: passing along the dilapidated and well-used Bible to the next in line with the Christian name of Margaret.
But, after five generations, Williams’ family has become so vast and fragmented that finding the proper heir has required a lot of detective work. She’s starting to worry that perhaps she won’t find the next Margaret.
“I’m trying to find her so the tradition can continue through our family,” Williams said. “But if I can’t find Margaret Ann, then I don’t know what I’ll have to do with it.”
The Bible was printed in 1832 and was owned by Margaret J. Rogers Holmes until 1869. She came from a well-to-do family from England. She was married to a blacksmith and lived in Mameroneck in Westchester County, N.Y., where most likely she and her husband originally purchased the Bible.
Holmes passed the book to her daughter, Margaret C. Holmes Harris, who kept it for 63 years until her death in 1932.
Then, Holmes gave the book to Margaret L. Holmes Pruett, who kept the book safe for another 67 years, before passing it on to Williams.
Williams is the great-great-granddaughter of the first Margaret Holmes.
“(The Bible) makes me feel closer to all of them. It gives me a sense of permanence and longevity,” Williams said.
After some thought, she added, “I don’t know how to describe it … it’s just a real warm feeling.”
The book has traveled farther west with each new owner, from New York, to Peoria, Ill., to Kansas City, Kan., and now Grand Junction.
The book was rebound in 1966, but now many of the brown and brittle pages are held together by tape.
Inside the large volume, the Margarets have stashed mementos of their lives. There’s a picture of a colonial dress pattern, a lock of an unknown person’s hair, an advertisement for “Best Scouring Soap,” 3-cent stamps and poems about the Lord.
“This book has been used,” Williams said with a laugh.
She removed most of the memorabilia from between the pages for fear it was adding to the decomposition of the book. She plans on wrapping the what-nots in acid-free paper and will keep them outside of the book.
Williams said she believed most of the Margarets were probably Protestant, but she is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her religion is renowned for keeping excellent records about family history.
The Bible itself would have been one of the first printed in the United States after the Revolutionary War. It was printed by Carter and Hendee in Boston.
“To me, this book is just priceless,” Williams said. “In my mind it is the Bible because of the history of it.”
Between the Old and New Testaments are a few pages where the Margarets kept a family history, recording marriages, deaths and births for the past five generations.
“There’s no more room left,” Williams said.
With the help of her daughter, Dorothy Summerville, Williams has been writing a complete genealogy, including as much detailed information about the family as she can. The hardest part, Williams said, is getting the family to send her new information, then verifying that information for accuracy.
Margaret Rhodes, next in line to accept the book, is likely about 65 years old, and Williams believes she may be living somewhere in Colorado. If anyone knows of her location, she asks that they call 970-314-7676.