While tidying up his home in Quincy this summer, Scott Wheelock rediscovered a stack of old papers he bought at an auction years ago.
One document in particular captured his interest. It was a property abstract for a 160-acre tract of land in Oklahoma granted to a 2-year-old Native American girl around 1905. Wheelock believes the U.S. government was issuing land grants back then as reparations for chasing Native Americans off their ancestral lands.
The abstract offered details on how this particular piece of property subsequently changed hands over the years.
Wheelock said the abstract at one point belonged to a former Quincy businessman who had been trying to acquire oil rights to the property in Oklahoma. After the businessman died, Wheelock went to the man's estate sale and bought a variety of things, including the abstract, some maps and other paperwork associated with Oklahoma's oil fields.
Wheelock, who sometimes re-sells things he picks up at auctions and garage sales, said he didn't have much use for the abstract.
But he wasn't sure what to do with it.
"Some things I resell to make money, but I don't feel good about reselling this," he said. "It's kind of historical."
Instead, he decided to try to find a descendant of the 2-year-old Native American girl -- by now 111 years old -- to see if the family would like the abstract as a memento.
Wheelock studied the document and noticed the girl, Sue Washington, was identified as a Creek Indian, which the abstract described as one of "the Five Civilized Tribes" being assigned land in Oklahoma. He contacted the genealogy department of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma to see if he could track down one of the woman's heirs.
He was in luck.
"They found the woman on the Indian rolls and think they may be able to track down heirs," Wheelock said.
A representative of the genealogy department told Wheelock in an email: "Perhaps we can place the documents to their rightful owners."
Wheelock is still waiting to see if the genealogy department can make contact with a family member.
"If we can't find relation to her, I'll give it to them (the genealogy department) for their records," he said.
Wheelock, the licensing manager for Chaddock Foster and Adoption Services, said he's hopeful the land abstract will eventually find a home with a descendant of Sue Washington.
He said the document, now yellowed with age, "is the kind of paperwork that many people just throw away." But in the hands of a family member with ancestral ties to the original owner, a document like this could have special meaning, which is why he wants to pass it on.
"If somebody gave me something that belonged to my grandfather 150 years ago, I'd think it would be awesome," he said.