As seen in the November 2000 edition of W&ET Magazine
The Silver Treasures Of Port Royal
By: Ed Fedory
Photos By: Mark Swann
The very name Port Royal conjures up a lot of images... warm Caribbean breezes and snapping acres of canvas sails in the wind... turquoise waters, white sand beaches, palm trees. Real-life characters like Captain Henry Morgan are inextricably mixed with Robert Louis Stevenson's Long John Silver, and there's an awful lot of belaying and talk of jibs, mains'ils, and fo'c'stle rumors o'treasure, buried deep, for certain, argghhh! All the heroes bear a startling resemblance to Tyrone Power... the villains uncannily sneer in classic Basil Rathbone fashion... and all the tavern lasses cast sultry glances across mugs of grog with Jane Russell eyes. It's the world of Rafael Sabatini... the swashbuckling world of pirates and buccaneers... of broadsides and avasting.
Beginning as a one-room log cabin, the home built by William Bourne was situated near a large cave spring and an old Indian trail leading to the lower Ohio Valley- an ideal location to farm, hunt, trap, and begin raising a family.
re exists but one problem. Our tale of treasures buried deep takes place in Port Royal, Tennessee. Exit 17th century... farewell, Mr. Sabatini... and a hearty goodbye to the cast of thousands. We'll shift the scenes from frothy waves to dusty Tennessee back roads... from armed merchantmen to an old homestead. But it's still a tale of buried treasure- keelhaul me, else, if it ain't, arrgghh!
Among the many interesting coins found around the restored 19th century dwelling were Spanish silver and American gold.
The house before them looked nothing like the one 18-year-old William Bourne had built for his new wife, Matilda, in 1828. The original building was a one-room log cabin, but well situated on high ground, near a year-round natural cave spring and an old Indian trail which led to the lower Ohio Valley. William and Matilda were not the first to inhabit the area, as in the closing days of the American Revolution a pioneer/trading station had occupied the same site. As the years passed and their family grew, additional rooms and a second story were added to the original dwelling; and from those windows, in 1838, they watched the forced migration of thousands of Native Americans along what would become known as the Trail of Tears.
"Every time I would hear a large, repeatable signal, the excitement would begin again!" recalled Mark, as he traveled down the trail from relic hunting, to coin hunting, to becoming a cache hunter!
"I decided to run my pattern over to the area where Reba was searching, but before I could reach her, I received another signal, which proved to be a nice copper watch fob. Reba had completed digging her target, too, which she later revealed was a piece of Mexican silver."
How often does anyone who owns a metal detector dream of uncovering even a single silver dollar... let alone jars filled with them!
I wish I had a dollar for every Mason jar lid I've dug! Anyone who has ever relic hunted around old cellar holes and dwellings that have fallen to ruin knows the drill: deep target... tough digging... remove the soil... dull metal lid exposed in the bottom of the hole. Hope... hope... hope... radically raised pulse rate... pant... pant... pant. Gently dig around the lid, remove the target, and what do you have? Another Mason jar lid!
"It seemed that Reba had developed a sixth sense about where the next jar of coins would be discovered," noted Mark. They later found that there was a pattern to the burying of the treasure jars.
While a number of individual coins continued to be found on the front and side lawns, Mark noticed that the older coins were consistently found close to the old roadbed. Due to the number of cut nails found in some of the holes, Mark opted for the use of a smaller coil for better target separation.
Mark's first cache of coins, consisting mainly of silver dollars and halves, was found in an old Mason jar near some large maple trees.
During one of their searches Mark decided to take a breather beside his wife, who was in the process of recovering another target. "I heard Reba's digging tool strike an object, and then saw the disappointment on her face when an old brass oil can was brought to the surface. I tossed it aside and was about to give her a hand filling in the hole when we heard the jingle of coins from within the oil can!