A Family – and now Historical – Record

History has documented Woodrow Wilson’s birth as being December 28, 1856 in Staunton, VA. It’s the reason our museum and library are located in the area, but have you ever wondered how we knew that Wilson was in fact born here? If you need some the proof, it’s housed in our library in the form of the Wilson Family Bible.

Bible 1 - Copy
Given by descendants of Joseph Ruggles and Jessie Woodrow Wilson, this family Bible is now part of the WWPL archival collection.

The Wilson Family Bible belonged to Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson and his wife Janet “Jessie” Woodrow Wilson. Rev. Wilson, a Presbyterian Minister, received the call to serve Staunton in 1855. It is believed that Rev. Wilson acquired the bible during his time in school or as a teacher and it followed him to his time in the area. Titled Holy Bible and published in 1846 in New York, the Wilson Family Bible was an American Bible Society book, measuring 7 ¾ inches wide, 10 ¾ inches long and 3 ¼ inches deep.

Birth Records 2 - Copy
Woodrow Wilson’s parents’ births are also recorded in their family Bible.

The bible was used daily and it is believed that the book was kept in the parlor for easy access, especially during the evening. While the Wilson’s did use the bible throughout their daily lives for scripture, it was used for another important matter: record keeping. Rev. Wilson and Mrs. Wilson recorded the birth of all their children in the family bible. In between the New and Old Testaments of the Bible are the inscriptions of the birth of each of the Wilson children. It reads Marion Wilson, born in Wash. Co., Pennsylvania on October 20, 1851 at 1 ¾ o’clock in the afternoon, Anne “Annie” Wilson in Hampton Sydney, Virginia on September 8, 1853 a 8 ¾ o’clock, Thomas Woodrow Wilson in Staunton, Virginia on December 28, 1856 at 12 ¾ o’clock at night, and Joseph Wilson, Jr. in Augusta, Georgia on July 20, 1867 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

Birth Records - Copy
The Wilsons record the births and baptisms of their children.

In addition to their own children’s births Rev. Wilson and Jessie Wilson recorded their own births with Rev. Wilson born in Steubenville, OH on February 28, 1822 and Jessie Wilson’s birth in Carlisle, England on December 20, 1830. Their marriage was also recorded as being June 7, 1849. One death was put into the bible as well being the death of James Wilson, Joseph’s father and Woodrow’s grandfather on October 17, 1850.

Marriage Record
Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Jessie E. Woodrow were married on June 7, 1849.

Without this inscription, we would not have the birth dates of the Wilson Family. There would be no proof that Woodrow Wilson was born the day he was in Staunton, since a Rev. and Mrs. Wilson did not go to the Augusta County Courthouse to officially file the birth of their new son. This bible is the only record of his birth and as a result it’s the reason that Staunton can take pride in the fact that a Untied States President was born here.

Written by WWPL intern Hayley Moore


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