Jefferson Letter Discovered at Old Town American Legion

Lorton couple makes a historic discovery in an old drawer in American Legion

When Army veteran Tom Hewitt and his wife Candice Bennett realized they were beholding a valuable piece of history, they could hardly believe their eyes. In front of them, according to the Washington Post, was an actual letter handwritten by Thomas Jefferson.

Hewitt was at the American Legion 24 in Old Town Alexandria with friends drinking beer and talking about updating the walls with historic photos. When his wife dropped by, they went upstairs to the third floor office to look for some. There in an old drawer, according to the Post, Bennett spied a piece of paper that was very old and unusual. She whipped out her iPhone to do some quick research. Then it dawned on her -- it was a letter written by Jefferson.

The Post said the Jefferson letter is weathered and stained. The report cites historians who call this Jefferson letter special because it sheds light on his private life during his chaotic last year as the nation's third president. Personal notes are rarer than presidential ones.

The letter is dated July 25, 1808 and addressed to Jefferson's friend Joel Barlow, who was a poet and diplomat. In the letter Jefferson talked about the weather, gave Barlow directions to Monticello and even offered travel tips and noted distances like 6 miles to the "Fairfax Court House."

Jefferson closes: "In hope that nothing may intervene to deprive us of the pleasure of possessing Mrs. Barlow and yourself here after presenting her my respects I salute you with friendship and great consideration. TH JEFFERSON."

The couple called the National Archives and the Library of Congress, which led them to Allan J. Stypeck Jr. of Second Story Books in Rockville and Gary Eyler, who owns the Old Colony Shop in Alexandria.

"I saw the handwriting, and I knew...It's one of the ultimate finds you can find," Eyler told the Post.  

Eyler said a letter detailing grand philosophies of state might fetch $100,00 or more. A brief, damaged correspondence would bring in less than $10,000. Experts say a Jefferson letter would be hard to fake.

No one knows how the letter ended up at the American Legion. The report said the commander of American Legion 24 is negotiating with the city of Alexandria to help preserve and display the letter.

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