DEARBORN, Mich. — An oxen gunpowder container made in 1757 and stolen more than 60 years ago from a Detroit-area museum has been returned.
The FBI turned the Nowlin Powder Horn over Tuesday during a ceremony at the Dearborn Historical Museum. Authorities tracked the powder horn down in November to an estate auction in Pennsylvania.
It's not known who originally took the artifact in 1952 and the most recent owner may not have been aware it was stolen. It was sold for about $13,000 at auction in 1991 to an unknown buyer.
"We got it off the auction block before it went up for auction again," said Jake Archer, special agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team in Philadelphia.
The powder horn was made in Charlestown, New Hampshire, for Lt. Abel Prindel during the French and Indian War, according to the Detroit Historical Society. Prindel's name, rank, the date of its making and a verse from a poem are engraved on the horn.
It later came into the possession of John Nowlin, an early settler of what is now Dearborn, just southwest of Detroit. The Nowlin family traveled in 1833 to Detroit from their homestead in New York. The horn was handed down through generations of the Nowlin family and sold in 1947 for $75 to the Detroit Historical Museum. The Detroit Historical Society operates that museum and loaned it to the Dearborn museum for inclusion in an exhibit called "Saga of a Settler."
"We don't have many clues as to who may have taken it at that time," said Dearborn police Cpl. Stanley Kulikowski.
Even years after its theft, police in Dearborn continued to look into the case and in 2017 enlisted the help of the FBI.
The powder horn will be on short-term display through the spring at the Detroit Historical Museum.