4th grade teacher finds 18th c. document on bookshelf

Fourth grade teacher Michelle Eugenio was packing up the bookshelves in her Peabody, Massachusetts, classroom in preparation for a move to the second floor when she found a yellowed document in a plastic sleeve cover. She could well have tossed it out without a second glance, but when she noticed the handwritten date of April 1792, she decided to share it with the class.

Michelle Eugenio with her students and the 1792 documentHer students were excited at the thought that it might be a genuine old document, so she brought it to the local historical society to find out if it was authentic.

The yellowed sheet of paper, protected by a thin sheath of plastic, is dated April 1792 and appears to document the discharge of a debt belonging to a man named Jonathan Bates, according to Peabody Historical Society President Bill Power. […]

[Peabody Historical Society President Bill] Power eventually verified its authenticity. Bates served in the Continental Army, and the document conveys the final payment for his service — 19 pounds, 19 shillings and 11 pence — to the person he owed, Power said.

Bates lives in Shaftsbury, Vermont. During the Revolutionary War he was in a company led by Capt. Bigelow Lawrence, but Vermont historians don’t know which battles he fought in or where the company was deployed. He died at the age of 63 in 1808 and was buried in East Hill Cemetery in Williamstown, Vermont.

How this document got from Vermont to Peabody nobody knows. Eugenio has no idea how long it was on that bookshelf or who brought it to school. Some student’s parents must have been mighty pissed off when their kid came back from show and tell minus a family heirloom from the Revolutionary War.

The teacher hasn’t decided yet whether to keep it to show to future fourth grade classes or to donate it to the Peabody Historical Society.