Everett Taylor's Legacy
By: Amy Maruso
Photos By: Robert "Bebo" Compton
My friend Robert "Bebo" Compton called me recently and mentioned that a friend of his was interested in having his story appear in W&ET so that he could leave his grandchildren something to remember him by. Without knowing his friend or his friend's story, I readily agreed because that simple statement touched me more than hearing, "He has an awesome collection and wants to show it off." I was about to find out, though, that Mr. Everett Taylor's collection is indeed awesome.
I remember asking my older son what he would do with my collection after I was gone. His reply was, "I will keep it." I asked him why, and he said, "Because it meant something to you, and it will mean something to me." What happens to my collection after I'm gone will matter little to me then, but knowing now that it will matter to my son is a comfort to me. Perhaps my passion for the hobby will not die in a box full of rusty relics and coins, but rather become my legacy. I like that idea, and I had a feeling that maybe Everett Taylor was thinking along the same lines.
Mr. Taylor was born and raised in Lynchburg, Bedford County, Virginia and moved "across the river" to Amherst County in 1969. I reside in Pennsylvania, so our "meeting" took place over the telephone. A friendly voice greeted me as I introduced myself, and the interview began with a travel back in time to when Everett first took up metal detecting. Everett's father was an avid coin collector as well as a detectorist himself some 40 years ago, so you can imagine the coins that were still lying in the ground back then! As a Cub Scout, Everett was also interested in coin collecting and received his first detector on Christmas Day in 1972. He soon began digging up coins of his own.
Living in an area steeped in history, it didn't take long for Everett's interest to shift to Civil War relics. He was informed by the "old-timers" that there were no relics left to be found, as all the good sites were hunted out. I had to laugh when I heard this, because with today's evolving metal detector technology and the internet as a research tool, so many outstanding relics continue to be dug. Obviously, Everett didn't believe it either, and after 30 years he's still proving them wrong by digging some serious relics!
After meeting another relic hunter and viewing his collection, all doubts Mr. Taylor had about the lack of relics in the ground soon dissolved. He wanted to build a collection of his own! Everett's early years of relic hunting were spent detecting private property surrounding the Appomattox Battlefield, but when the park swallowed up additional land, most of his sites became off limits. Not to be deterred, he found some prime relic property practically in his own backyard. From then on, Lee's Retreat Route, stretching from Petersburg to Appomattox, Virginia became Everett's hunting grounds.
In the years that followed, Everett found literally thousands of Civil War artifacts: several coats of Confederate buttons, numerous other Confederate buttons, almost every Union state button, dozens of Confederate and Union buckles and plates, and just about every type of bullet manufactured for the War Between the States. In fact, one day he found 239 bullets in one hole, along with percussion caps still wrapped in wax paper! But the crowning glory of his collection is the rarest of the rare, a highly coveted "AVC" (Alabama Volunteer Corps) buckle worth upwards of five figures. Although they are occasional hunting partners, my friend Bebo, an accomplished relic hunter with his own impressive collection, said he was stunned when he went to take pictures for this article. Mr. Taylor just chuckles and says his family refers to the room where he displays his relics as his "War Room."
A man with strong family values, Mr. Taylor has been married to his wife, Patsy, for 44 years. They have three daughters and four granddaughters. Although the ladies in his life don't detect, they strongly support his passion for the hobby, as many of our families do. This past Christmas, they even surprised him with a new detector, although the old bandaged, banged, and dented "trusty rusty" will always hold a place in his heart.
They say that when an old person dies, a library burns down, but there are still a lot of living, breathing "libraries" within the hobby. Everett Taylor is one of them. Starting with his very first hunt, he's kept meticulous records of where and when he's hunted and what he's found. His research is exhaustive, and his personal library is extensive. Best of all, he's eager to share that knowledge with anyone interested in Civil War relic hunting and the artifacts from that time period.
I asked Everett if he had any advice to share with those just starting out in the hobby. As mentioned earlier, he hunts Lee's Retreat Route, and one of his secrets for success is to stay right up next to the road where there is tons of trash, but still good relics among the refuse. Also, detect where others don't want to go, like under bushes and in the brambles. If you want the edge these days, you simply have to hunt harder. Make sure you're within all legal parameters, cause no damage, take away all found trash, and be courteous and respectful of the landowner. Most of all, do your research and never give up. If you keep at it, your day will come.
This hobby is full of so many interesting and funny stories. One that Everett likes to tell is about a day when he went hunting but didn't feel very well. As the day progressed, so did his ailment. It got to the point where the pain in his stomach was so bad, he had to stop and take frequent breaks to allow it to subside. In the middle of digging a target that sounded like good brass, he was stricken so badly that he had to go to his truck and sit down. He made one more attempt to return to the target, but when he bent over, a stabbing pain forced him to go home right away. The pain worsened overnight, and in the morning Patsy drove him to the hospital. It was a ruptured appendix that kept him in the hospital for ten days. All through his stay in the hospital, he thought about that abandoned target. He knew it had to be something good. Once back on his feet, he was ready and raring to return to the spot he left before falling ill. Once he'd located the target again, the highly anticipated find was about to be revealed. That "great" brass target turned out to be a shotgun shell! Everett laughs about it now, and another piece of advice he would like to share is not to go digging with a ruptured appendix!
When Everett Taylor is detecting, he thinks of the soldiers who traveled over the very soil he's searching, and feels a reverence and respect for each artifact he recovers. For him, when holding a freshly dug relic, the connection is deep and real. He's never sold anything he's found, but he's given many relics away- mostly to the children to whom he enjoys giving talks about the hobby. Having taken early retirement at the age of 62 this past January, he explains that he "wanted to give someone else a job" in this bad economy. He also wants to go detecting more often while he's still young enough to do so.