Gary Lassiter, a descendant of Hannah and William Root, recently contacted Cobb Landmarks to say that he had something to give to the organization. The imaginations of the Cobb Landmarks staff members went wild. The last time Lassiter had stopped by the William Root House Museum, which is owned and operated by Cobb Landmarks, he ended up donating a stack of some forty Root family letters written between 1830 and 1890, as well as a collection of books, countless family photos, and a variety of personal items from Hannah, William, and the Root children. A direct descendant of Mary Root, Hannah and William’s only daughter, Lassiter has collected and preserved Root family heirlooms his entire life.
Lassiter arrived at the Root House on January 17th with a large package in tow. Before revealing the contents, he began to tell a story that sounded familiar to Cobb Landmarks Executive Director Trevor Beemon. The story was about a Presbyterian Minister named John Simpson, an ardent patriot during the Revolutionary War and grandfather of Hannah (Simpson) Root.
A resident of Chester County, South Carolina, John Simpson had been the pastor at Fishing Creek Church since 1774, but decided to join the local militia led by Thomas Sumter in 1780. That same year, Lord Cornwallis, the British commander in the south, ordered British Legion commander Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to find Sumter and his men. Notorious Loyalist commander Christian Huck was sent to capture Simpson at Fishing Creek Church on Sunday, June 11, 1780. Huck had intended to find Simpson and his congregation at the church, but he found no one there. Huck ordered the church be burned and started toward Simpson’s home.
Simpson’s wife, Mary, was informed of Huck’s impending arrival and took her children to hide in an orchard near the home. When Huck arrived, his men ransacked the house and set the house, library, and barn on fire. When the British soldiers departed, Mary ran into the burning library to save as many books as she could. Suffering from burns, Mary was able to save two aprons full of books, including the family Bible - this family Bible, which Lassiter now held in his hands.
If the story sounds like something straight out of Hollywood, you’re right. Both Banastre Tarleton and Christian Huck inspired the character Colonel William Tavington in the movie, The Patriot. The film’s character, Reverend Oliver, is loosely based on John Simpson. The events of June 11, 1780, are also commemorated each year during a reenactment held at Historic Brattonsville in South Carolina. The event includes a reenactment of the burning of Simpson’s home and his wife’s retrieval of the family Bible.
Beemon, who had studied the Revolutionary War in college and had attended the reenactments held at Brattonsville several times, was shocked to be holding the Bible that had been part of such an incredible Revolutionary War story.
Research into the Bible confirms that it was published in 1700. Likely damaged during the fire, the Bible was rebound in 1788. The Bible was handed down to Hannah Root’s father, Leonard Simpson, and was then handed down to Hannah and William Root upon Leonard’s death in 1856. The Roots had the Bible rebound again in 1860, and a final time in 1888. Though the Bible has been rebound several times, it still retains its original front and back covers, which include signatures from Rev. John Simpson, William Root, and William’s sons, “Willie” and “Jim.”
Cobb Landmarks plans to build a special case and design an exhibit panel to tell the story of this rare artifact. The Bible will be displayed in the Root House, returning it to the place it resided during the mid-1800s when the Root family owned it. “Cobb Landmarks is truly honored to have this Bible in our collection and we thank Gary Lassiter for his generosity and his faith in our organization to care for this treasure,” said Beemon.
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