"Thieves break through and steal" at the Methodist Archives

Paul may indeed be right that "Methodists just aren't that cool," but historical documents stolen from their archives still apparently fetch a hefty sum on the black market. Just ask William John Scott, Drew University freshman and (former) employee at the school's United Methodist Archives and History Center, who was arrested last week on charges of stealing several valuable documents from the archives (including 21 of the 23 Wesley letters the school owns, and "roughly 11 other important and historical documents, ... including letters from five United States presidents"). Scott is currently being held on $50,000 bond and could face up to 10 years in prison.

From the report in the New York Times:

The university became suspicious, according to an account provided by prosecutors, after an antiques dealer in England alerted officials in its library that he had been approached by someone offering to sell him original letters from the Wesleys. Ten of the letters arrived on March 3, via FedEx, according to the complaint, with two suffering some damage in transit.

Prosecutors said the unprofessional way the valuable documents were shipped did not sit well with the dealer, who then consulted Drew officials, given their expertise and collection of Wesleyana.

After a quick search of its archives, the university estimated that 21 to 23 of its Wesley letters appeared to be missing and contacted the F.B.I. The missing lot included a valuable letter, worth more than $5,000, from John Wesley to a friend and supporter, George Merryweather, dated Dec. 20, 1766. ...

University officials had not been aware that the presidential letters were missing until the search of the dorm room. But they were optimistic on Monday that they would ultimately recover any lost items. “For Methodists, these are treasures and so we’re hoping to get them back,” said Christopher Anderson, the Methodist librarian at Drew.


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