The TWO Bible Records of Benjamin Pettit (1769) of Spartanburg Co., SC and Their Whereabouts Today

By Brandon

The Two Bibles

The story of how copies of the Benjamin Pettit (1769) family bible records have come down to us through the ages is one of intrigue. There are actually two distinct bible records in circulation among researchers which contain similar lists of the births of Benjamin and Elizabeth Pettit’s children. There is one slight variance between the two but that error will become less significant once the origin of these two records is understood.  So let’s look at both documents.

The first we will call Exhibit 1.  It is two pages and they are both shown below:

Benjamin Pettit Bible 1

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Benjamin Pettit Bible 2

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The second we will call Exhibit 2. It is also two pages and shown below:

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It has been definitively proven, in court no less, that Exhibit 1 is the copy that belonged to Benjamin Pettit (b.1769) and Elizabeth (Hindman) Pettit.  Benjamin was the son of Joshua and Rachel Pettit of Spartanburg Co., SC. This record consists of the front and back side of a single leaf which was torn from Benjamin’s family bible and submitted along with the Revolutionary War Pension application of the family of Archibald McCravy.[1] It is the older of the two bible records. Though this was without a doubt Benjamin’s bible, the record of the children that Benjamin kept was not penned by his own hand. In this paper we will determine who wrote the original Benjamin Pettit bible record, where the other record came from and where both records can be found today.

The Story

In 1794 Archibald McCravy and his wife Jane were living near Benjamin and Elizabeth Pettit on Cane Creek on the north side of the Tiger River in Spartanburg Co., SC. The families were close neighbors and both attended Friendship Baptist Church together.[2] Jane McCravy was expecting her first child but the McCravy household was far from empty. Archibald and his former wife, who is said to have been a Hembree, had brought eleven children into the world.[3] Archibald’s previous wife had died leaving the widower scrambling for help and so it would seem he quickly tied the knot with Jane Cathcart in the fall of 1793. Archibald and Jane “run off and got married.”[4] The running off part was necessitated by the fact that the marriage was against Jane’s father’s will.[5] It is not known why he opposed the marriage but it may have had something to do with the fact that Archibald was 26 years Jane’s senior and even 4 years older than Jane’s father. Archibald came calling for Jane after she had been sent off to a neighbor’s house to learn to “spin wool”.[6] Her father heard of Archibald’s intentions and brought her back home to his house in an attempt to prevent the marriage. She was 26 years old at the time and fear of being an unmarried “old spinster” may have possibly been a factor in what seemed like a hasty marriage. Though done without the father’s blessing, it was a legal marriage performed by Thomas Farrow in the presence of William Chesney who was a friend of both Archibald and Jane.[7] It would also prove to be a fruitful one as Jane was said to have eventually brought 11 children of her own into the family.[8]

By the time summer of 1794 arrived they were married and expecting. The McCravys weren’t the only ones awaiting a new baby though. The Pettits were too. History tells us on the evening of July 18, 1794, the midwife for the area was a very busy woman. Just after she aided Jane McCravy in delivering a baby girl they named Nancy, a friend of the Pettits by the name of Sarah Clark arrived with an urgent message. Before the midwife had time to even dress the newborn her presence was demanded at the Pettit place.[9] Elizabeth Pettit had gone into labor as well. Thankfully the houses were not far from each other (according to the deposition of Sarah Clark) and the midwife made the dark trip from the McCravy’s to the Pettit’s under some scant moonlight.[10] A daughter was also safely born to the Pettits that summer night. They named her Rachel, possibly after Benjamin Pettit’s mother.

