Sometimes you go to the beach or the park and late afternoon you might see a person walking around with a stick attached to a plate. This is a metal detector. You might recognize it from movies where soldiers used it to find mines and clear the road for troops and vehicles.
Pawn Shop, Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers – Americans are fascinated with discovering history through objects. This is a driving passion for thousands of metal detecting mavens all across the United States. Metal detecting has an annual commemorative Day – the International Metal Detection Day – celebrated on May 17th this year, and Metal Detecting clubs dot the world over.
Each part of the country has its own unique history that is discovered – and told – through the treasures buried underground. Phil Wencl of Ross Township, Indiana, spends time researching historical maps, and consulting with his good friend Don Good, an esteemed history buff, in search for target sites in his quest for finding buried treasures with his Minelab CTX 3030 metal detector. If Phil lived in Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, or Pennsylvania, his finds may include Civil War bullets called pumpkin balls, coins, and military uniform buttons. But Indiana has its own story – and its own unique treasures.
Ross Township was where stagecoaches passed through on their way to the West, and where traders exchanged goods with Pottowatomi Indians. The first settlements began in 1833 – long before most of our great-great grandparents were born. How many heirlooms has your family preserved from that far back? If you are like most of us, the answer is – not any. One way to uncover these stories is to search — underground. Which is exactly what Phil Wencl spends much of his free time doing. The Minelab metal detector screen is Phil’s window into the underworld.
Metal detection is an outdoor activity, best enjoyed on sunny, cool days. To avoid reflections from the Minelab screen, Phil uses NuShield DayVue™ film on the display, which he has found to be the only film that stops the reflections and sun glare, and doesn’t block the screen image when he wears sunglasses.
Phil and Don study old maps in search for long forgotten schools, churches, trading posts, and stagecoach stops to unravel more of the story of the travelers and settlers who stepped into what is now known as Ross Township. Many settlers traveling West had gone through all of their cash to launch their journey, and had little to no coins to exchange, bartering for goods and services instead. So it is rare when a coin is uncovered.
When Phil found an 1859 Indian Head penny, the first year the penny was minted, he knew he found a treasure. But even more interesting was where the penny was stored. Included with the penny was a man’s wedding ring, both stored inside a “3 Merry Widows” round tin container. For those unfamiliar with early household brands, “3 Merry Widows” was a popular condom brand, and the branded container kept them safe. The names of the widows on the lid of the original container were the manufacturers: Agnes, Mabel, and Beckie.
Other treasures and relics Phil has collected with help from his NuShield enhanced Minelab CTX 3030 metal detector include iron nails, 19th and 20th century silver coins, and an 1852 $1.00 gold piece. Mostly he donates his finds to the historical society or historical museum in the town where he finds the relics, sharing his unearthed history with all those who find them as fascinating as Phil does.
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