We were long unable to establish the precise provenance of this somewhat baffling document. Our own original copy (obtained in the early 1990's) was an incomplete photocopy in the possession of Rev. Jerry L. West, of the Broad River Basin Historical Society of South Carolina, who found it among a range of papers bequeathed him by Mrs. P.G. Sherer of South Carolina. No indication was given of where the original was to be found, or what might be on other pages. Only the first four pages were included in this copy.
More recently (early 2000's), we obtained a more complete set of photocopies from microfilm filed at the State Archives of Tennessee, ref. MS.AC.67-85, a kind donation by Dero A. Darwin, Jr., of Cookeville, Tennessee, and which is reproduced in this present article. This fuller copy also included a reference to the original document's owner in the 1960's, one Jean Wilkerson of Hickory Grove, South Carolina.
It was only after first publishing our copies here on the Darwintern (February 2007) that an observation by Christopher B. Darwin has suggested the full provenance, described below.
Even from our earliest and incomplete copy, it seemed clear that, despite the general reference to this document as a "Bible" record, there are no indications that these pages are indeed from from the sheets of a printed Bible. They appeared far more likely to be from a notebook, presumably using genealogical information derived from one or more family Bibles. And from one page, apparently in the same hand, which records "freshes" (floods) on the Broad River in the period 1784-1834, there was no doubt this document originated from the family of John Darwin (1755-1837).
These assumptions were confirmed by Quarto Page Z, which contains the initially baffling inscription "Decembus Abram Summerford, his book" that Christopher B. Darwin (drawing on the splendid research by the late Gayle K. Blankenship) illuminated for us with a note pointing out that Decembus Abram Summerford was the father of Isaac Summerford, husband of John Darwin's daughter Pamela (1803-1880).
It would seem reasonable to suppose that this document started off as a plain sewn notebook in the possession of Isaac Summerford's father, who made the single extant entry on Quarto Page Z. The mostly-blank notebook was then reversed and used, in the 1830's, to record genealogical information probably dervied from a family Bible, or similar record, now lost. There is certainly the possibility that the hand here is of Pamela (Darwin) Summerford, particularly when considering the attention given to the four births recorded on Quarto Page 1: see discussion of The Summerford Secret.
Still more speculatively, it may be relevant to note that one of Pamela (Darwin) Summerford's granddaughters, Mary Darwin Summerford (1893-1989), married one James Walter Wilkerson (1884-1955) and resided her entire life at Hickory Grove; we do not at present know, but suspect, this is the same Wilkerson family as the 'Jean Wilkerson' said to have owned the original document in the 1960's. This appears to give us a clear line of transmission from John Darwin to the present day.
From the State Archives photocopies, it is possible to establish that part of the record consists of two foolscap folio leaves, folded quarto, which have become detached from their original sewn signatures. Additionally, there appear to be 3 detached quarto pages, previously unkown to us. There is no pagination indicated, but pages are arranged as follows:
Folio 1 (Quarto pages A, B, Y, Z)
Front of Folio 1 consists of Quarto Page Z (writing upside down) and Quarto Page A (rightside up). Reverse of Folio 1 consists of Quarto Pages B and Y, both rightside up, but it is clear from the content that there were previously additional pages in the signature, now missing: in other words, missing pages between A and Y
Folio 2 (Quarto pages M, Q)
Only one face of the folio available, showing two non-sequential quarto pages (designated here as M and Q). This appears to be a detached folio from within the same signature as Folio 1, but not immediately following.
Quarto Page 1
One of the detached Quarto pages (sequence of the 3 detached quarto pages is unclear; they are presumed to have been part of the missing signature of the above Folios). Our photocopy omits the bottom part of the detached Quartos.
Quarto Page 2
Another detached Quarto page.
Quarto Page 3
Another detached Quarto page, following Quarto 2 (Quarto 3 was placed on Quarto 2 while the ink of the latter was still damp enough to leave a mirror imprint in places.