Published: September 12, 2006
A sleuthing historian on a mission has just uncovered a key fact in the theft of a powder horn stolen from her local museum last year — the powder horn is a fake and the real one has been found in a private collection one town away.
The horn that local historians believed to be the real thing was a replica carved after the 1759 Samuel Martin horn engraved at Crown Point, N.Y, significant because he was the first white man of record to come through Lisbon. A local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution apparently “loaned” the replica to the society so that residents could enjoy a piece of history in their town museum, said Andrea M. Fitzgerald, Lisbon Landaff Lyman Area Historical Society president and amateur sleuth.
The horn that was stolen is a cow horn engraved with the name “Samuel Marten” and “Engraved at Cro. Pt.” The horn features wildlife and landscape etchings and a tally box in one corner. A small hole is decorated with a scalloped edge and two holes have been bored in each end to hang a thin leather strap.
The horn was stolen sometime between May and December, when Fitzgerald noticed it missing, but her best guess is the theft happened during an open house in October as the small room containing the artifacts is usually locked with only a few keys in the hands of society members.
After the theft, she found reference in the late museum founder’s notes to a “copy” of the horn being on loan from the DAR. Fitzgerald, who had taken the horn to schools for history presentations for years, never suspected the horn was a replica although she said the large end was plugged with a new piece of cork. At the time she thought that was done to prevent the horn from cracking.
“I started investigating how anyone in this area could have ended up with the powder horn,” she said, saying she traced the Martin family’s home sale through old census records and found the man who had inherited the original powder horn and family artifacts.
Last week, Fitzgerald met with the original horn’s owner, who is understandably publicity shy given the value of his horn, and allowed her to take a photograph of one side of the horn. The owner, who was shocked to discover a replica exists, current whereabouts unknown, has so far declined to allow the museum to have another replica made.
Nine months of intense research seems to have paid off with Fitzgerald uncovering the truth. She still hopes to see the stolen replica someday returned to the museum, no questions asked. “I keep thinking I will catch up to it. I’m not done digging.”
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