The history of Ohio is vast, admitted to the Union as the 17th state in 1803 and the first state from what was once known as the Northwest Territory. Like many states, Ohio has had its fair share of trials and tribulations. From Fort Laurens’s involvement in the American Revolutionary War, the battles of the Northwest Indian War, the War of 1812, and even the Civil War, and Morgan’s Raid Ohio has become a state of great historical value. Forts were established, treaties were signed, and early settlers moved in from the Appalachian Mountains to settle lands they saw as prosperous.
Early Ohio Country settlers built cabins and formed homesteads they eventually passed on to their families. Some, even today, are still a part of those original Ohio families. My family helped settle the area of western Ohio where I reside. There are streets that bear their names and old land maps show their footprint in the history of this state. I am not proud that our land was taken from the indigenous tribes that once loved this land, but I am thankful for the grit and determination my ancestors had which drove them to explore uncharted territory.
A twenty-minute drive west of my home is the site at which the Treaty of Greenville was signed in 1795. This treaty opened the lands of the Northwest Territory and ended the hostility between the early settlers and native tribes for a period of time. This same area is also where Annie Oakley grew up and called home before her days in the Wild West.
I can head a bit north of my home and there sits a site known as Fort Loramie. A gentleman by the name of Greg Shipley and others have been working in that area to uncover the old fort that once sat there and he has discovered some really incredible pieces of history. I highly suggest if you are curious about Ohio history you find Greg on Facebook to see all of the relics and bits of history he’s working to preserve. Fort Loramie is just one of the many forts that once dotted the lands of the early Ohio Country.
I do not have to go far to find history in my area of Ohio. I can walk the river across the road from my house and find native artifacts mixed with relics from the early settlers. This river was once defended by militia members during the War of 1812. Though not a historical site, the history it gives me is neverending. I know most people who pass this river have no idea of the relics it holds or even consider how many early settlers crossed it on their way to new lands. I do because I metal detect and walk along that river every summer.
The same can be said of the land I live on as well. My home has an original 1800s cabin inside of 1960s updates. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but with a little research, I’ve been able to document the families that once called this place their home. Through metal detecting my land I have also come to know those families in a more personal way.
On my property, I have uncovered a lot of history. In 2022 I unearthed a NY Militia button from my side yard. A few months after that I found an Indian Wars button. I am always amazed at the relics that I uncover. Some relics are indicators of the lives the early settlers of Ohio carried with them when they came. Others are tools and household items which helped make their lives easier at the time.
Just last week, I was granted permission to start metal detecting a property of a fellow local historical society member. Sitting with him in the kitchen of the property, I learned the house was once part of the Underground Railroad and in the early 1900s was the home of an illegal bootlegger. The old cabin that once sat on the land is long gone, but the history is still in the earth around the home that sits there now.
My first outing at the site produced a beautiful piece of history I am still working on identifying. It is a gilded piece with an eagle on it that is holding a bundle of arrows and a shield. There is an olive branch to one side of the eagle and thirteen stars above the eagle’s head. It seems larger than a button and it just may be an old horse bridle rosette. I can’t be certain just yet, but I am still grateful to have found it so that I can preserve it. One thing is certain, it is part of a patriotic history that covers the lands of Ohio.
A lot of detectorists get hung up on Civil War artifacts. Though Ohio only had one documented battle with Morgan’s Raid, there are still Civil War relics to be found. Many of the young men from this state enlisted and fought. Some never came home, but those who did brought home their uniforms and other mementos of their battles. Quite a few can be found metal detecting the homes of these past soldiers.
The same can be said of currency. Having been admitted to the Union in 1807, many early Ohio settlers brought old currency with them. That means there is potential to find dropped coins from the early days of our country.
Another relic that is common to find is old railroad parts. The railroad boom of the 1800s left behind a lot of debris and relics. Between my home and the river that sits in front of it was once a rail line that is now long gone. I have found a lot of railroad pins in my yard. Whether they were repurposing them for other uses I’m not sure, but I’m sure they found uses for some of them. Whether it was by melting them down to make nails or other items, early settlers always found a use for what they had. Along the river near where the rail line once sat, I have discovered tools that were used to build that rail line. Lost to the earth, but found through metal detecting.
