Image: Davy Crockett Letter
Harry Cabluck  /  AP
Ray Simpson is shown after a ceremony where the letter on the right, written by Davy Crockett to his children, was accepted by the State of Texas on Sept. 4. The state purchased, what is believed to be the last letter written by Crockett, for $490,000 from Simpson. Two experts question whether it's authentic.
updated 9/12/2007 1:48:57 PM ET 2007-09-12T17:48:57

The Texas Historical Commission, which had declared itself “99.9 percent” certain about the authenticity of a letter purportedly written by Alamo hero Davy Crockett, is now backing off that contention.

State officials had announced the plan to purchase the letter last week for $550,000. But the commission retracted the statement Monday after several skeptics questioned the letter was for real.

It was presented as Crockett’s last, written Jan. 9, 1836, before he and about 200 other Alamo defenders were killed by Mexican forces led by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The letter was written to his children.

The $550,000 purchase from Simpson Galleries of Houston is conditioned on authentication within 120 days.

The commission’s executive director, F. Lawerence Oaks, said an assurance last week of near-certainty concerning the letter’s authenticity “was a misstatement” by a spokeswoman.

Skeptics emerged almost immediately. Rare-book dealers said facsimiles of the letter bear little resemblance to the frontiersman’s poor spelling, bad grammar and uneven penmanship.

The commission will seek experts skilled in forensics and other forms of historical document analysis, Oaks said, and the document will undergo tests to determine the age of the paper and the ink.

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