An electrician running wire in a home in Asheville, N.C., last month discovered a box of business correspondence and papers of Thomas W. Patton.
According to a story in the Citizen Times, electrician German Martinez was running wire to a back room, working in a doorway beside a hearth. He took down a patch of drywall, revealing an older layer of plaster and wood lathing. As he cut away, he uncovered a secret compartment hidden next to the chimney. Looking inside, he caught a glimpse of color. He pulled out a tin box embossed with Caribbean scenes and a stack of leather-bound books covered with ash.
The house belongs to attorney Jim Siemens, who bought the historical house last fall. Thomas W. Patton was the house’s original builder and "the Asheville city father who lent his name to one of the city’s major thoroughfares," the Times reported.
The historic documents found by the electrician include signatures from two U.S. presidents. A land grant shows property in Alabama signed over to Patton by Andrew Jackson in November 1830, likely for land wrested from Native Americans under the Indian Removal Act signed that same year. Another land grant for Alabama property is signed by Martin Van Buren in 1837.
Patton was a Civil War hero who rose to the rank of captain in the Confederate Army and came home to Asheville and built the sprawling family home.
“I’ve worked in a lot of old houses, but I’ve never found anything like this,” the electrician said.