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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2003) Headlines (05/2003) Headlines (07/2003)   Vol. 37 June 2003 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the June 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


For more than 60 years, a Confederate uniform that belonged to an ancestor of former President Carter has languished in a cardboard box because of an unusual will.

Now the state is giving money to preserve the uniform and fulfill the wishes of the soldier's daughter.

The uniform belonged to cavalryman Gilbert Perry Gordy, a great-great-uncle of Mr. Carter. Gordy grew up in Chattahoochee County, just south of Columbus, and his mother spun the wool by hand and sewed the gray uniform before seeing him off to war in 1861.

Gordy was wounded two years later at the Battle of Murfreesboro in Tennessee and died in 1864. The bullet hole and blood stains remain in the jacket.

The uniform is collecting dust in a vault of the Chattahoochee County courthouse in Cusseta because of a quirk in the will of Gordy's only child, Carrie Parks.

Ms. Parks was a young child when her father died, and his uniform and the bullet that killed him were eventually left to her.

A typed note with the uniform reads, in part, "The women of the Confederacy endured more suffering and hardships than can be enumerated."

Ms. Parks died in the 1930s, and she willed the artifacts to Chattahoochee County- on the condition that the uniform remain in the county where it was sewn.

But the county has never had the money to properly preserve or display the garment, according to county probate Judge Kenneth Van Horn, who took an interest in the lonely uniform sitting in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet in his courthouse.

Judge Van Horn started asking museums and preservationists to donate the help, and many agreed- as long as they could have the uniform on permanent loan afterward.

The uniform is worth at least $100,000 and is considered extremely rare. Only a few surviving confederate uniforms have known owners, especially one related to a U.S. president.

The Georgia Capitol Museum also offered to take the uniform, but Judge Van Horn resisted sending it away permanently because of Ms. Parks' will.

"Her wishes were that the uniform stay in its home, and we've respected that," Judge Van Horn said.

That's when state Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, heard about the uniform. The senator is a history buff and was alarmed to learn such a valuable artifact hadn't been maintained.

"It's just literally rotting away and deteriorating in a box down there," he said.

Mr. Harbison and Senate Appropriations Chairman George Hooks, a longtime friend of Mr. Carter, worked to put $25,000 in the budget to pay for preservation. That way, the county can afford the expensive work and will be able to bring the uniform home afterward.

The money is part of $4.7 million in local assistance grants in the state budget for next fiscal year.

Judge Van Horn plans to take the uniform to a noted preservationist in Maryland for the job, which will take several months.

"There are only a handful of people in the country who are really qualified to restore fabric like this," he said. "They have to go over it inch by inch."

Even after the preservation is done, Chattahoochee officials have another hurdle to clear- finding a proper place to display the uniform.

From The Augusta Chronicle, submitted by Stephen & Julie Buckler, Walterboro, SC.


A child swallowing coins, safety pins or needles is among a parent's worst nightmares but finding the offending objects could become much easier.

British scientists are using technology developed to find landmines to produce a metal detector that will be able to help doctors pinpoint, and if necessary remove, objects swallowed or embedded in hands and feet, much like treasure hunters searching for coins on a beach.

The hand-held Melodi (metal location and detection instrument) will also be able to locate bullets and shrapnel in the body and could save millions of dollars in reduced hospital costs, according to its developers.

"It's the first one of its kind that can locate metal in three dimensions with great accuracy," said Dr. Paul Durrands, of Melodi Technologies Ltd.

Scientists at the company based in Oxford, England, developed the detector with researchers at QinetiQ, the British government's science and technology research unit.

Durrands expects the detector, which will cost about $5,000, to be available in Britain and the United States by the end of 2004.

Instead of using X-rays to find the object, Melodi will transmit weak magnetic signals and will detect a small change in the magnetic field to show metal objects lodged in human tissue.

About the size of a coffee grinder, it requires no specialist training and is simply passed over the body.

A screen on the top of the device shows when it finds something and an arrow gives an indication of the depth and the orientation of the object.

"A surgeon can actually use this during surgery to get another idea of where it is without having to call the radiologist and without having to get X-rays done in theater," Durrands added.

