SPRINGFIELD – A bible that belonged to Abraham Lincoln in his final year of life has been donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Mary Lincoln gave the bible to family friend Noyes W. Miner in 1872, according to a statement issued Thursday by the museum. Miner was a Baptist minister who had lived across the street from the Lincolns in Springfield for several years.
Miner and his descendants kept the bible for nearly 150 years before giving it to the museum.
“We feel that Lincoln’s bible belongs to the American people as a national treasure. Lincoln is our most revered president and this bible will be a constant connection to his incredible life,” said Sandra Wolcott Willingham, the great-great-granddaughter of Noyes Miner.
“President Lincoln once called the bible ‘the best gift God has given to man.’ Now Rev. Miner’s family has made a gift of Lincoln’s own bible so that it can be shared with everyone,” said museum Executive Director Alan Lowe.
The bible will be exhibited in the museum’s Treasures Gallery for the rest of 2019.
An inscription on the front of the Bible says it was given to Lincoln by “the Ladies of the Citizens Volunteer Hospital of Philadelphia.” It was probably presented on June 16, 1864, when Lincoln visited Philadelphia for a “sanitary fair” to raise money for medical care of Union soldiers. He contributed signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation to the fundraising effort.
The back says, “Mrs. Abraham Lincoln to N.W. Miner, D. D., Oct. 15, 1872.” In a surviving letter to Miner, Mrs. Lincoln mentions giving him the Bible.
Lincoln frequently visited Miner’s home when they were neighbors. Miner was among the VIPs who escorted Lincoln’s body from Chicago to Springfield. He also spoke at Lincoln’s funeral, reading from the Book of Job.
Miner kept in touch with Mary Lincoln after the president’s death and supported her efforts to obtain a federal pension. She rewarded his years of friendship with the very personal gift of Lincoln’s Bible engraved with her name.
A Miner descendant, William Prescott Wolcott of San Francisco, is the person who formally donated the bible.
Mary Lincoln was furious over claims by his former law partner, William Herndon, that Lincoln had been an atheist. Giving the bible to Miner may have been a way to encourage the reverend to offer an alternative view on Lincoln’s beliefs.