He arrived at the Mebane Historical Museum in a shoebox tied with a black lace. A piece of paper has been glued to the top of the box with the words “Mebane Bible” scrawled in Sharpie. The dented book has a pointed message on its first page; “I want my daughter Emma C. Mebane to have this book when I’m dead which won’t be long because I’m 77 years olde year. Mary B. Mebane.
Giles Mebane, board member of the Mebane Historical Museum, and his family have donated countless artifacts important to the history of the Mebane family since the museum opened in its current location in 2010. This gift is more than the Bible that the family used for worship; it contains family records from 1837 to 1954. Carefully written entries that Giles Mebane jokingly calls “the children’s pages” detail marriages, births and deaths for generations of Mebanes. The names that can still be found in the area today exemplify the breadth and breadth of the Mebane family’s reach when it came to marrying local people. Yancy, Graves and Holt, to name a few.
Before regional governments collected such information, most families used the family Bible as a journal of life events. Bible publishing companies began to include specific pages for such entries as the exteriors became more ornate. Despite the high literacy rate of the early Protestant settlers, most homes had only one book. The combination of the value of the sacred text of the Bible with family history has made the object an esteemed possession.
This practice was so pervasive that birth dates found in Family Bibles are still accepted as secondary birth documents when applying for a passport, proof of citizenship, or eligibility for pension benefits when civil registers have not been registered.
The Mebane family Bible is in the main gallery of the museum. Portrait of an Alamance Women is the current exhibition, The makers of modern Mebane, A story of two buildings, Joe Thompson and More of Mebane’s Story is on view Tuesday through Friday 10 – 2 and Saturday 10 – 3.