David Crockett Unexecuted Marriage License

Value (2005) | $20,000 Auction$50,000 Insurance

GUEST:
They were cleaning out the courthouse at Dandridge, Tennessee, and they were throwing away everything they thought was unimportant. This document never happened-- David Crockett didn't marry this woman; she ran off and eloped with someone else.

APPRAISER:
We have a little "runaway bride" situation.

GUEST:
Yes, so they felt that it had no value whatsoever, and therefore it was going to be pitched out. And my uncle, my Dad's elder brother, saw it, and being a fan of Crockett, he grabbed it right quick. And it's been in the family ever since.

APPRAISER:
Well, he knew a lot more than they did.

GUEST:
You can see where it's been folded up and put in the pocket.

APPRAISER:
It's incredible. What we have, as you know, is the actual license that was never executed, but it was filled out. And you can see "From the State of Tennessee"... "David Crockett"... and his bride to-be--her name is a little bit harder to read, but it's right here-- "Margaret Elder, October 1805." Crockett was 19 years old at the time, so he was a young man. He was a backwoods statesman, later to become the hero at the Alamo.

GUEST:
He hadn't done all of those...

APPRAISER:
He hadn't done those things at that point. No, you're absolutely right.

GUEST:
He was just a young guy in love.

APPRAISER:
He was just... he had just learned to read and write the year before. So he was a very late starter, but boy, did he really make his impression on the world in later life. It's well documented in the lore of Crockett that he had been about to be married and that there was a license issued, but it was never executed. And you really enlightened us a bit about what happened. And do you know any more with regard to the elopement?

GUEST:
I never did find out whether it was a friend of David Crockett's or not. But it's fun to think so.

APPRAISER:
Just less than a year later, when he was 20, he did marry then for the first time--

GUEST:
I think so.

APPRAISER:
--to a woman named Polly Findlay, and they had two children together. And he then moved himself down to Texas and moved up and outward and throughout the world. But it is an incredible story that such an ephemeral document survives, and really, thanks to your relatives who had the good sense to take care of this thing. It is a real treasure. Now, do you have any sense of what something like this is worth?

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, it's a tough one.

GUEST:
Because, you know, with things like this... They become priceless when they're so unique and one of a kind.

APPRAISER:
That's right. And to hang a price is very difficult.

GUEST:
I've never thought of a price.

APPRAISER:
It has, though, such historical significance to fill in these gaps in Crockett's life and to really be able to hold up a document that confirms all the speculations and wonderings about this activity in his life and when it took place. Because of that, we feel that it's worth $20,000 to $30,000.

GUEST:
My goodness. Really?

APPRAISER:
Yes.

GUEST:
That's amazing.

APPRAISER:
It's irreplaceable, and it's...

GUEST:
It is irreplaceable.

APPRAISER:
And that's an auction estimate. You know, that's the kind of thing that if two people want it-- a historical society wants it...

GUEST:
And nobody's going to put it up for auction, either.

APPRAISER:
For insurance value that would be at about $45,000 to $50,000.

GUEST:
I see.

APPRAISER:
You've taken great care of it. You have it here in an archivally matted frame. And, uh, backing, the mounting is beautiful and safe for the document. If you just keep it out of the sunlight. I would only ask that.

GUEST:
It is kept out of the sunlight. I have a thin piece of cardboard that I Scotch tape up here and it hangs down like that.

APPRAISER:
Perfect.

GUEST:
Only when company comes, then I take it off.

APPRAISER:
Only when your friends come, right? Well, thank you very much for bringing it in. Take good care of it.

GUEST:
I will.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, NY
Appraised value (2005)
$20,000 Auction$50,000 Insurance
Event
Tampa, FL (June 25, 2005)
Period
19th Century
Form
Document
Material
Paper
November 07, 2011: After this segment aired in January 2006, a dispute about who legally owned this Crockett marriage license made news. As of July 2011, the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a trial court judgment that sided with Jefferson County in their case against ANTIQUES ROADSHOW guest Margaret V. Smith. It was reported the license was returned to Jefferson County in 2010. To read more about this development, see:

www.courthousenews.com/2011/08/01/38616.htm

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