The case of the missing 1862 Wolf Township assessor log has ended with the historical document being sold by someone in Endicott, N.Y. But the question remains: How did it leave Lycoming County?
That prompted a genealogical researcher and history buff from northern New Jersey to contact officials here to find some answers.
She didn't get too far, however.
Gayle Ann Livecchia spotted the document for sale on eBay.com a few weeks ago. She called Wolf Township supervisor Bill Dewire, worried that the municipality was missing a treasured piece of history from the Civil War era that details residents' names and property they owned.
Dewire, who said he doesn't use the Internet and didn't see the online auction listing for the item, told Livecchia the township wasn't interested in having it back.
"I have no idea," said Dewire about how the logbook may have left the township. "That was long ago. I haven't heard of any documents being stolen around here."
While it is not illegal to buy and sell historical documents in Pennsylvania, it is in other states.
Dr. David Haury, state archivist, said it is against the law to own, buy or sell government documents from any level in North Carolina.
Livecchia said she was surprised her tip about old township documents for sale on eBay was not met more enthusiastically. She said besides the township, she contacted the Lycoming County Assessor's Office, Lycoming County District Attorney's Office and Williamsport Bureau of Police.
"This is the first place I called where nobody was interested in investigating it," Livecchia said.
Chief County Detective William Weber said he did investigate the matter, but no laws were broken. He said there was no victim in the case since the township didn't want the document and it was never reported stolen.
Weber also said he contacted the county assessor's office and found out log books need only be retained for 21 years.
"If nothing else, aren't you interested in how it walked out of your office?" Livecchia asked. "I'd be worried about, 'how did this get out of our hands?'"
Melanie McCoy, township secretary/treasurer, said the answer isn't that mysterious.
"As far as those early days, there were no township records. Meetings were held in (peoples') homes," she said.
McCoy speculated it wouldn't be too hard for an old document like that to end up in private hands.
Haury said the state Historical and Museum Commission sometimes tracks the sale of such documents and offers to buy them from the seller. He said it becomes more difficult to launch a legal claim for the documents, especially when they are held outside of Pennsylvania.
Still, Haury said the commission likes to see historical pieces stay in the state.
"We don't like to see government documents out there for sale anywhere. It is a violation, but there are no penalties or enforcement," he said.
Haury said if Livecchia would have contacted the commission before the sale ended, law enforcement could have intervened and told eBay to stop the sale.
"We try to persuade them (sellers) that they are public records and are beneficial," he said. "The hard part is getting it back."
The Wolf Township assessor log sold for $48 on Sept. 4.