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From Lost to Found

Posted by on October 28, 2014

On a recent trip to explore the more rural parts of Southern NJ, I got lost trying to find one particular out-of-the-way colonial structure. Though I had GPS via my phone, apparently the area was so rural that even modern technology couldn’t accurately assist me in finding my way. Intent on reaching my destination nonetheless, I decided to pull into a windy dirt driveway so as to ascertain from the homeowners (1) where the heck I was and (2) directions to my target location. I immediately received a friendly greeting from the homeowner, who happened to be outside working on his house. After hearing about my predicament, the homeowner pointed just beyond his property and across the road to a grouping of trees; there, he said, was the location I was looking for.

After thanking him, we struck up a conversation, which inevitably had me explaining my metal detecting hobby. The homeowner was intrigued and granted me unsolicited permission to search his property for historic relics. Though I really didn’t have time to do so right then and there, I told him I certainly would be back. Before leaving, he showed me items he had recovered from his property, all of which were found right on the surface of the ground. I could see old bottle pieces and pottery fragments, not to mention a matron head large cent. “Hmmm,” I thought, “this place certainly has potential.” I thanked my new friend and told him I’d be in touch.

About a week later, returning to the property, the homeowner told me that the current home was built around 1890, but the original structure had been built sometime in the 1700s and burned down around 1860. (Later research dated the original structure to 1754 or 1756.) This had me wondering if I could locate items specific to the original structure.

After an anxious start, the first item of note that I dug was my first silver Walking Liberty half dollar (1937). To see a large silver disc in the hole is thrilling; the size and design makes this coin look really majestic.

1937 Walking Liberty silver half dollar

1937 Walking Liberty silver half dollar

Very shortly thereafter I unearthed a half-cut King George I coin. Back in the day, change was sometimes made literally by cutting a coin in half or in quarters. Despite it being incomplete, it had great detail and I was able to see enough of the date (“23”) to know it was a 1723—a clear indicator dating to the original structure.

1723 cut King George I

1723 cut King George I

Checking the hole again, it was apparent that there was still something of note in there. It turned out to be a dark-hued coin about the size of a quarter. The only visible detail was a circle in the middle of it. Exhaustive research into its possible identity (factoring in size and the circle motif) has yielded few possibilities. I can say for certain that it is not a button because there is absolutely no evidence of a shank (loop).  So far, the only theory proposed, factoring in the circle design, is a possible counterfeit Swedish coin (“counterfeit” because it rings up on my detector as bronze, whereas such coins of that era were made of copper or silver). Swedish origin would be a very interesting theory because the area was originally settled by Swedes. Absent any more detail, however, it will remain just that—a wishful theory.

Mystery coin

Mystery coin

The find of the day for me was a military belt plate unearthed on the side of the house, not too far from the aforementioned coins. Without any visible design or detail, but based on a similar plate Grant found, it likely dates to either the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812. Either way, certainly a fascinating piece of local (and national) history!

Military belt plate

Military belt plate

Other notable finds from the day were a salt cellar pot, an 1880 Indian Head penny, a watchwinder, and a small pewter boot.

Tiny mystery pot

Salt cellar pot

Small pewter boot

Small pewter boot

1880 Indian Head penny

1880 Indian Head penny

Watch winder

Watch winder

Special thanks to the very kind homeowners, who shall remain nameless, but who are extremely gracious and welcoming. I have really enjoyed chatting with them.

I will post updates as I continue to revisit the site. The adjacent farm fields have been cleared after the soybean harvest, so I’m anxious to see what lurks out in that vast acreage. Stay tuned!

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