« Back to Finds Posted August 15th, 2008 by Brian

  • piece-of-history-in-my-back-yard.jpg
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Item Found: Unusual

Location: Massachusetts

Metal Detector Used: Other (800-0300)

August 15th, 2008

A piece of History in my back yard.

I was just puttering around in my back yard playing with the used White's XLT I bought a few weeks earlier. I figured I could play around a bit and better learn how to use it. I found more than I expected.

A little back ground first. My yard has a huge amount of iron “trash” from being an old farm house. The house was built in 1880 and like many houses back then in the country, part of the back yard was a trash pile. If you couldn’t burn it or feed it to the animals, you tossed in the trash pile. Last year, I had bought an inexpensive metal detector from a friend and used it to find broken farm tools and bits of wire in my back yard. I also found broken bottles, dishes, toys, and small house hold items while digging. But mostly the items lived up to the word “trash”. I also tried to use it at the beach and quickly found that wet beach sand made my first detector fall on its face.

This spring, for my birthday, I decided to gift myself with a “real” metal detector. It was time for some research. Being new to the sport, I wanted something that I could count on for results and was easy to use out of the box but had room to grow. I didn’t want to be disappointed like some of the people I read about online that had settled for less expensive models but I also had to stay within my budget. In the end I decided to find a good used detector. This way I could maximize features and stay on my budget. After much searching, I chose a used White’s Spectrum XLT.

So armed with my new detector, I attacked the back yard again. I played around with the built in coin and jewelry programs and started to see some better results. The first couple of weekends I got better at distinguishing the trash from the good stuff. Mostly I was rewarded with clad coins and newer pennies but I found a few “wheaties” in the mix. Not bad for a novice on a new to me machine. Also found my share of can tabs and bottle tops.

So Sunday, May 25th, the day before Memorial Day, I hit the back yard again hoping to find something interesting. I decide to dig quite a few of the signals I got just to see what was there. I found mostly the usual pennies and some junk. The rectangular brass belt buckle looked to be my best find so far. So I took my recovered treasure in to the kitchen to wash off some of the dirt. The big rectangular piece appeared to be made out of copper or brass. I figured it was a lid to a box of some kind so I took a scrubbing pad at the sink to it.

I almost had a heart attack when I saw the face. It reminded me of a photo negative more than a photo so I scanned it in and inverted the colors and go the image. It appeared to be a man’s photo. I needed to do some research on the house. So, I started with my neighbors. Jackpot!

The mystery was solved with the help of my neighbor Guido (age 95). He told me who had lived in the house back to the 1920's. He also said that there was a book published by one of the "kids" (everyone is a kid to him) and it was available in the local Library so I went and checked it out.

The picture turned out to be of Jacob Harrison Heckman. It was his High School graduation photo which is in the book. This means the copper plate is from about 1913. So I had found a piece of local history. He was a decorated WWI hero from Bradford MA. Who had grown up in my house at the turn of the century (Last Century) and this was on Memorial weekend. Here's the High School photo from the book and a scan of the plate with the color reversed and flipped left to right. Some of his family still lives in town and I returned the copper plate to them. I wish I had found it in time to return it on Memorial Day but it was still a great feeling. I had hoped to find some old coins but I never thought I would find a piece of history in my back yard.

I’m afraid I’m hooked on metal detecting now.


Haverhill, MA

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