Meredith Land, NBC 5 News
A complete stranger mailed T. Boone Pickens 110 Civil War-era letters and other artifacts that once belonged to his ancestors.
What do you give a legendary Texas billionaire on his 85th birthday?
Well, a complete stranger mailed T. Boone Pickens a trunk of Civil War-era letters written by his ancestors.
The trunk sent to his Dallas office contained 110 letters and some other artifacts. They are a treasure trove of documents that reveal a lot about his family history. It's a find so significant, historians are clamoring to get their hands on it.
There is no doubt that the letters once belonged to Pickens' ancestors.
A woman in Florida, who asked to remain anonymous, decided to give them to him as a gift.
They were written during the Civil War by two brothers, Samuel and John Miles Pickens. The two Confederate soldiers on the front lines were writing home to their parents. Both brothers survived the war and the letters chronicle their journey.
Lately, tracing his genealogy has been front and center for T. Boone Pickens. He says his mother's dying wish was for him to learn where he came from.
I traveled with Pickens, his family and his friends to Pickens County, S.C., on April 17 as he traced his roots to Gen. Andrew Pickens, a leader in the American Revolution.
The group saw the general's home, "Hopewell," and his grave in the cemetery at Old Stone Church.
At the time, Pickens said it was "a pretty sobering experience." He said the visit to South Carolina really touched him.
"I am in the presence of the remains of a very prominent famous general in the Revolutionary Army, and I'm related to him," he said.
When asked if he felt his mother would be proud, Pickens said, "That's right -- she said, 'Find out who you are.' I have. I fulfilled that."
The stranger who gifted the letters also transcribed them.
"All these letters that he and his brother wrote, this is real stuff," Pickens said.
He said he has a lot of reading to do and distant cousins to get to know.
"Let's leave it open for another chapter," he said.