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106-year-old Bible donated to Historic Dayton House

This page of a 106-year-old Bible donated to Worthington's Historic Dayton House shows the signature of Caroline Ward Dayton and the date 1907.

WORTHINGTON - A 106-year-old Bible owned and lovingly used by Caroline Ward Dayton, the second child and first daughter of family patriarch George Draper Dayton, has found its way to Worthington.

A Hastings resident, Joe Duray, happened to purchase the Bible at the Maple Grove Goodwill store last fall. Duray, an amateur history buff and past missionary to Alaska, purchased the American Standard Version Bible for $2.25--and was surprised upon returning home to find its inside cover inscribed with the name "Caroline Ward Dayton" and dated 1907.

"It [the Dayton name] stood out to me, although I didn't know any of the history," said Duray.

Duray searched the name on Google and learned that Caroline was the daughter of Dayton, founder of the Dayton Hudson Company and a community leader in Worthington during the last two decades of the 19th century. It was Dayton who had the structure at 1311 Fourth Ave. in Worthington, now known as the Historic Dayton House, built during the summer of 1890 for his family of six.

Duray noted that many verses in the Bible were underlined, and notes were written on the margins of numerous pages, so it was apparent Caroline had used it often over a period of time.

Thinking the Bible might be of some significance to the family, Duray attempted to contact Gov. Mark Dayton about his find, but no interest was immediately expressed. He then turned to the Historic Dayton House, which was glad to receive the artifact -- one of only a few items the House possesses that was actually owned by an immediate member of the Dayton family who had lived in the House from 1890-1901.

"We are delighted to have this special Bible," said Colleen Bents, Historic Dayton House manager. "We expect to display it at the House, both in appreciation of its historic value and its indication of the family's commitment to God."

Caroline, the second of George and Emma Dayton's four children and their first daughter, was a devout person from her early childhood. In Dayton's biography, "George Draper Dayton: A Man of Parts" written by Bruce B. Dayton, Caroline's younger sister Josephine was said to have written in her later years that Caroline had developed "a habit of prayer" that influenced all of the Dayton children towards a religious life.

Born in 1883, Caroline lived at the Historic Dayton House from the age of 7 until the Daytons moved to Minneapolis in 1901.

Although the Bible donated by Duray was owned and used by Caroline in years after her life in Worthington, it is clear from the many notes she made on its pages that she used it well. The book is in excellent condition, considering it is 106 years old.

"We are so grateful that Mr. Duray made the effort to seek us out, and that he was willing to donate Caroline's Bible to the Historic Dayton House," said Bents. "That was extremely thoughtful of him, and it will be a treasured artifact in our collection."