Mississippi governor’s Bible uncovered in Washington state after 100-year, 2,500-mile journey

Published 2:21 pm Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Sumas (Washington) Museum frequently sees items and artifacts donated that are related to the history of the town. It’s not often that a Bible from the 1800s comes in the doors, particularly one with historic ties to 2,500 miles away, but that’s exactly what happened in April.

Suzanne Lee, one of the museum’s volunteers, brought in an old Bible one day, said co-director Gail Kihn.

Lee didn’t know anything about the history of this particular Bible, only that it was obtained by her husband while they were living in Los Lunas, New Mexico.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“He was cleaning out an apartment for a real estate company that managed those apartments,” Kihn said. “He didn’t want to throw the Bible away, so he just took it home with him. So they’ve had it all these years.”

Lee recently moved to Sumas after her husband’s death and donated the book to the museum. Kihn began trying to determine the history of it.

The inside cover of the Bible was stamped with the name E.F. (Edmond Favor) Noel and the location of Lexington, Mississippi. First unusual discovery: Noel served as the 37th governor of Mississippi from 1908 to 1912.

Kihn said she then contacted Lee to find out more on how it came into her possession. But mostly the story needs to be pieced together. “The journey this Bible has been on is just incredible,” Kihn surmises.

A letter postmarked October 1915 and addressed to Mrs. E. F. Noel, Lexington, Mississippi, was found in the Bible. Noel’s wife, Alice, was integral to the restoration of the governor’s mansion and capitol building about that time, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Mentioned in the letter was Mrs. Dunbar Rowland, wife of the founder and director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History from 1902 until his death in 1937. The return address on the letter was of Mrs. Alice Talbert Turner, with the seal of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Kihn said she was amazed at the good condition of the Bible considering its age.

“Everything in here is pretty well preserved except for the few pages in the beginning that are torn, but the rest of it, for being that old, is in pretty good condition,” she said.

After figuring out the Bible was deeply connected to the state of Mississippi, Kihn agreed with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in June to donate it to the museum in Jackson, the capital city. So it will be wrapped up and sent south in the coming weeks.

“They’re excited because they have a collection of [Noel’s] things at the museum there,” Kihn said. “They’re going to add on to it, especially since the letter mentions the Mississippi archives and history, too.”

This article is reprinted with permission of the Lynden (Washington) Tribune newspaper.