Rare Quaker Bible from Early Colonial Days

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry continues her story about the persecution of Quakers by the 17th century Puritan authorities, focusing on the Buffum family Bible. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

In 1875 the Salem Register reported that they viewed a rare and valuable Bible brought over from England by a group that included Robert Buffum in 1638. He was one of the earliest settlers in Salem, Massachusetts. The Buffum clan were noted Quakers and suffered persecution (see links at the end of this article).

An article about the Buffum family Bible, Salem Register newspaper article 5 April 1875
Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts), 5 April 1875, page 2

Recorded names in the Bible reveal a goldmine of genealogy, and generations of the family remained members of the Society of Friends.

An article about the genealogy contained in the Buffum family Bible, Salem Register newspaper article 5 April 1875
Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts), 5 April 1875, page 2

At the time the Salem Register article was published, the Bible was in the possession of Esther Southwick, wife of Daniel, living near the old Buffum homestead location. I found them both in the 1880 census living on 16 Boston Street in Salem with other Southwick family members.

Photo: 1880 census showing the extended Southwick family living at 16 Boston Street in Salem, Massachusetts
Photo: 1880 census showing the extended Southwick family living at 16 Boston Street in Salem, Massachusetts.

To trace the family line, and list who had possession of this Bible, I will start with the first named entry and go forward:

  • Joshua Buffum (the son of Robert Buffum, who had come to America in 1638); there’s a notation in the Bible that reads “Joshua Buffum – his book – 1685.”
  • Joshua married Damaris Pope, daughter of Joseph and Gertrude (Shattuck) Pope. Their son Joshua married Elizabeth Beck; and their daughter Elizabeth married John Buxton, son of Joseph and Esther (Southwick) Buxton. (Esther Southwick was the granddaughter of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick, whom I’ve written about – see links at the end of this article.)
  • There’s a notation in the Bible that reads “Elizabeth Buffum her bibel [sic] writen [sic] in the year 1723.”
  • Elizabeth and John Buxton’s daughter Abigail married Abner Jones, son of John and Susannah (Fowler) Jones. Abner and his family were Quakers living in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
  • Abigail and Abner’s daughter Sarah married Samuel Fowler, son of Ezekiel and Elizabeth Fowler. A daughter Esther (owner of the Bible in 1875) married Daniel Southwick.
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According to the Salem Register article:

“Sarah Jones, daughter of Abner and Abigail (or Abagall, as it is written in the book [the Bible]), married Samuel Fowler and came to Salem in 1794 and settled on the same land once occupied by Joshua Buffum, her great-grandfather, and brought back the Bible to the place whence it had been taken by her grandmother.”

I found Samuel’s death announcement in the Gloucester Telegraph noting that he was a member of the Society of Friends.

An obituary for Samuel Fowler, Gloucester Telegraph newspaper article 24 January 1849
Gloucester Telegraph (Gloucester, Massachusetts), 24 January 1849, page 3

Samuel and his wife are buried in the Quaker Cemetery on Essex Street in Salem, Massachusetts.

In August 2019 Salem placed a new marker dedicated to the Quaker burial site, which is the third oldest cemetery. It was also the site of the Religious Society of Friends’ second meeting house, built in 1718, and a pivotal part of Quaker culture when Salem served as the center of the religious community during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Photo: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll speaks to residents and Quakers who attended the ceremony at the Quaker Cemetery, August 2019
Photo: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll speaks to residents and Quakers who attended the ceremony at the Quaker Cemetery, August 2019. Credit: Ryan McBride; Salem News.

The Buffum’s were among the first to embrace the doctrine of the Friends, and they were in consequence subjected with others to cruel punishments for deviating from the Puritan church.

All of Robert’s children endured lashings, fines, jail, and banishment. Robert’s daughter Deborah, wife of Robert Wilson, was tied to a cart tail and whipped through the streets. I will cover her and others in another Quakers article later.

If you want a few more anecdotes on the Buffum clan check out Jeanne Stella’s Letter: Buffum’s varied history published in the Salem News, 30 June 2013.

Note: Just as an online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, helped tell the stories of the Buffum family and their Bible, they can tell you stories about your ancestors that can’t be found anywhere else. Come look today and see what you can discover!

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5 thoughts on “Rare Quaker Bible from Early Colonial Days

  1. Salem Quarterly Meeting of Quakers had a Buffum – Breed Fund. Buffum was a common Quaker name in Lynn as well. Maybe the Bible went there?

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