The Yard Of Plenty - Starting Anew
By: Doug Snyder
After 20 years of living in central North Carolina, and having many not only historical, but well producing large detecting sites at my fingertips, we decided to move to the western part of the state to be closer to our two college kids. I had started my detecting “career” in the central part of the state, become great friends with area property owners, and as a result made some very nice recoveries, including my favorite type— Civil War relics.
Once settled into our new house, I started to get the itch to venture out in search of access to some of the older homes in town. Now when I say “older,” I actually mean properties that are 100 years newer than those I was accustomed to detecting before moving here. So, I dusted off my Tesoro Vaquero, grabbed my other gear, and went door knocking. In no time at all, I was given permission to hunt around numerous wealthy early 1900s homes, but the finds were few and far between. It seemed evident that others had beaten me to these spots, and this was later confirmed by a few of the owners.
Feeling a bit disappointed after having been spoiled for so long, I decided to head to the less affluent side of town, and soon came across a small, vacant early 1900s farmhouse. It was clear that no one lived there, as there was never a car parked in the grass driveway, and the dreaded “No Trespassing” signs were prominently posted. I never go onto any property without securing permission first, so I took the next step and looked up the owner on the county tax records website. Learning that the owners live in New York, and that no phone numbers are given on the tax sites, I sent them a nice letter, telling them about myself and my hobby, providing references, and offering them anything I found that they might want. A month went by before I finally got a phone call from the elderly lady owner, who told me to go ahead, and that she wasn’t interested in anything that I dug up on the property. She also mentioned that her parents had built the home back in the 1920s.
Overjoyed at getting the green light, and being able to keep everything found, I headed over for my first hunt. It was now December, and parts of the yard were frozen solid, but that didn’t deter me one bit. I started my search on one half of the small front yard, and my very first hit was a Wheat cent. “Fantastic!” I thought, “This is a great sign.” I continued working back and forth, pulling up Wheat after Wheat, and finally scored my first silver coin on the property— a Mercury dime! I decided at that point to shoot some quick videos of my finds to share on TreasureNet and YouTube. I recovered a lot of nice coins, tokens, and jewelry in the front yard on my first attempt, before it started getting too dark and cold to dig. I couldn’t wait to head back the next day for another crack at it.
The second attempt was as good as the first, and I continued to find some nice items, this time in one of the side yards. Among them were pieces of Art Deco jewelry, an 1879 Indian Head cent, and a gold-colored ring under a tree. Unfortunately, it was only gold plated, but I was still happy to have it.
On my third outing, the side yard on the opposite side of the house had finally thawed enough to allow digging in the sunny spots. This area had a hill that sloped away from the house, and it was here that I discovered what was once the family’s trash & burn pit. I dug up lots of charred metal junk, such as furniture drawer pulls, horseshoes, pipe fittings and other plumbing pieces, locks, keys, hinges, and much more. I easily filled up a 5 gal. bucket to go through later and separate the bad from the good. One of my more unusual finds from this pit was a Great Depression era bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt with “The New Deal” on the front. Unfortunately, Mr. Roosevelt was decapitated during the digging and ended up in two pieces. However, I was able to put his head to good use, as I will explain later. I spent the remainder of that day working the trash pit, and Wheat cents and a few silver dimes continued to surface.
Each trip back to this house always rewarded me with plenty of keepers. On the slopes between the shrubs and the street I recovered a silver Washington quarter, a Roosevelt dime, more keys, a junk ring, and six Eagle military buttons from WWI or WWII.
Later, I tracked down an old map of the property at our local historical society and discovered that there had once been a small barn or shed, and other small outbuilding in the backyard area. I set my sights on this area and started gridding back and forth. I was amazed at the amount of old brass faucets, forks, and spoons that I dug back there. Surprisingly, there were very few coins in the backyard, but I did find a few pieces of jewelry, and one of my favorite finds from the yard, the handle of a sterling silver spoon with “California 1849,” depicting scenes from the gold rush days. The spoon is also engraved “Grandma,” and must have been a very special family piece at one time.
By far, though, my two best finds from this property were two different early 1900s Civil War veterans’ medals, dug approximately 20' apart at the back corner of the house. The first was a “Southern Cross of Honor - United Daughters of the Confederate Veterans (UCV)” medal. These were given out only through the UCV, in recognition for loyal and honorable service to the South during the Civil War.
The second medal, recovered a few days later, turned out to be even rarer and more unusual— at least, as far as I know. It’s a “C.V.C. of N.Y.” medal, which stood for “Confederate Veteran Camp of New York,” and was made by C. G. Braxmar of New York in 1890. Having fewer than 300 members, it was a group of Confederate veterans who ended up living in New York City after the war. The purpose of the camp was to keep the memory of their fallen comrades alive, help any needy Confederate soldiers and sailors, and “preserve and maintain the sentiment of fraternity.”
Although I tried to identify the recipient(s) of these medals, the owner’s family tree just had too many branches and last names to figure out. So, I now proudly display the medals together in my home office, to honor the person or persons to whom they once belonged.
As mentioned earlier, I was able to use the unfortunate Mr. Roosevelt’s severed head in pursuing one of my other passions, making rustic birdhouses. I like to incorporate a lot of the relics I find into the designs. It’s a great way to be creative, repurpose items that others might deem “junk,” and give some relics a second life. Any metal pieces that I don’t have a use for can easily be sold for scrap.
All in all, this modest vacant house turned out to be a real diamond in the rough, giving up some of my best finds ever. After striking out on relic recoveries at the wealthier homes in town, now I realize that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.
In closing I would just like to say that if, like me, you find yourself far away from your favorite “honey holes” and longing for those good old days, don’t just give up and toss your detector into the closet. Keep plugging away. Eventually you, too, will hit that diamond in the rough! r
DOUG SNYDER, aka “Modern Miner,” has been metal detecting for over ten years now and enjoys sharing his adventures and discoveries here in Western & Eastern Treasures.