Lost Lincoln Document Found in PA College Closet After 24 Years

Retiring Lycoming College President James Douthat uncovered a piece of American history as he was cleaning out his office.

Douthat was removing items from an office closet when he found a certificate that had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

The document was related to the college's founder who was a Civil War chaplain.

"In the back of my mind, I remember hearing about it," Douthat, who is retiring after 24 years, told AP. "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," Douthat said.

Douthat found the document on the top shelf of the office closet which was in a worn black frame with Lincoln's signature clearly visible. College officials say they always knew they had it in their possession.

"It was (initially) discovered a while ago," associate dean and library director Janet McNeil Hurlbert said. "And then it got ... put someplace else for a while."

A preliminary appraisal has valued the certificate at more than $6,000, but for residents in central Pennsylvania and for Lycoming's roughly 1,400 students, the discovery is priceless.

John Brinsfield, a U.S. Army Chaplain Corps historian emeritus, said Crever was one of 500 Union hospital chaplains. Crever was assigned to the military hospital in Frederick, Md., and served between July 1862 and August 1865, a period that would have included the major battles in the region at Antietam and Gettysburg.

"Civil War commissions of any type are rare because they were sent to the individual chaplains," Brinsfield wrote in an email to ABC. "If any exist, it is only because the families saved them."

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