SPRINGFIELD -- David Spriegel of Gurnee was in his first weeks as an intern for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, sorting through a stack of papers that was donated almost three years ago.
He was preparing the old papers for storage and putting their contents into a database.
You know, intern stuff.
As he was slowly paging through those papers, the undergraduate history major made a surprising find: two legal documents in Lincoln's handwriting -- rare historical artifacts shedding a little light on the Illinois president's life.
"There was this brief notation" that the documents were written by Lincoln, Spriegel said.
For an intern who'd found more than 167-year-old documents handwritten by one of the country's greatest presidents, Spriegel said he acted pretty calmly.
"This seems pretty interesting," Spriegel thought to himself.
"It's always very important to verify that the documents are genuine," he added.
They are, Lincoln scholars have determined.
The Lincoln documents were found amid mortgage papers, wills and other legal items tied to important central Illinois families that knew the Lincolns.
They're a rare find, to be sure -- one or two such documents might pop up every year or so, said museum spokesman David Blanchette.
That kind of discovery is seldom made by an inexperienced intern. "They're usually researchers with many, many years of experience," Blanchette said.
Spriegel is hoping to become one of those researchers one day. But before that, he'll start his senior year at St. Mary's University in Winona, Minn., in the fall. Then he wants to go on to get a graduate degree in library sciences.
"My professors are very, very keen to hear this story," he said.
The Warren Township High School graduate will be working on his internship in Springfield until August, perhaps unable to one-up the discovery of his opening weeks. The documents could be of value to Lincoln scholars. They list parcels of land being dealt with in a court case. Lincoln was a prominent central Illinois lawyer before he won office as a state lawmaker.
"I feel very, very fortunate that I can play a role in the discovery of Lincoln's legal legacy," Spriegel said.
Blanchette says the papers Spriegel discovered will be available for public viewing in the fall at papersofabrahamlincoln.org.