Hidden treasures of the past
Certificate found in desk dates back to early 1900s
In the mid 1980s Lee Sobolik saw a garage sale sign posted in a yard in Park River and pulled in. He was looking to purchase a desk. . . more specifically a secretary-type desk. Something with lots of cubicles to help him organize his farm records.
Sobolik hit the jackpot that day, finding an antique desk with a china cupboard on top of it. He paid for it and prepared to haul it away. The china cupboard had glass doors, so he removed the top portion from the desk before transporting it. When he got it home and started to reassemble it, he found a few hidden treasures.
“In a gap between the cabinet and the desk, there was a narrow opening,” Sobolik said. “When I put it back together, I found two old postcards, an old Father’s Day card and an old certificate.”
At the time Sobolik didn’t give much thought to the items he found pushed to the back of the desk. He set them aside elsewhere in the desk and went about his business.
In February, when Sobolik was preparing to file his taxes, he came upon the items he had set aside when he purchased the desk. The rediscovery piqued his interest.
Now a rural mail carrier, the postcards were of interest to Sobolik. One of the two cards was not very old. Based on the postage affixed to it, he determined it was from about the mid 1980s, around the same year he purchased the desk. The other postcard, bearing a picture of Las Animas Canon in Colorado, had two cents postage in the upper right hand corner, dating it 1910 to 1920. The old Father’s Day card – signed inside by the recipient’s loved ones – had been used to keep score of a card game on the back.
Although those items were of interest to Sobolik, when he did a little research he learned the certificate that he had tossed aside many years ago was actually an authentic turn of the century document.
During the Civil War, the log cabin located in Kentucky that Abraham Lincoln was born in was moved to another location to protect it from the Confederate Army. In the early 1900s, a group of individuals formed the Lincoln Farm Association to raise money to have the cabin reconstructed at its original location.
The association campaigned for citizens across the country to support the restoration by making monetary donations of no less than 25 cents or no more than $25. Anyone who made a donation received an engraved certificate of honorary membership in the Lincoln Farm Association signed by each member of the association which included people like Mark Twain and William H. Taft. It was a certificate from the association awarded to a woman named Anna Sundberg on March 12, 1909, that Sobolik found in his desk.
Last spring, Sobolik showed the certificate to Hewitt Elementary Principal Jane Misialek who connected him with a professor at UND who later confirmed the certificate was authentic.
“He was hoping I would donate it to the university,” Sobolik said.
Instead, Sobolik started a quest to find out just who Anna Sundberg was. He made phone calls to Sundbergs who lived in the area, but not one of them recalled an Anna Sundberg in their family tree. It was then he called upon his friend, Rick Mahar who he describes as a whiz at online research.
Mahar found an Anna Sundberg who lived in Polk, Neb. She was the wife of Albert Sundberg who was in the hardware business. The research eventually connected Sobolik to Judy Quist of Omaha, Neb., whose grandfather, Oscar Sundberg, was Anna’s son.
This summer, Sobolik contacted Quist and told her about the certificate he had found in the old desk. It is his intention to return the certificate, which is valued at about $300, to the Sundberg family. How the certificate that belonged to a woman in Nebraska got into a desk in North Dakota remains a mystery.