1834 Ben Rush Milam Signed Will

Value (2011) | $30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I brought a will and testament of Ben Milam. I found it in a basement of an old courthouse in Nacogdoches, Texas, in 1972.

APPRAISER:
What were you doing in that basement?

GUEST:
Looking for papers of history. And this, along with other boxes, was about to be burned.

APPRAISER:
Was it folded up or was it in a sleeve or...?

GUEST:
No, it was folded up.

APPRAISER:
It was folded up?

GUEST:
There was no sleeve.

APPRAISER:
This is a will dated November 8, 1834. What do you know about the significance of the document?

GUEST:
I know that Ben Milam was a famous person.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
And he was one of the people that was working for the independence of Texas.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
And they all sacrificed their lives.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm. It's an incredible historical document. You hardly ever see any documents signed by him. As a matter of fact, in the past 30 years, there hasn't been any autograph or any manuscript sold at auction that we know of. So when I saw this today, I was just absolutely flabbergasted and stunned, and it's also great to know that the document is here in Texas. You have the document that was folded. There's also some writing on the back that is referring to the document on the front. But the key information is on this page.

GUEST:
That's his will.

APPRAISER:
It starts out with a more philosophical statement about life and death, and then he divides his possessions. Then down here he has the witnesses listed and his signature. That is actually dated just about a year before he died, and he refers to his well-being at the beginning. This was written a year before he was engaged in the beginnings of the Texan revolution. When he died on December 7, 1835, he was on a courier trip for the Texan revolutionary army, and he was shot by a Mexican. And prior to his death, he managed to rally a good number of fighters. Unfortunately, he didn't live to actually see the victory a couple of days later. Where you found this document, why do you think the people were discarding it?

GUEST:
I'm not sure. I asked the gentleman that was around, and he said that people upstairs were cleaning the documents out...

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
And they wanted to make room for more.

APPRAISER:
And do you think they were aware of the significance of the document? Did you talk to them about that?

GUEST:
I mentioned each document that was there to the people, and they said they didn't want them anymore.

APPRAISER:
It is a very difficult item to put a price tag on. I would probably estimate this item at about $30,000 to $50,000, and probably thinking that we would exceed that estimate.

GUEST:
So for insurance purposes, too, I should put that price?

APPRAISER:
For insurance purposes, I would probably think that you want to double or triple the low estimate.

GUEST:
Okay. Thank you so much.

APPRAISER:
My pleasure.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, New York
Appraised value (2011)
$30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction
Event
El Paso, TX (June 18, 2011)
Period
19th Century
Form
Document
Material
Paper

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