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Historic Bible found at thrift shop, returned to family

Staff Writer

A unique family Bible was found by former librarian Barb Draper at the Methodist Thrift Shop earlier this year and returned to the family by history and genealogy enthusiast, part-time local and thrift shop volunteer Joyce Chiles Hines.

Draper explained that she knew immediately that the Shobe Bible was historically significant. Extremely large, with a beautifully decorated cover, the Bible contains many family pages on which historic information was recorded, including births, deaths and marriages.

Additionally, the words “Isabel from her Father,” were inscribed on the front of the Bible.

Furthermore, Draper noted that it was a centennial Bible, published in 1876.

“I always put old books and classics aside,” said Draper. “They may look ratty and torn, but I don’t put them on the shelf right away. Instead, I wait for inquiries from locals and others with special interests.”

Don Ford, minister at the Community United Methodist Church, and the thrift shop manager Jennifer Lindberg have decided that the thrift shop staff will always set aside historical and genealogically important books. If there is no local interest in the books, thrift shop volunteers can look for homes for them and, if an interested party is found, the book is delivered to them at no charge, although the shop does ask the recipient to pay for shipping, if necessary. Over time, about 12 historical books have been successfully returned to interested parties or families, including the Shobe Bible.

At the thrift shop, all religious books are set aside and Bibles are donated or given away, but the Shobe Bible stood out both because of its intricacy and size as well as because of the family information it contained.

After finding the Bible, Draper contacted Hines, an avid genealogist and active member of Daughters of the American Revolution, a group that registers family Bibles, as well as doing other projects involving historical preservation, genealogy and education. Upon examining the Bible, Hines noted the documentation of when Isabel, later discovered to be the daughter of Preston Leslie, who served both as governor of Kentucky and the Territory of Montana during his political career, married Weller Shobe.

Noting this information, Hines posted an inquiry about the relation of the Shobe family to the Bible on a forum on geneology.com and received a response from one Stewart Otts — not a family member, but an interested party who knew one of the descendants of the Shobe family.

Otts explained to Hines that Draper had found an extremely historic Bible. In addition to Leslie serving as governor of both Kentucky and the Territory of Montana, the son-in-law of Isabel and Weller Shobe, Samuel Ford, also served as the governor of Montana. Weller Shobe was also a well-known philanthropist in Montana and the president of the Montana Orphans Home. It was discovered that Samuel Ford was related to the family through the documentation of Mary Shobe Ford’s birth. Mary Shobe Ford was the daughter of Isabel and Waller Shobe.

The daughter of Gov. Ford and Mary Shobe Ford, Betty Ford, then married Dr. Melbourne Jackson and it was the daughter of Betty and Melbourne, Laurie Jackson Steinbock, who first contacted Hines about the Shobe Bible.

Eventually, Hines delivered the Bible to Ginny Jackson, wife of Gary Jackson, Laurie Jackson Steinbock’s brother. The two met just outside of San Diego, Calif.

“It was a wonderful genealogical experience,” said Hines. “I love family history, even if it isn’t mine.”

The family is unsure of how the Methodist Thrift Shop could have come across the Bible, and volunteers and staff do not know who donated it. However, the Jacksons would like to know who donated the Bible, hoping this information could help them discover a portion of their family that they believe exists, but have never been in contact with.

The family is still deciding what to do with the Bible, but the last time Hines heard from Laurie Jackson, the family was considering donating the Shobe Bible to the Montana State Historical Society. Before the Shobe Bible was returned to descendants of the Shobe family, it was registered and digitized by the National Society of The Daughters of the American Revolution.

Anyone who has additional information about descendants of the Shobe family or about the Shobe Bible is welcome to contact the Methodist Thrift Shop at 264-2572.

This story was posted on January 2, 2014.