Military New Testaments and a Great Grandmother’s Bible

The earliest Bible handed down in my family is Great Grandmother Laura Goff’s, next to a doily she made decades later.

Written on a black hard-to-read page inside is “Laura Goff, Key West, Minn.” Looks like she may have paid $1.35 for it. The Goff family moved to Minnesota with eight children 1903, and moved back to Iowa in 1905 with another baby.

Inside the old Bible are the military IDs for Laura Goff’s three sons (Jennings, Merl, and Wayne) who served in WWI, also the two who served in WWII (Rolla and Clarence).

Next is her daughter Leora’s note, “Mother read this Bible twice when she was with Clarence in Omaha.” (That would have been in the late 1930s.)

Under that is Laura’s signature and a notation that she joined the M.E. church at Dexter, Iowa, March 14, 1937, and was baptized there on March 28, 1937 (which was Easter Sunday) by Rev. J. H. Freedline. This is interesting because she’d moved to Omaha in 1935 and was living with her sons and two motherless grandchildren. She must have been visiting Leora’s family in Dexter when she joined the church (where she’d attended during the late 1920s and early 1930s) and was baptized.

This page is interesting because it notes that the Bible is a “Self-Pronouncing Edition” and was published by the American Branch of Oxford University Press.

“Translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by his majesty’s special command.”

“Appointed to be read in churches,” it says.



World War I New Testament

The tobacco can wasn’t Clabe Wilson’s, but Prince Albert was his brand, noted in the old letters as his “P.A.” This was his pipe, and the WWI New Testament, probably one of Leora’s brother’s.


There’s no date in this one, but “The President’s Message” is by Woodrow Wilson, so would have been given to those who served in WWI. It probably belonged to one of Leora Wilson’s brothers.

The last paragraph reads, “When you have read the bible you will know that it is the World of God, because you will have found it the key to your own heart, your own happiness, and your own duty.”

This one plays a role in Chapter 30 of Leora’s Dexter Stories, when Clabe is comforted by verses about gossip.


World War II New Testaments

Claiborne Junior Wilson

Junior Wilson’s New Testament has pilot’s wings on it. The note is from President Franklin Roosevelt. “As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who served in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It’s a foundation of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.”

There are several clippings inside, along with this prayer in Leora’s handwriting.




Daniel S. Wilson

On September 26, 1945, a carton of Dan Wilson’s things arrived at the Wilson acreage south of Perry–sent from the Army Effects Bureau of the Kansas City Quartermaster Depot.

Clabe signed for the box. I suppose they opened it, but did they sort through their son’s eighteen pairs of socks, five cotton undershirts, three khaki trousers, and other clothing?  If they had, they would have found Danny’s wrist watch, souvenirs of his R and R to Rome over Christmas, a fountain pen, other items including a small New Testament.

Yes, the war was over, but life just kept on and on. . . .

According to Leora’s notes, she churned butter every week. Two cows had calves. Clabe helped a neighbor with field work.

At some point, they would have thumbed through the Danny’s small New Testament.

They would have found the page with the American flag pictured in color.

I believe this legacy of faith in God, from Great Grandmother’s self-pronouncing Bible to the military New Testaments, helped Leora Wilson’s family get through the Great Depression and the terrible losses of WWII with hope, resilience, and determination.

Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II and Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression have more stories about the Wilson family.


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