A lost Lincoln document was unearthed this weekend at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania after being hidden away in a closet for years.
The valuable lost Lincoln document was described by the Associated Press as “rather uncommon” and remained unnoticed for a long time until President James Douthat began to excavate the closet as he prepared to retire.
Despite some knowledge the lost Lincoln document had existed, Douthat’s vague awareness of the possible history goldmine was not on his mind as he got ready to walk away from his position — and discovered the certificate dating back to 1863 declaring the founder of Lycoming College to be a Civil War chaplain.
Douthat explains that, while the lost Lincoln document (which is in an old frame and remains in decent condition) was a relic that people knew existed, he didn’t know the valuable bit of history sat in the closet all those years:
“In the back of my mind, I remember hearing about it … When I took it down, of course I recognized Lincoln’s signature immediately … I assume it was in the top of the closet 24 years ago … I had never seen it.”
Douthat had been president for 24 years and during that time, the lost Lincoln document was lost to the ages. Associate dean and library director Janet McNeil Hurlbert says of the find:
“It was [first] discovered a while ago … And then it got … put someplace else for a while.”
Since it was unearthed, the lost Lincoln document — which includes a signature from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton — has been valued at approximately $6,000.
John Brinsfield, US Army Chaplain Corps historian emeritus, said after the find:
“Civil War commissions of any type are rare because they were sent to the individual chaplains … If any exist, it is only because the families saved them.”
After the lost Lincoln document was unearthed, the Pennsylvania college was pleased to see it — and resolved to keep better track of the rare bit of history in the future.