Ohio is not known for beaches, but we have those too. They are found along lakes such as St. Mary’s and Ft. Loramie, as well as many other lakes that dot the state, including the Great Lakes to the north. Tremendous battles were fought near the Great Lakes and metal detecting in that area has produced quite a few historical finds for the detectorists in that area.
Laws Concerning Ohio Metal Detecting
If you are going to metal detect in Ohio state parks you are able to legally, but there are some stipulations to the law. The Ohio Administrative Code, Rule 1501:46-7-08, concerning metal detector use in state parks of Ohio says:
“No person shall use or offer for use any device for the purpose of locating or removing any metallic objects or any other objects of value from any lands or waters of the division without first having obtained written permission from the area manager, except that sand beaches shall be exempt from the prohibition. (A) No person shall use or offer for use any device for the purpose of locating or removing any metallic objects or any other objects of value from any lands or waters of the division without first having obtained written permission from the area manager. (B) Not withstanding paragraph (A) of this rule, metal detecting is permitted without written permission on sand beach area and mowed areas, except mowed areas associated with a golf course, rental facility, or campground. Any area disturbed by the activity shall immediately be returned to a condition as close to undisturbed as possible.”
What this means, is you are allowed to metal detect in Ohio state parks without permission as long as you stay on beach areas and mowed areas except the ones stated in the law above. However, if you are able to get written permission from a specific park from that park’s manager then you will be able to detect the areas in the agreement with the park manager. This law does get reviewed every five years and is not set for review until 2025.
If you are a detectorist who enjoys metal detecting at local parks, you will want to check that city or village’s rules concerning metal detectors. For instance, I grew up in Piqua, OH. It has an incredible history, some of which involve my ancestors helping it to thrive. Piqua strictly prohibits metal detecting in all public parks and land owned by the city. You can stop by city offices and request a permit to detect an area, but they will likely say no.
I have heard that detectorists of the past who really had no true respect for the hobby, damaged land and left messes. That will get detectorists kicked off of any land. Please be mindful of the ethics our hobby involves no matter where you may be. Leave it better than you found it and cover your target digs when you are done.
Which Metal Detector is Best to Use in Ohio?
The one you like. The geography of Ohio is varied. We have plains, fields, mountain regions, freshwater shorelines, and old homesteads. I’ve networked with a lot of Ohio detectorists. I love to see the pieces of history uncovered all around the state. If there is one thing I have noticed, it is that there isn’t just one metal detector that will work the best.
Shane Darby, of Darby’s Downhome Detecting, metal detects in the foothills of the Ohio Appalachian region. He has used quite a few different metal detectors from the Garrett ACE series to the Nokta Legend. All of them will find incredible things in Ohio and he has proven that by detecting with multiple different metal detector brands. It’s a matter of personal preference when it comes to what would be considered the best metal detector to use in Ohio. Personally, I use a Garrett ACE Apex and I tend to use the Viper coil the most. I find lots of old relics and coins with my Apex.
Ohio may not have been the center of major conflicts, but it definitely saw its fair share of history. A history that spans hundreds of years. I know in my lifetime I will never uncover all of the relics that rest in the soil around my home and community. However, that won’t stop me from finding and preserving what I can.
New homes are built daily on old settlement sites and farm fields in Ohio. We are losing the history beneath our feet. Metal detecting is one way we can preserve it. I hope by sharing the history of the state I call home I can help others gain an appreciation for the Buckeye state beyond the sports teams the masses follow. Ohio’s history is extensive and through metal detecting I know I’m saving it for future generations to understand and appreciate. Happy hunting.
Other Items I Found Metal Detecting in Ohio
Nicole Bauer resides in western Ohio. She is passionate about local history and works to preserve it for future generations as a member of multiple historical societies in her area. She has written for local newspapers as a lifestyle columnist and photojournalist. Nicole has been a lifelong relic hunter and has enjoyed metal detecting for over five years. She is a mom to two sons ages twenty and eighteen and has been married to her husband, Chad, for over twenty years. Metal detecting is a daily part of her life and she can usually be found out walking creeks, woods, and fields searching for items from the past. You can follow her explorations of Ohio on social media and YouTube at Ohio Metal Maven.