Long-lost family Bible returned to East Vandergrift woman

| Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Kim McHenry's grandmother always told her their family Bible was “this big heavy thing.”

But she never thought she'd be able to feel the weight in her own hands.

McHenry, 48, of East Vandergrift recently found the Bible, thanks to a Chambersburg family who, for more than 40 years, thought it belonged to their mother's relatives.

“My grandmother originally told me the story of this Bible when I was a kid,” McHenry said. “She always said we had a big family Bible that sat on her (parents') living room table for years.”

The Bible is about five inches thick and has a brown cover with two silver clasps. Right inside the front cover — where her grandmother always said it was — is McHenry's great-great-grandparents' marriage certificate.

The couple, Ella and Benjamin Huber, got the Bible on March 7, 1885, according to the note made in the front.

It was passed down to their daughter Margaret Kling, who died in 1948. Her husband remarried and his new wife refused to give anything to his former wife's family when he passed away, according to what McHenry's grandmother, Lois Rohrkaste, told her.

“I thought, well, someone ended up with the Bible and now it's gone, I'll never see it,” McHenry said.

But, through a series of fateful events in the past couple years, she found the Etchberger family in Chambersburg, where she has relatives. The Etchbergers think their father bought the Bible at an estate sale because the family history included Huber, his wife's maiden name.

McHenry, who has been researching her family's genealogy for about five years, was able to track down the Etchbergers through a family history that was hand-copied from a Bible. The information was left in 1972 by a nephew of Ruth Huber Etchberger.

McHenry found it a few years ago in the genealogy department of the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg.

“This really piqued my interest when I saw this because my grandmother always said that her name was in there, but her grandmother got sidetracked and never finished her mom's information,” McHenry said.

The same incomplete information appeared in the genealogy list she found.

When McHenry started researching the Etchbergers in hopes of making a connection to her own family, she never found one. Then, a few months ago, she came across the 1991 obituary for John Etchberger, Ruth Huber Etchberger's husband.

She wrote letters to the three children listed, who live in Chambersburg, inquiring about their family history and asking them about the Bible.

It turned out that the eldest, Robert Etchberger, 74, kept the Bible in his china cupboard for 25 years.

“Before I called her back, I got it out and I started matching up the names she had mentioned in her letter,” Etchberger said. “Then I started matching up what little family history I had, and none of the names in the Bible matched the names in my mother's family.”

It wasn't long before he realized the Bible didn't belong to his family, Etchberger said.

“He called me … and said, ‘This is yours, come get it,' ” McHenry said. “I was very emotional when I was on the phone with him and then when I went to pick it up.

“My grandmother, she would have just been speechless. There are just no words.”

McHenry said she always will be grateful to the Etchberger family for allowing her to have the Bible. Etchberger said he was just doing what was right.

“I was very glad to give it to her,” he said. “I felt like, okay, it's finally where it belongs.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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