Thursday, August 20, 2009

How the Stockbridge Bible Made News in the 1920's

You may remember how I tracked the whereabouts of the Stockbridge Bible from Jameson "Sote" Quinney's house to the safe on the altar of the Sergeant Memorial Church and then back to Quinney's house again (before going on to a bank in Shawano and then being sold to Mabel Choate). Of course we'll never know why Sote Quinney brought the two sacred volumes back to his house, but I think it has something to do with rumors he may have been aware of that outsiders wanted the tribal Bible.

Sote Quinney could have learned of those rumors by word of mouth, and he may also have read an article that came out in the newspapers of two "white" towns in 1927. On July 27th of that year, the Shawano Advocate published an article that was also printed in the Wittenburg Enterprise the next day. The article, as I noted in my Spring, 2007 paper printed in The Book Collector, was "full of racial bias and lacked accuracy."

Maybe you can make out some of the words of the article. It starts out by saying "Few Shawano county citizens know that locked securely in a strong safe in the little Presbyterian chuch at Red Springs is the Bible which was presented to the Stockbridge Indians by George III in 1742 when he was then Prince of Wales." Relatively minor details like who exactly gave the tribe its Bible and when the gift was made can be overlooked, but it gets worse.

The newspapers claimed that Quinney found the Stockbridge Bible in "an old rubbish heap." This claim is clearly a caricature of Rev. Earl North's report (which I consider quite reliable). According to North, the two volumes had been "found in a deserted house" and later brought to Sote Quinney because he was a spiritual and political leader of the tribe.

Anyway, I don't think we can consider the newspaper article to be reliable, but, nevertheless, I feel it won't hurt to include a few lines of it here:

Quinney kept this sacred book in his possession for thirty years. Ten years ago he consented to leave it in a small safe in the church. The combination of this safe is a secret, nobody but Quinney knowing how to obtain the Bible....

Quinney has been in ill health for some time, and it is expected that he will give the combination to Rev. McGreaham, pastor of the church for several years, before he dies.

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