MANATEE -- An amazing accident.
That’s what Bradenton resident Ric Mock says of the way he found a family Bible written in High German that documented family history on his mother’s side from 1792 to the American Civil War.
Mock, 65, who retired as head of the Manatee Memorial Hospital anesthesiology department 10 years ago, was researching online his family’s genealogy when he came across Bethlehem, Pa., resident Roy Schreffler’s website. He was stunned to find a listing for the Johannes Kimmel family Bible.
Mock quickly realized that the Bible contained the births, deaths, marriages and baptisms of generations of his ancestors. The family had immigrated from Hanover, Germany, in 1750, and settled near Orwigsburg, Pa. Some of the family moved from there to Deep Creek, about 50 miles north of Harrisburg.
Schreffler, something of a Renaissance man with interests in history, photography, old cars and more, told Mock he had bought the Bible on eBay in 2006 for $20 to practice translating High German into English.
Schreffler had posted the find on his website in hopes of reuniting the Bible with its family.
St. John’s Kimmel’s Church sits on Deep Creek land that was donated by the Kimmel family as far back as 1816, said Mock, a resident of Manatee Oaks.
Kimmel descendants now live in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Indiana and certainly elsewhere.
The last family member known to have the Johannes Kimmel Bible was Eva Klinger in Michigan during the 1960s.
After Klinger died, the Bible may have ended up in an estate sale or have been left in a storage warehouse that was abandoned, Mock speculates about how it eventually made its way to an online auction.
Mock wanted to buy the Bible and donate it to St. John’s Kimmel’s Church, where the family got its start in America.
Magdalene and Johannes Kimmel were married in 1797, and became very prosperous in the Deep Creek area.
The first entries in the Bible were written in High German by Magdalene Kimmel.
Recently, Ric Mock, and his wife, Marge, traveled to Deep Creek to donate the Bible to St. John’s Kimmel’s Church, during a service.
The Bible is now on permanent display in a glass case at the church. Congregation members were happy to receive a Bible from the family that donated the land two centuries ago for their church.
“It was really a touching experience for me. It was a wonderful trip. We met many family members we knew nothing about,” said Marge Mock.
Ric Mock, who grew up in Pennsylvania speaking German as his first language, delivered a prayer in German at the service dedicating the Bible.
“My grandmother always had me say my prayers at night and grace at the table and it was always in German,” he said.
Being back in Deep Creek with that Bible brought Mock a sense of closeness with departed ancestors.
“There is a small cemetery next to the church. The first grave was Sarah Kimmel who died at age 1 in 1833. The Bible that is being donated is known in genealogy circles as the ‘Magdalene Bible’ as it was a document of the Kimmels starting with Johannes Kimmel and Magdalene (Faust) Kimmel,” Mock said.
“We took the Bible to the graveyard and matched up the gravestones. We found Johannes’ and Magdalene’s graves at the church,” he said. “It was absolutely incredible.”
The church, which the previous Sunday had an attendance of less than 40, had 100 for the donation of the historic Bible.
Among those in attendance was Schreffler, who was moved by the transfer of the Bible to the St. John’s Kimmel’s Church congregation.
“Roy comes to me in the middle of the service. It’s no charge. Don’t worry about it,” Mock recalled.
Visitors to the church now see the Magdalene Bible turned to the first page, which reads: “Johannes Kimmel 1792.”
Mock also donated a second family Bible, one weighing 10 pounds that contains no family history. It was owned by Harry Hoch.
Mock remembers as a boy sitting next to Uncle Harry in church and wondering about his history.
“He was married to my grandmother’s sister. His father-in-law was Henry Dengler. Henry was in the Battle of Gettysburg, and was wounded at Rappahannock.
“Now you know how old I feel thinking I used to sit next to Uncle Harry,” Mock said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021.