Local man discovers historic House document

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Counting early Mississippi printer Andrew Marschalk as one of his ancestors, Sam Tomlinson had more than a passing interest in an 1812 pamphlet he found among his family papers.

The decision to donate the pamphlet to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History came naturally, he said.

&8220;I was looking at it for maybe the third or fourth time, but this time I had a little different thought about it,&8221; Tomlinson said, his lap filled with other papers, photographs and letters he shared during a recent afternoon at his home on Homochitto Street.

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&8220;I thought, well, this is kind of interesting, but I&8217;ll bet Archives and History already has about 20 of them.&8221;

As it turned out, not only did the state archives have fewer than 20; they did not have a copy at all of the &8220;Rules of Order, Decorum and (Debate) for the Government of the House of Representatives of the Mississippi Territory,&8221; printed in Natchez, not by Marschalk but by P. Isler.

Tomlinson&8217;s was one of only 50 copies printed in 1812 and perhaps the only one to have survived the nearly 200 years since then.

Indeed, the pamphlet is so rare that the Jackson appraiser hired by Archives and History put a value of $25,000 on it.

Tomlinson, a retired Episcopal priest, was amazed by the appraisal. But it did not change his decision to put it in a public place for posterity.

&8220;I haven&8217;t had any second thoughts,&8221; he said. &8220;It belongs in the public domain. It&8217;s a little bit of Mississippi history that otherwise might be lost.&8221;

When he contacted a friend at Archives and History in Jackson, he offered to mail the pamphlet to them, Tomlinson said.

&8220;They said right away, &8216;Oh, no, we&8217;ll come and get it.&8217;&8221;

At a meeting of the Archives and History board, Tomlinson received a &8220;Resolution of Commendation&8221; from the state, thanking him for his &8220;generous gift to the people of Mississippi.&8221;

He pulled out the framed certificate and pointed to the signature of former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, longtime chairman of the Archives and History board.

&8220;It was such a thrill to have it presented by William Winter. He&8217;s one of my heroes,&8221; Tomlinson said.

He continued to look through files in his lap, talking about the old Natchez families represented in his lineage.

&8220;I have all kinds of memorabilia but in no particular order,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;ve always loved history but haven&8217;t done anything with it systematically.&8221;

His goal is to study the files and to &8220;work up a little family history,&8221; he said.

Meanwhile, maybe his gift will inspire others. &8220;Maybe there are others who will say, &8216;Hey, I&8217;ve got some old papers.&8217;&8221;