God Still Works
For those who doubt, I present the following
true story that must rank as one of the greatest "lost and found" stories
of all time.
is a story of faith and family, a testimony of God's providence and the
perseverance and generosity of two faithful Christians living on opposite
sides of the country. This is how I came into possession of the Civil War
New Testament Bible (cover to the right, click to enlarge) belonging to my
great-great grandfather, William Fletcher Hughey, nearly 144 years after
it was given to him upon his enlistment in the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
On September 6, 2005, I was frantically preparing to leave for a long
weekend trip with my family, trying to wrap up last minute items for my
business. Early in the evening, as I was talking with a client by phone,
an interesting email appeared in my Outlook inbox. The subject line read,
"Matter of some urgency about William F. Hughey of Civil War." The
note was very short:
"Are you related
to William F. Hughey of Chillicothe, Ohio in the Civil War? Please direct
me to a relative if you can. Thank you."
"Just another genealogy inquiry," I thought, "or maybe some crackpot
playing a joke." But then I noticed this "crackpot" left his name (Bill)
and a phone number. It was intriguing but I continued to talk with my
As I was finishing my client call about 30
minutes later, in came a second email from Bill that took my breath away.
"Dear Mr. Steve
I am a
Born-again Christian, and also a Civil War artifacts researcher. I think
that your ministry [Civil War Dads] is about to be blessed for all
your great work to the kingdom of God. What if I told you that your
Great-Great-Grandfather's 1861 New Testament Bible has been found! I was
going to buy it, but God told me that He would rather you have it instead.
Here are some pictures. (I hope I have reached the right person.) If you
are strapped for cash, I would be willing to buy it for you as a gift."
That last sentence really got my attention. Bill indicated that he was
willing to contribute as much as $200 to help buy it! That was a good
thing because since starting my business full-time in 2001, I had been
just barely making ends meet. There wasn't any money to spare for this
Bible, no matter how much I wanted it. Bill left his full name, address,
and a home phone number in California. He also included a link to the eBay
auction where the Bible was for sale and attached the 5 pictures from the
total shock, I studied the pictures and immediately recognized the
handwriting (see left, click to enlarge) of my great-great grandfather
from having transcribed so much of his
1864 diary. I checked the auction on
eBay and found the current bid at $45 with 5 days to go before bidding
ended. This was too good to be true. All I kept thinking about was how
this could be a scam, but that just didn't make sense to me. So, I did
some quick research and found that generic Civil War-era Bibles typically
went from $50 to $150. I had no idea what they were worth when connected
with a specific, identifiable soldier.
I called Bill, thanked him for his generous
offer, and we got to know each other a little bit. Bill had spotted the
Bible on eBay and researched William Hughey's name on the internet. That
led him to my Civil War Dads website and to contacting me.
We plotted a strategy to obtain the Bible
that involved me contacting the seller by email and explaining the
situation and my connection to the Bible. We were hoping for a sympathetic
ear that would take the item off auction and sell it to me directly.
By the next afternoon, when I had reached my
travel destination, I found the nearest wireless access to check my email.
The seller had responded that he simply preferred that I bid on the item
if I was interested in buying it. He was a shrewd seller seeking to make
the most profit. So much for the sympathetic ear. Then I checked the
auction and found the highest bid at $225! My heart sank and I realized
this Bible was not meant to be for me. I let it go to God and took comfort
in the fact that 24 hours earlier I didn't even know it existed and now I
at least had 5 pictures of it.
But God's goodness didn't end there!
I called Bill and explained the situation.
He was already on top of it. To my amazement, he had taken the
extraordinary step of contacting the new highest bidder (LeRoy) via email.
Bill told me to call this individual because they had agreed to work
together to help get this Bible back in my family.
I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
LeRoy and I spoke that evening. God couldn't
have chosen a more perfect person to add to this story. Here is what I
learned about this young man during our conversation. LeRoy is...
A Christian living in Ohio
Married with young children
A Civil War reenactor, and
A collector of Civil War artifacts,
was shocked when LeRoy told me he expected the Bible to sell for between
$500 and $600 based on his knowledge and experience. He told me not to
worry, however, because he and Bill were working together and would win
the auction and give the Bible to me as a gift. Amazing!
The auction ended on Sunday, September 11 at
2:00 p.m. Anticipating victory, I settled in front of my computer and
watched anxiously as the bidding ended.
The Bible sold to a man from North Carolina for $585, exactly $10 more
than LeRoy's highest bid. You cannot imagine the letdown I had at that
moment. What agony!
I consoled myself by calling Bill and LeRoy
to thank them for their efforts. Bill remained optimistic. He told me that
perhaps God wanted me to persevere and that I should contact the winner
and tell him my story. "Why not," I reasoned, "what do I have to lose at
this point?" Besides, if the winner ever decided to sell, I at least would
like him give me a shot at it.
I sent an email to the winner (Brent) that
afternoon, explaining everything that had happened up to that point and
providing a link to my Civil War Dads website. Here was his reply:
...You really should be the owner of this bible without a question. I was
buying it to keep but I might be willing to let it go if I could make a
little bit on it . I do buy and sell civil war items for a living . I was
rather taken with this bible because of the regiment's history. I had not
researched William but it seems your site tells it all. A reasonable offer
over what I paid might be workable if interested. Just advise further.
That breathed life back into my hopes.
Now for the tricky part. Just how much was
"a little bit" of profit for Brent? Would Bill and LeRoy still be willing
to contribute to the cause? Would their contributions even be enough?
Well, the "little bit" Brent wanted was more
than any of us expected but it was not unreasonable. After all, Brent had
me over a barrel and could have really applied the pressure. Bill and
LeRoy came through with about 60% of Brent's final price. My mother
chipped in the remainder.
Thus, on October 5, 2005, William Hughey's
Bible came home to rest with our family.
It traveled with William through the Civil
War and eventually was in the care of my great-grandmother who left this note
on a loose piece of paper inside the front cover:
Testament given by his mother when he enlisted in the army."
the Bible has been over the past 50-75 years is not known to us. But God
knows. He brought this Bible to the attention of Bill in California, a
Christian man who had a vision to reunite it with our family. Bill
researched William Hughey's name and got in contact with me. Then he
contacted another bidder, LeRoy, who also happened to be a Christian that
shared his vision. More importantly, they teamed together and gave freely
of their own resources to make it all possible. What are the odds?
Our family gives thanks and glory to God!
And we thank Him for His servants Bill and LeRoy for their vision and
God indeed still works