A battered suitcase full of memories has appeared in Arkansas that may be very valuable to a Nebraska family. Someone placed the decades-old suitcase, apparently at random, in a driveway in Benton County, Arkansas, last week.
Sheriff’s deputy Doug Gay says: “We’ve got quite a little treasure trove of heirlooms and national history, for that matter.” The case contains a 1937 Iowa driver’s license from Howard W. Evenden, along with a host of his bank records, letters and documents from his ancestors in Nebraska and elsewhere. Gay says, “This wedding certificate dates back to the mid-1800s, something like 1856, prior to the Civil War.”
His headstone, which investigators located at the National Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas, says he was a sergeant in the Army Air Corps during the first world war. Gay says it appears Evenden had an extensive military career, as detailed by the dozens of sepia-toned photographs. Gay says: “We have a photo album depicting a lot of scenes of World War One, to include aircraft and some battle scenes from around the European theatre. There’s a photograph of General Persing in there, there’s tanks and again, a lot of aircraft.”
The aged suitcase is very tattered and neither of its latches work, he says, yet everything inside was stacked and orderly, as if it hadn’t been touched in decades. While there are apparent ties to Nebraska and Iowa, the fragile documents in the suitcase indicate Evenden visited, or may have lived in, several other states, including Wyoming, New York and Rogers, Arkansas — not far from where the case was discovered.
“Wherever it came from, whoever placed it there, did just that, placed it there,” Gay says. “We’re supposing that it might’ve been involved in a burglary and we’re hoping whoever the burglar was had a conscience and saw that this would mean something to somebody.”
The headstone says Evenden died in 1957. Gay hopes some relative, perhaps in Nebraska, will claim the history-packed satchel and preserve it. For more information, contact the deputy at (479) 271-1008.