I met Wilford for the first time about 10 years ago. Wilford was 87 years old, spry as a cat, sharp as a whip and just about as cool an old man as you would ever want to meet. Wilford had a dog that I swear was twice as old as he was and the two of them traveled regularly to Florida to visit relatives. Wilford called me because he needed to get his basement cleaned out. It really didn't need cleaned but as he said it "I just don't want to leave any messes for my family to deal with.". This was not the first time that I had run into this type of thinking, so I did what I do best...bought all of his junk.
It started in the living room with some little figurines. It next proceeded to the bedrooms and dining areas for, guess what, more figurines. Finally we progressed to basement and this is where the story really begins.
The basement was filled with what most people would call junk, I wouldn't characterize it as junk but, well, it really was junk. So I looked, pulled, and pried out all of the items that Wilford wanted to get rid of, and after about an hour or so it was all unceremoniously piled up in the center of Wilford's basement floor. I shook my head, Wilford looked depressed and after a few minutes we set a price. I then carried all of it out the door and into my truck.
Since most of it was in fact pretty worthless I did what I always do with this type of stuff, and that is try to make it someone Else's problem. So I sold almost all of it off to some unwitting fellow who was selling his version of antiques at a local flea market. The only thing that I kept were a couple of figurines and a large box of letters. The letters and figurines ended up at my house and guess what, into the basement they went. A direct line from Wilford's basement to mine.
Seven months passed from the time that I purchased these items to the time that I actually looked at them, I should have looked much earlier. As it turns out these old papers were actually documents from a partnership that was formed in the 1830's to operate a toll bridge in Western Pennsylvania. It was really cool stuff. Everything from the actual partnership agreement to financial information on how much the bridge earned from operations. Oh yeah, there was one other interesting thing, Wilford's ancestors and my ancestors were the partners on the bridge!
As incredible as it may seem, there it was in black and white (well really yellow because the paper had aged and changed color), Wilford's great great great grandfather who's last name was Fasset was in business with my great great great great great great great great (I'm really not that young) grandfather Dangerfield.
After realizing what had occurred I immediately contacted Wilford to tell him about my discovery. He was as shocked as I was. We had a great time looking at all of the papers and talked for a couple of hours about what we new about our families migration to Ohio and then to the Youngstown area. When I originally purchased these correspondences I had no idea what history I had discovered. I did the right thing, I offered the papers back to Wilford. He looked at me and said that it was as much my history as his and that I should keep them. I said thanks and we once again went our separate ways.
It has now been quite a few years since this happened. I was never really sure what ended up happening to Wilford and his old dog, but some years later I did see that his house had been sold to someone else. I still have all of the documents tucked away in a safe place, who knows maybe in another 175 years one of Wilford's great great great great grandchildren will randomly come into one of my descendants lives to once again rediscover this great family history.