Many years later, after Archibald and the older Pettit parents had passed on, widow Jane McCravy, in need of some support, attempted to file for a pension under Archibald’s Revolutionary War Account. The courts required proof that Jane and Archibald had been married but their marriage record was strangely missing.[11] To overcome this lack of proof, several family friends testified on her behalf and eventually the court determined that Jane and Archibald were married the year before their first child together was born. Everyone easily remembered that this child was born on the same night as the Pettit’s child but nobody had a way to prove the exact date. To corroborate the testimonies of these friends in an age before vital records, a family bible record would be required. Unfortunately, the McCravy family had no such record. The Pettits on the other hand, did. However, coaxing this precious family possession from them was not easy. Andrew Harrison was the person who would ultimately be tasked with obtaining the Pettit bible record and forwarding it on to the court. In a letter accompanying this information on October 15, 1846, he wrote:

You will confer a great favor of me and Mrs. McCravy the return of the family record for it was with much difficulty that we [procured?] it. We had to bind ourselves to return the leaf that contains the recording to the family before we could get it from them and if it is not returned it will be [tendered?] with difficulty on our part.[12]

Apparently this old bible was a prized heirloom of the Pettit family already by 1846. The Pettits did more than just fork over their family bible record though. Just three days prior, on October 12, 1846, Andrew Pettit, youngest son of Benjamin, appeared before the Magistrate in Spartanburg District Court.  He was  35 years old at the time.  He testified under oath that the family record he had was:

The original family record of his father and mother and that it is in the hand writing of Aaron Pettit and it has been written for many years and it had been in the possession of the family ever since it was written…[13]

According to Andrew, Arron Pettit, the oldest son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Pettit was the person who wrote the record of marriages and births in the bible for Benjamin. The last record matching Aaron’s handwriting was the birth of John Howard in 1816. Aaron Pettit died shortly thereafter in 1817 at the age of 21. After that date the recording continued but with a distinctly different hand.

On page 9 of the McCravy account, Andrew Pettit further stated that he had had ownership of the bible since the death of his father Benjamin. This affidavit also included a transcript of the birth records which was made in order to assure Andrew that he would be getting his original copy back. The record was furnished to the court with the expectation that it would be examined, copied, and returned.  Indeed two of those expectations were realized. It was examined and copied by hand but, probably much to the dismay of Andrew Pettit, it was never returned.

Nevertheless, the court was only interested in the record that established the facts pertinent to the case before them so Andrew was allowed to keep the rest of his family bible, minus this one very special page.  What we see in Exhibit 1 above is a copy of the Benjamin Pettit bible record taken directly from the McCravy Revolutionary War account at the National Archives where it is located today.  This was the page Andrew removed and forfeited.

Bible Record #2

The second record we have of the children of Benjamin and Elizabeth is the one seen in Exhibit 2.  A letter from Sam Layton Pettit that has been graciously given to this researcher indicates this record was photocopied from an actual family bible which had been handed down to Clyde Pettit, Jr.  Like Sam Layton Pettit, Clyde was a descendant of Benjamin Pettit through his son Andrew.  The old book had managed to stay in the Pettit family all the way down to Clyde.

With that in mind, note the page numbers at the top of the record in Exhibit 1 and compare them to the page numbers at the top of Exhibit 2. It is evident these different records are in fact, sequentially numbered pages. (677, 678, 679 and 680) Also note that the word at the top of the first column on Exhibit 2 is scratched out and replaced with the hand written word “Births”.  It’s as if Andrew’s bible was missing the page to records births and someone had to modify the heading on the next available page. What this obviously means is that this record (Exhibit 2) was a hand copied duplicate of the original information (Exhibit 1) and it was written on the very next set of pages in the same book.  It probably went something like this:

  • Benjamin and Elizabeth’s oldest son Aaron recorded the birth and marriage information for Benjamin in his family bible (producing Exhibit 1).
  • When Benjamin died in 1831, the youngest son, Andrew took possession of Benjamin’s bible as he stated in his affidavit.
  • He furnished the bible record to the court in 1846 by tearing out the one leaf.
  • The original information from this leaf was hand copied onto the next page in the bible (producing Exhibit 2) and Andrew kept the Benjamin Pettit bible.

