As someone who loves metal detecting, I am beyond lucky to own a property that was built pre-1850 in western Ohio. Part of my home on the inside still has the original log cabin with hand-hewn and irregularly shaped logs throughout. After doing some research on the property I was able to find the names and ages of everyone recorded to have lived here, old maps and aerials helped me to understand how they used the land, and the relics I have retrieved the from the ground have added a new level of understanding about those people’s lives. The amount of relics and coins I have uncovered has more than surpassed what I expected
When I first started metal detecting my property I was using a vintage White’s Coinmaster I had purchased for one dollar at an auction. The auction-goers around me smirked and chuckled at my purchase, but they didn’t see the potential. I did. I knew that my property was probably hiding many hidden pieces of history and I was determined to find them. Plus, I had done enough research beforehand to know that machine was more than capable enough to begin metal detecting with. I can still remember my first target. I dug for a bit and I pulled up a flattened mylar balloon. Nothing amazing, but still something.
After I had learned the Coinmaster, I upgraded my machine to a Garrett Ace 400. I pulled my first Mercury Dime with my Ace 400 in an area I knew I had hit many times with that Coinmaster. Any detectorist worth their weight in pull tabs knows that most sites can never be hunted out. The ground around us is constantly changing due to ground-shift from plants, decaying matter, erosion factors, and the thaw/freeze cycles in some areas to name a few. And there is also the fact that once you get the junk targets out of the way it can open up the area for the good targets to register on your machine. I don’t know how many times I’ve cut a plug and realized it was in the same spot as one I had dug months before, but instead of a horseshoe or railroad pin I find a coin.
A few of my favorite finds from my homestead aren’t anything that hold high value. They are merely relics of previous inhabitants. In the back part of my property, near an area that once showed a garden on aerial maps, I have retrieved five small lead soldiers from different locations on different days. These soldiers are the kind made with an at-home kit where they’d pour hot lead into molds to make them. As a mom to two grown sons, I love finding the boy’s toys. If they ever make a plastic detector, I’m sure they’ll discover an obscene amount of LEGO toys from my family’s time here.
I have also recovered multiple old axe heads which makes sense since my house is part cabin. Some a few inches down, others over a foot below the surface. We all know about those great signals that aren’t where the machine says they are. What registers at two inches down is much different for a larger target. The machines are purposefully programmed to hunt for coin-sized items and when a target is larger, it doesn’t always give an accurate depth-reading. Experience has taught me to listen to the target sound and I can usually tell the size of the target at hand.
I also recovered an old early-1900s badge from the Modern Woodmen of America just a short distance from an axe head. One thing I love about metal detecting, finding the relics and making up stories in my head as to who the person was and how their prized possessions ended up where they did. I can picture an older gentleman out in his workshop or barn making something his family needs.
My oldest coin from the property is a 1904 Indian Head Cent I found in my farm field. It is pretty chewed up from years of farm chemicals and the date is not completely legible. I have not found a lot of coins on my property, but I live just outside of a very small village that is mostly farmers. Money isn’t something they were known to have a lot of back in those times and what money they did have probably was handled with care.
By far my favorite find from my land so far is my New York Militia, War of 1812 button. I found it about ten inches down near one of my farm fields. It is beautiful and was not something I’d expect to find in western Ohio. After doing some substantial research it is highly likely that a band of troops that were assembled forty minutes south of me in Dayton, OH during the war walked across my land on their way to Detroit, MI on their way to fight. That button also helped me win a Garrett Ace Apex metal detector from Vaughan Garrett’s find of the month contest. Not only has that button become part of my prized finds, but it rewarded me with an upgraded metal detector. Trust me, you’ll hear more about my Ace Apex in future articles. Stay tuned.
In conclusion, to many the idea of digging holes, conducting research, asking random strangers if you can search their land, and walking countless fields and properties may not seem appealing. To those who do it’s a way of life. When I drive through areas that are new to me, I am always wondering what can be found on properties that nobody else can see. The hidden stories that those relics hold are intriguing and worth preserving, and the thrill of being the first person to hold that history for years past is even more inspiring. That is why we metal detect. For the hidden treasures and historical artifacts that help us remember how our communities and homesites have evolved and become the land we call home today.