A Columbus woman who spontaneously decided to spend $10 on a collection of frayed sheet music found hidden treasure when she bought the box at a Seymour estate sale.
Back in the late 1980s, Columbus resident Crystal Murray purchased the box of sheet music intending to use it to help her children learn to play piano.
Buried among the frazzled ragtime and saloon ballads from the late 19th century, she found a curious collection of documents, the largest of which was 32- by 34-inch, hand-colored map showing towns, counties and roads of a Texas that no longer exists.
Even as an amateur in the antiques game, she recognized value — if only historical — when she saw it. So, she put the map and related letters into a lock box for safe keeping.
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Fast forward to earlier this year.
Murray, who doesn’t regularly attend estate sales or auctions, happened to catch an episode of a Fox Business Network show, “Strange Inheritance.”
It featured a map of Texas created by Jacob De Cordova, a British immigrant of Spanish and Jewish descent, who settled in Texas and served as one of the state’s earliest legislators. That map of Texas sold for more than $140,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, she said.
Murray immediately retrieved her map from the safe and found that it looked similar and from about the same time period, she said.
It was not the same exact map, however.
The map appearing on “Strange Inheritance” was a first printing of the first official map of the state of Texas, produced in 1849 by De Cordova. Murray’s map was made four years later in 1853.
Still, Heritage Auctions, which sold the earlier map, values the later edition at more than $8,000, said Sandra Palamino, director of historical manuscripts at Heritage Auctions.
Of unique significance is a previous owner of the map, James M. Manning, had been deputy district surveyor for Corpus Christi, Texas, Palamino said.
Back in 1852, Manning compiled corrections to the original which were later printed in the new edition of the map. Numerous notations on these changes were handwritten on the map that Murray found in her box of sheet music.
Documentation was further verified by a letter accompanying the map which details payment arrangements between De Cordova and Manning for surveying services, Palamino said.
The letter alone is valued at about $800, Palamino said.
The Cordova map, Manning letter and other related documents are expected to sell at auction today. Online bidding on the documents has been underway, with further in-person bids accepted today at Heritage Auction’s Texana Grand Format Auction, Palamino said.
Heritage Auctions is the third-largest auction house in the world, with annual sales totaling about $900 million. The Cordova map is one of 280 lots related to Texas history currently for sale through the auction house.
Among the other items in this auction are documents signed by defenders of the Alamo and bonds signed by the first president of the Republic of Texas before it incorporated as a state.
No one knows how important documents detailing early Texas history found their way to an estate sale in southern Indiana, Murray said.
The Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University maintains a collection of Manning’s personal and professional documents, including maps similar to the one that Murray is offering for auction. A biography of Manning on their website indicates he died in 1872, survived only by his wife.
As a result, researching genealogy on who might have brought these documents to Indiana has been difficult, Murray said.
Texana Grand Format Auction
When: 10 a.m. today
Where: 3500 Maple Ave., Dallas, Texas
More information on the maps and how to bid online can be found on the Heritage Auctions website, historical.ha.com.