Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Bible of Catharine Nickeson

When I bought this Bible from an historical society years and years ago, I assumed it was probably not the Bible of my ancestor Catharine Nickeson Smith, but I thought I’d take a chance.  It was from 1860, about the right time frame, but sure enough, it wasn’t hers.  But there was something about it that immediately drew me to an obsession to know who this Catharine Nickeson was.
This book was not a display piece, or a table-top book.  The old, worn brown Bible had obviously seen a lot of use in the 150 years since Catharine obtained it.  While the spine was strong, the pages were delicate, and the handwriting faded.  A poem or verse of some sort was written in pencil, only partially readable, but in dark pen was written “Catharine Nickeson’s Book, April 14, 1860”. 

Thumbing through it, I discovered several pages with old, dried leaves between them, some very intricate and unusual looking, like no plant I had seen before, all nestled in their hiding places.  But there, on the unprinted pages between the Old Testament and the New Testament was, in many different pens, over many different years, names and dates, births and deaths of those whom Catharine had held dear.  Her children, their spouses, her grandchildren – all the events of their lives had taken on immortality between the pages of Catharine’s Book.  Seeing her handwriting, shakier as the years went on, I could almost feel the pain as she recorded the births, and then deaths, of several of her children, some young, some older.  It was as if all of the emotion at these events had been locked within the fragile pages of her dear book.
I set about the work of getting to know Catharine Nickeson.  As her Bible told me, she was born April 2, 1833, and her husband, Lambert, or “Lam” as she referred to him, was born November 20, 1821.  They lived in Washington county, Maryland, and in 1850, their household was as follows:
Lambert “Nichoson”, 26, laborer
    Catharine, 28
    Mary E., 7
    Margaret A., 5
    Susan H., 2
    James A., 6/12
    Nancy Daynatt, 18 (Catharine later named one of her daughters Nancy – is this perhaps her sister?)
In 1880, I found them again, in Clear Spring, of Washington county:
Lambert NICKERSON, 58, Farm Laborer
     Catharine, Wife, 58
     Nancy, Daughter, 21
     Mattie, Daughter,  12
And I found them again, for the final time, in 1900, also in Clear Spring:
Clear Spring, Washington, Maryland, Image 28/42
Nickison, Lambert, 78
     Catherine, wife, 78
Interestingly, this last census notes that neither Lambert nor Catherine can read or write.  Error?  Or is there more to the story?
The birth and death entries in the Bible are -
Isaih Denton Hull was born October 4, 1869 
George Lewis Hughs 1847 was born January the 7
Elizabeth Nickeson was born June 28, 1854
Nancy Nickeson June 11, 1858
Rebecca Nickeson born April 13, 1861
Infant daughter of Lam and Catherine Nickeson born May 4, 1865
Rebecca Mills departed this life February 24, 1876
Lizzie Kelley baby was born September the 25 1890
Catherine Nickeson born April 2, 1822
Lambert Nickeson born November 20, 1821
Roseanna Hughs was born January the 27 1851
Elizabeth Host departed this life April the 14 1847
Roseanna Hughs departed this life January 20 1873
Marget Annie Kelley departed this life September the 18 1892
William Kelley was born July 16 17 A.D. 1878
Annie Rebecca Kelley was born March 15th A.D. 1880
Annie Rebecca Kelley departed this life March 20th 1880
Effie Kelley was born September the 5 188(6?)
Bessie May Kelley was born October the 10 188(5?)
I’m still trying to sort everyone out, but what I’d like to know most is what happened to Lam and Catharine?  I have been trying to find obituaries for them, and hopefully will be able to learn more about them and their lives.


  1. Oh I so identify with you. I find a family and the need to put them together becomes overwhelming. Good for you.

  2. I once found the ugliest bible ever at a antique store, I browsed it and mentioned it on ancestry.com post. It had names I knew of with my family but saw no connection. Waiting a week, I decided to go back and get it, maybe it was purchased by someone who read it. I was told they bought the antique sofa there. Anyway, nice find and enjoyed reading. I love coincidents and they happen a lot.

  3. Hello, I came across your post after doing a Google search on some of my ancestors. I believe the Bible that you have belonged to my great-great-great grandmother. Lam and Catherine's daughter Rebecca married a young man by the name of John H Mills. Rebecca and John had a number of children, one of which was named Ruth Ellen Mills. Ruth married George Albert Robinson and in 1928 they had my maternal grandmother, Mary Ellen Robinson. I am so very happy to know that someone is taking good care of a part of our history. This is a side of my family that I am not very familiar with as most of them had already passed away before I was born and the family history was only recounted in bits and pieces that could be remembered by my few remaining great aunts and uncles.

    1. Mindy, contact me at karenh_55904@yahoo.com

    2. Hi...I, too, just came across this post will searching Google for my ancestors. I am also related to Lambert and Catharine Nickerson. Their daughter Rebecca also had a son named James Fred Mills. That was my great-grandfather. Through research, I have found that the last name Nicholson has also been used. Rebecca died young in 1896 and is buried in a Mennonite Cemetery in Washington Co., MD. Her husband John was left to raise a slew of kids. I don't have much information on Rebecca's side of the family so finding your post is very exciting.


    3. Hi Amanda,

      My family recalls hearing of Uncle Fred from my great-grandmother Ruth, who was Rebecca's daughter. I too have hit a wall while researching the Nickerson branch of the family. If you are interested, you can contact me at mindyann2467@gmail.com.