(CN) – A Florida woman was properly ordered to return Davy Crockett’s marriage license to Jefferson County, Tennessee, a state appeals court ruled.
Margaret Vance Smith had possession of a marriage license issued to the legendary pioneer and Margaret Elder on Oct. 21, 1805.
The license was never executed, and it was returned to the Jefferson County Courthouse, in Dandridge, where it remained for more than a century.
Smith wrote to a member of the Jefferson County Historical Society that her uncle, Harry Vance, found the document while he served as chairman of the county court.
“Uncle Harry told Dad they were clearing out a lot of papers because of more room and space needed and he thought Dad ‘would get a kick out of having that particular piece of paper,” Smith wrote.
After her father died, Smith wrote, her mother passed the Crockett license on to her.
According to the Crockett legend, the marriage never took place because his intended eloped with someone else. One year later, Crockett married Polly Findley.
Smith took the license onto the PBS TV show “Antiques Roadshow” in 2006. Jefferson County then demanded that she return it, and Smith refused, saying the county clerk had discarded it as trash.
At trial in 2009, the court ruled that Smith must return the license because it is a “Jefferson County historical document.”
As for her argument that the county trashed the document, the trial court stated: “That dog just won’t hunt … it just don’t make sense that you can have all of the other documents immediately preceding that and subsequent to that, they’re all still official county records, they’re still in the clerk’s office of Jefferson County.”
Smith returned the license but appealed. Judge John McCarty wrote for the Knoxville-based Tennessee Court of Appeals that the license belongs to the county.
“The trial court properly determined that the county had carried its burden of proof in showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the Crockett license was more than likely unlawfully removed from the possession of Jefferson County,” McCarty wrote.