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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (01/2003) Relic Hunter (12/2002) Relic Hunter (02/2003)   Vol. 37 January 2003 
The Relic Hunter
As seen in the January 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine

Nice Guys Finish First

By: Ed Fedory

Nice guys finish first?

I guess I just had to twist that phrase a little bit to suit my purpose and that of this story. I could never adhere to the idea that they could ever finish last, simply because nice guys deserve and have earned a better treatment. You always know exactly "where they are coming from," because they have about as many angles as your average egg. You never have to watch your back with this type of guy· they're usually covering you, as they used to say in the old Western movies. They don't despair easily, and can usually bring a sense of humor to even the most dismal of situations. They're guys you can trust, and people like to be around them.

They won't take advantage of a situation, and you can always count on their help. They're usually men of simple words and short sentences, but when they speak, people generally listen. I guess that's because they mean what they say. Their philosophy, character, and sense of fair play comes from the depths of grassroots America.

Some argue that they're a dying breed. I think not. You can still find them around· just have to look a little harder these days. You won't find them up on any soapbox· there's a "camouflage of quiet" about them. They don't use the word I a great deal- it's not in their humble nature. They'll never throw a bunch of fancy facts and numbers at you to prove a point. Instead, they rely on something that is very uncommon these days: common sense.

And if you ever find yourself up in Daniel Webster's part of the country, you won't have to look any further than "Uncle" Paul and "Uncle" Neal's true New Hampshire men and just a couple of nice guys!

I first met Paul and Neal about a half dozen years ago at the Best of the Northeast treasure show in Keene, New Hampshire. They came up to the table I was behind, and Paul slowly opened up a folded paper towel. "Wait until you see these," came a voice from a tall, bearded stranger who was playing "wing man" to Paul's shoulder. With painstaking slowness, each layer of paper was unfolded until the treasure was revealed. I was amazed to see a perfectly matched pair of Colonial knee buckles. Not only were they in beautiful condition, but they were cast and engraved in silver!

"I thought you'd like to see them," said Paul. I asked how they were found, and he responded with a story about an old cellar hole in the deep woods, and how one buckle was found during an early spring search, while the other was recovered in another part of the site, weeks later. To say the least, it was an interesting find and tale of recovery.

g, a good portion of the tabletop was covered with relics. Other people began coming over and checking out the finds Paul had made. Yet, I think the neatest thing about that initial meeting was the smile on Wingman's face· it never left. He was happy to see his friend and hunting partner share the hard-won cellar hole recoveries he had made. Neal, as I lat

Well, in the years to follow, I've had ample opportunities, on a yearly basis, to view the recoveries made by this interesting team of relic hunters! Both Paul and Neal specialize in old cellar holes found in the deep New Hampshire woods. "You just never know what you are going to find," stated Neal.

At a recent show I was able to view an unusual small silver watch fob that Neal had dug during the previous month. It was dated 1791 and was covered with engraved Masonic symbols. Paul was quick to follow with his 1742 piece of eight, and for the life of me, I didn't know which relic I like the best.

"Lots of times there is just too much trash around the remains of the old foundations, so we don't usually search too close to them," added Neal, "but we always run our coils over the foundation stones from the inside of the cellar, just to check and see if anyone might have used a loose stone to conceal a coin stash."

For those who are new to relic hunting and have never searched any old cellar holes, there are a number of tips that will help you to have a successful hunt on such a site.

When searching close to the foundation of a building where you expect a good deal of debris from the destruction of the walls, you will often find it beneficial to use a smaller coil. A smaller coil will give you the ability to thread your way between some of the targets your detector might be attempting to discriminate away, and make it easier to distinguish and target nonferrous items such as coins and jewelry.

It will be to your advantage to make an initial visual survey of the surrounding grounds. Look for the remains of old fruit trees that might indicate the site of a small orchard. The banks of any sloping ground that might have been used as a dumping site in earlier centuries can produce a wealth of interesting items from the past. Those folks of the bygone days didn't have the benefit of "garbage pick ups," and usually anything that was past its time of usefulness was thrown over a bank, and put "out of sight and out of mind."

Each of these early dwellings needed a source of water. The water may have come from a stream, a natural spring in a rock wall, or as is usually the case, from a hand-dug and stone-lined well. Areas between the water source and the dwelling remains should be searched very carefully, as those grounds saw a continued amount of repeated foot traffic. Be very careful when searching for the well. I have been fortunate in never having fallen into one, but there have been some close calls!

Another area that saw foot traffic on a daily basis is the route to the outhouse. Look for depressions in the ground and perhaps some light foundation work on which the outhouse may have stood. Another dead giveaway is the presence of lilac trees. These bushes were generally planted near the outhouse· a form of Colonial "air freshener."

Look for the remains of other outbuildings. Small barns and carriage houses are often sites that will produce a number of interesting recoveries. On small buildings, stones were often used just on the corner of the structure, making them often difficult to locate after innumerable falls. The only remains to indicate their one-time presence may be the nails that held them together. Searching with your detector's discrimination at its lowest setting, or detecting in all-metal mode, may help you to locate where these smaller buildings stood. Once you have encountered an area with a large concentration of nails, boost your discrimination level back up and begin digging some of the good targets.

You may also want to search for items of a non-metallic nature. If you find an area that is scattered with pieces of broken glass and pottery, or if you find that you are digging pipe stems out of the ground while trying to recover a target detected by your metal detector, you might just decide to do a little sifting. While the remains of these objects may be fragmentary on the surface, the chances are good that in the depths of the soil similar ones have been protected and can be recovered virtually intact.

These are a few of the tips that Paul and Neal employ when searching around the remains of early dwellings, and they sure have paid off! Take a few of these hints, along with your metal detector, and head out to that small cellar hole you know about in the woods and give it a second search. Paul and Neal may have related just enough clues to enable you to have some really successful hunts even on sites you have already visited!

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