Thus the Andrew Pettit bible that has been passed down through the years in the Spartanburg area is actually from one generation older than Andrew. It is one in the same as the original Benjamin Pettit (1769) bible. This old book was around when Benjamin’s children learned to write and was probably carried with the family to Friendship Baptist Church on Sundays in the late 1790’s and 1800’s. It somehow managed to survive well into the 20th century.

A Problem? Elizabeth Hindman or Herndon?

A discrepancy between the two records exists that has been the subject of debate for at least a few decades now.  Was Benjamin Pettit’s wife Elizabeth Hindman or Herndon?  Both arguments have a source text… the Benjamin Pettit family bible.  One records says Hindman and one says Herndon. It is the firm belief of this researcher that Exhibit 1 is the oldest record, the one that was recorded by the oldest son of Benjamin and Elizabeth while they were still living and is likely the most accurate in regards to that family.  It says “Elizabeth Hindman”.  The other record, Exhibit 2, is a duplicate written long after Benjamin and Elizabeth had departed this life (probably around 1845) and likely contains an honest copiest error.  It says “Elizabeth Herndon”. From the original record it is evident that Benjamin’s wife’s name was Elizabeth P. Hindman.

Where is this Bible today?

It is perhaps a surreal coincidence but the record of the children of Joshua Pettit (1734), Henry Pettit, Sr. (1763) and Benjamin Pettit (1769) as recorded in their individual family bibles have all somehow managed to find their way into the exact same comfortable climate controlled vault at the National Archives.  The old family sure had a funny way of sticking together.  Research indicates that the actual bibles these pages were torn from have probably not fared so well with one notable exception: The Benjamin Pettit Bible.  It may still be out there and probably wouldn’t be too difficult to locate today.

As far as this researcher knows, the last time anyone laid eyes on Benjamin’s old family bible was at a house in Spartanburg in 1994.[14]  If descendants in the Spartanburg area are interested in locating it and seeing it for themselves please contact me and I can provide further information.  I personally would like some assurance this great treasure has been preserved and is still in the family. The Good Book is full of wonderful stories, and sometimes a family Bible has a story all its own.

Brandon Pettit

December 13, 2020

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  1. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Archibald McCravy #W8434, National Archives Microfilm Publication M804, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington D.C.
  2. The records of Friendship Baptist Church show Benjamin Pettit joined by “experience”. Archibald McCravy is buried in the church cemetery.
  3. McCravy, Edwin Parker, Memories, (Observer Printing Company, 1941) p316-317
  4. Rev. War Pension Application Files, McCravy, NARA. p80
  5. Ibid. p85
  6. Ibid. She was spinning wool at home of Spartanburg Co. home of Samuel and Janet Morrow, parents of Mary Smith. P80,85-86
  7. Ibid. p93
  8. McCravy, Edwin Parker. Ibid.
  9. Rev. War Pension Application Files, McCravy, NARA, p83
  10. accessed December 12, 2020, shows the moon was 66.62% full on Friday, July 18, 1794.
  11. Rev. War Pension Application Files, McCravy, NARA, p75. It would later be revealed that the marriage record had been removed from the courthouse by an Isaac Wofford and was later in the possession of Andrew Harrison. It could not be located by the attorney Jane hired and when it was returned to the courthouse the elderly widow went there and found it herself. This was not until after the effort had been made to establish the facts with the Pettit bible.
  12. Rev. War Pension Application Files, McCravy, NARA, p73
  13. Ibid. p57
  14. Samuel Layton Pettit of Spartanburg worked closely with Fran O’Shields Bailie and her husband Bill Bailie.  Layton and Fran were both descendants of Benjamin’s son Andrew.  According to a letter I have, from Layton Pettit to George Pettett in 1994, it was the O’Shields’ belief that the bible was in the hands of Mrs. Clyde Pettit Jr.