Museum Recovers Missing History Book - TribPapers

Museum Recovers Missing History Book

Davy Crockett's signature is inscribed inside the book that was recovered. Photo by Paul King.

Weaverville – A historical book that went missing in 1997 from the Dry Ridge Museum and was thought lost forever has been recovered and is now on display at the museum.

The book is an 1800s frontier medicine book full of practical remedies that once belonged to Davy Crockett. “That’s what this book was,” explained former Weaverville Mayor and practicing lawyer Al Root.”

A book once owned by Davy Crockett is now back home in the Dry Ridge Museum. Photo by Paul King.

The book stayed in the custody of a local family until the early 1960s. It was donated to the Dry Ridge Museum. The book had been verified as the museum’s property in Nell Pickens’ book on local history and an article and photo that appeared in the Asheville Citzen-Times newspaper.

“Now the funny thing is. The book, when it disappeared, was not in very good shape at all. If it had rebounded, it was a long time ago,” explained Root. “I’m not saying the book was fallen apart, but you had to be really, really careful with it. Now when it came back to us in late 2019, it had rebounded.”

In the minutes of a 1997 museum board meeting, Josephine Osborne, then director, reported the book missing. How?

Root said there were a couple of theories, including an inside job and a group of three people distracting an employee while one of them took it. However, the missing book was never reported to the police, says Root. “The stated reason for this [non-reporting] is it might be bad for the museum. It might appear the museum had lax security.”

“So 20 years go by – with nothing happening. But, we live in a different world now with the internet,” stated Root. In 2018, at a board meeting, Jan Lawerence, the successor to Osborne, told the story to the board. “One of the board members said out of curiosity, ‘Let’s go online and see what we might find. They hit the jackpot!”

According to Root, the book was sold in 2015 by an auction house in Ohio, a mini book collection that contained the book emphasizing the Crockett book.

The board got to work, first filing a report with the Weaverville Police. “[Assistant Chief] Somer Oberlin, she’s really the key here. She deserves the credit [for getting the book back],” said Root.

According to Root, Oberlin takes the report and calls the auction house in Ohio. While she did get some information from the auction house, Root said it took only a short time for the person at the auction house to stop talking, but not before giving some info, like who they got the book from. Root said they bought the book from a man named Rooney.

The mini collection sold for $19,000, of which the Crockett book was valued at $2,000 in its old condition. The collection was sold to a man in Texas. Oberlin then met with Lawrence and Root, explaining what she had gotten and said that was about the best the Weaverville Police could do and that they might want to contact Ohio law enforcement.

That’s when Root took over. “You never know what you get by asking. Therefore, I wrote the auction house…the first letter I wrote is very nice.” He explained he wanted to know to whom the auction house sold the book and from whom they got it. “Not too surprisingly, that letter got ignored. It’s the way of the world.”

A couple of months later, Root wrote a straight-to-the-matter letter saying he did not want to get law enforcement involved but would if he had to. He added that it was a carefully worded letter due to regulations about law enforcement used in such correspondence.

He did not hear back from them immediately. But “something happened on their end,” he explained. “Because they changed their tune.” They asked for the police report, which Root sent. “The best I expected to hear was the name of the person in Texas who bought the book…and maybe from whom they [the auction house] bought it.”

“Low and behold, they called me up and said they got the book back and were sending it,” Root stated. “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I basically stopped asking questions at this point.”

However, when the book Root was expecting to get back, in very bad shape, arrived, it had been professional rebound. “It’s all there. The pages are there. The inscriptions are inscribed.”

The book is now displayed at the museum in the Community Center at Dottie Sherrill Knoll. Under glass, in a locked case, for public viewing during regular museum hours.