Published January 14, 2015
It's not exactly the Alamo, but Davy Crockett is at the center of a battle here.
Officials in Tennessee want a Hillsborough County judge to enforce a Tennessee order that 90-year-old Margaret V. Smith turn over Crockett's original marriage license application, which the Tampa woman says she inherited.
Lura Hinchey, archive director for Jefferson County, Tenn., said the county has repeatedly asked Smith for the license application of Crockett and Margaret Elder. Officials learned years ago that Smith had the document when she wrote the county clerk asking how to preserve it.
"I asked for it when she came to the courthouse" in about 1999, Hinchey said.
"She just said she had sent a copy and wondered why it wasn't in the museum," Hinchey said. "I told her the original belonged to our county because it was one of our permanent records. She said it belonged to her and she was going to keep it. ... She had already been asked by the county historian, and I believe the county clerk asked her for it."
Smith's son said his mother inherited the document from her father, who died in the 1950s.
"The state had never asked for it back until apparently my mother went on the TV program 'Antiques Roadshow,"' said Vance Smith, who is a lawyer. "They knew she had it because she had loaned them a copy of it. They found out it had some significant money value. ... She said it was hers and she wasn't giving it up."
Smith said he hadn't seen the legal action, which was filed last week in Hillsborough County.
When Margaret Smith took the document to 'Antiques Roadshow' in 2005, the appraiser valued the 1805 license application at $25,000 to $50,000, and commended her for how well it was preserved.
Crockett and Elder never married, although the legendary frontiersman from Tennessee later married someone else. Crockett died in 1836 while defending the Alamo against Mexican forces.
Smith told the appraiser her uncle rescued the document when someone was cleaning out the courthouse in Dandridge, Tenn.
"They were throwing away everything they thought was unimportant," Smith said, according to a transcript on the television show's Web site. "This document never happened — David Crockett didn't marry this woman. ... So they felt that it had no value whatsoever, and therefore it was going to be pitched out.
"And my uncle, my Dad's elder brother, saw it, and being a fan of Crockett, he grabbed it right quick," the transcript quotes Smith as saying. "And it's been in the family ever since."
But Jefferson County officials question that account.
"That dog just won't hunt," Tennessee Judge Allen Wallace said in issuing his November ruling.
"The circumstantial evidence is a member of Mrs. Smith's family took that document. It's Jefferson County's document," Wallace said. "The title is in Jefferson County, period. She's got to return it."