Left behind on Crest Street, Bible ready to go home
Bibles come in all sizes and formats today, including the quick accessibility of a smartphone app. But the Bible at the heart of this story is a big, heavy, black, printed Bible with Rembrandt illustrations. It’s at least 44 years old, and it was left behind 30 years ago during a big move in Durham.
While the 1970s construction of the East-West Expressway in Durham, now called the Durham Freeway, split the historic African-American neighborhood of Hayti, the community on Crest Street fought the road project with some success. The community, with support from the Durham People’s Alliance, didn’t stop the East-West Expressway, but did succeed in a relocation in the early 1980s. A project was undertaken with city, North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to move 65 homes displaced by the road construction. A 1,000-grave cemetery was relocated for the moving and rebuilding of small homes near the Durham VA Hospital and Duke University Medical Center. Those homes left behind that were knocked down also included a few items inside.
Bruce Dillard was an auditor for NCDOT and involved in the Crest Street project for three years. For an accountant, it was the perfect way to use his skills and education, as depending on where the house was located, the move was paid for by different percentages of city, state and federal money. Working in the relocation office in Durham, other staff would bring back items that were left in homes. After the residents were long gone and houses were ready to be pushed over or picked up, Dillard said, someone found a Bible.
On the front, in gold letters, is the name Robert Morris Barbee. The Bible was left behind in one of the houses on Crest Street. Dillard took the Bible home and it sat on a shelf. He thought he’d try to find a family member one day, and that day has come. The large Bible included a program for the 1970 funeral of a man who appears to be Barbee’s father, Robert Major Henderson Barbee Sr., whose service was held at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Orange County. A few Barbee family names and dates are also written in the first few pages of the old Bible. There is also a four-leaf clover pressed between two pages. Faded ribbon bookmarks in the King James Version mark places in Jeremiah, St. Luke and the page between the Old Testament and New Testament.
Dillard, who is now retired and lives in Raleigh, said he’d like to give the Bible to a pastor to present it to a Barbee family member so the Bible can go back home to Durham. According to an online obituary, Robert Morris Barbee passed away in 2010. To contact Dillard about the Bible, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.