In the United States, the biggest potential market for the device, there are 150,000 reported annual incidents of people swallowing objects.

"Eighty percent of those are pediatric cases between six months and three years old," said Durrands.

In most cases, doctors would wait for the object to pass through the child's system naturally but Durrands said the detector would help physicians make sure it was not stuck and locate it if it had to be removed.

From Reuters, London, submitted by Jessie Thompson, New York.


When Melvin Doyle told his priest that he'd like to donate his coin collection to St. Joseph's Catholic Church in New Hope/Plymouth, the Rev. Bob Hazel imagined a few glass cases and cardboard binders.

Then Doyle, 89, had Hazel over to check out his collection and arrange to have it moved.

"Took three pickup trucks and 12 men," Doyle said proudly. "I'm not a numismatist. I'm a hoarder."

Many people do it: empty their pockets at day's end and toss the loose change into a jar or a cigar box. "College for the kids," they think. Trouble is, most people raid the coin stash every week or so for laundry money or bus fare.

Not Mel Doyle. He pretty much let his coins be. They filled and then spilled from jugs, buckets, jars and bags that accumulated in his Plymouth basement and made his wife nervous.

"If you die before me, I'm putting all those coins in your casket with you," Marge told him more than once. "I don't want somebody breaking in here for them."

Mel, who will turn 90 in May, is in good health. The coins wouldn't fit in his coffin anyway.

The quarters filled 26 5-gallon containers, and that's just since the end of silver. There was a keg of pre-1965 silver quarters, 3,500 silver dimes and sacks bulging with hundreds of silver dollars.

There were commemorative sets of fine silver coins celebrating presidents, railroads, explorers and generals, and there was gold, including a complete 18-coin set of $2-1/2 gold pieces- though two of those coins turned out to be counterfeit.

And there were 1,340 pounds of pennies- worth maybe $2,000.

"The mint will be able to shut down for a couple days when we turn those in," Doyle said.

Hazel recruited young people from the church to sort and count (or weigh) the coins. The circulated coins, those with no collector value, totaled about $41,000.

A New York auction house is evaluating hundreds of older rare coins to determine their value, but Doyle's total gift to St. Joseph's is likely to top $75,000, the priest said.

"That's a lot of loose change," he said.

The money will go toward a $5 million expansion and remodeling of the church's worship areas.

"I like to say that one of the purposes of the church is to help people spend their money wisely," Hazel said. "That's the idea of stewardship, and that's been the story of Mel's life. What he's got, he shares."

The collecting began in 1918, when Doyle was 5 and spending time at his grandfather's north Minneapolis confectionery.

"My parents were separated, and he was like a dad to me," he said. "He started me out with the coins. 'Look, Melvin, here's a two-cent piece. You should hold onto it; they don't make 'em anymore. And here's a half-dime; they don't mint those anymore either.'

"He would pull me in a little red wagon all the way down to the courthouse to pay his gas and electric bill, just to save a nickel on the streetcar."

The lesson was clear; a nickel was worth saving.

On one wagon ride, Doyle's grandfather stopped at a cigar store downtown so the boy could watch the work going on there. The shop had a machine that cut wood for cigar boxes, and there was a byproduct: long, thin strips of excess wood.

"I said, 'Grandpa, do you think those men would let me have some of those sticks? They'd be perfect for kites.'"

The workmen gave him the sticks. He made and sold kites, his first business.

Later Doyle worked for an auto parts store, then a biscuit company. After service with the Navy during World War II (he was recalled to duty during the Korean War), he and a brother operated gas stations, hardware stores and other businesses in north Minneapolis. He bought rental properties, which he later gave to a social service agency that works with at-risk families.

And he saved his change.

He came home and dropped the Indian head pennies in one bucket, the "wheaties" in another and the steel 1943 pennies- copper was needed for the war effort- in yet another.

He rolled dimes and nickels by mint year- a $5 roll of 1950 dimes, a $2 roll of 1957 nickels.

"It was exciting to go through them, he said, fidgeting a little with his hands.

Does he miss them?

"In a sense, I feel relieved," he said. "And Marge feels safer."

From the Star Tribune, submitted by Doug Amundson, Cambridge, MN.

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