The Boyertown Area Historical Society invited the community to its Come Out Swinging Metal at Camp Cannon Hill in Boyertown on April 24 and 25.
“The Come Out Swinging Spring Metal Detecting fundraiser was a huge success. Participants came from all parts of Pennsylvania and other states,” said Historical Society President Rachael Kehler. “Metal detecting is a great addition to the events and activities the Boyertown Area Historical Society already offers. Participants find items that can date back to the 1600s and before. Detectorists have a real passion about the history of the area they are hunting.”
The two-day event featured a fun outdoor experience for all ages including raffles, vendors, food and prizes. While the paid hunt was sold out, there was much to do such as learn about the metal detecting hobby from vendors and try out equipment for free, as well as watch the detectors in action.
"It was a beautiful day to spend outside around people who have similar interests," said Kehler. "We had over 60 detectorists attend the event. Around 25 to 50 people come out to visit the vendors and participate in the test garden."
Although this event was sold out, anyone could attend the event free of charge to see how it’s done, see things that are unearthed, and also try the sport in a designated area. Minelab Metal Detectors were on site to explain the equipment and also offered for sale equipment metal detecting, as well as books on the subject and a raffle to win a metal detector.
"I hope that people who may have had an interest in metal detecting now feel more comfortable joining in the sport," said Kehler. "It also gets the community interested in Boyertown's rich history. It's amazing what people dig out of the ground! A lot of times the items have a connection with the property or our local history."
"One thing I like about this event is that it is a natural hunt, meaning we do not place targets in the area we are detecting," said Rob Theisen, head of the Boyertown Relic Recovery Club. "What I like most is that everyone knows that and they understand that they might come and find nothing. But they all agree they want to support the Boyertown Area Historical Society because the Society supports what we do, it's about preserving history."
People come from New York, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia, North Jersey, and Connecticut.
"They all come with the same great attitude and optimism that today could be the day when they find that one item, the bucket lister that has eluded them despite their best efforts," he said.
The list of items found at the event is long. Some of the more significant items include large cents (draped bust and braided hair varieties), an 1832 half cent, a 2 cent piece (1864-1872 unable to read date), some Colonial-era Tombac buttons, plenty of silver (most post 1900 dimes and quarters), 1892 Barber Dime, a ring — possibly Colonial era wedding band, a lot of nickels mostly Buffalo Nickels and one War Nickle, plenty of Wheat pennies, a few Indian Head Pennies (minted 1859-1909), half a Croatal bell (its hard to find full ones as they are often hit by plows), a bunch of brass Colonial buckles, brass skeleton key, horseshoes and brass tack, the mechanical parts of a music box, spoon handles, spoon bowls, and 1 full spoon in 3 pieces.
The most historically relevant may be the Brass U.S. Box Plate, which had be struck by a plow. It was discovered about 12-inches deep in a pasture.
Theisen explained that the cartridge box was slung over the left shoulder on a leather sling and held 40 rounds of ammunition. The brass “US” box plate was to help weigh the flap down.
"We can often relate the items we find to original property owners. Items like spoons would sometimes have the family's name engraved, especially if they are silver or silver washed. Rings would have initials or names engraved," said Theisen. "At our last event, we were able to match a trappers tag to the original property owner (1800s homesite). The current owner of the home had his picture framed on the mantle. The finder provided it to the homeowner who was very happy to add it to their collection."
Theisen believes that the Brass US Box Plate could have belonged to a Civil War soldier who returned home carrying the ammunition pouch.
"The pouch may have then been used in everyday life on the farm and the brass plate fell off during the course of use while working in the fields," said Theisen.
Saving history is what motivates metal detectors.
"If you ask almost anyone at the fundraising events or our Boyertown Relic Recovery Club hunts, they will tell you they are saving history," said Theisen. "Metal detecting enthusiasts rarely sell what they find. They may give it to property owners, but most build vast collections of the history they have recovered."
The Historical Society hopes the metal detecting events will get more people interested in the metal detecting hobby.
"We make sure we have learning and training opportunities for new people. I make myself available to anyone who needs some help with a machine, anything from basic setup to fine-tuning," said Theisen.
He generally spends three to four hours per event doing this, either in the field or at their test site. Vendor Drew Waholek helps with identifying recovered relics as well as sharing his expertise in detecting. The Club sets up a test site and hides targets to help people learn how their particular machine responds to different targets.
"The metal detecting community really works hard to support new people," said Theisen. "It's not uncommon to see a new detectorist and a seasoned pro working together side by side talking about the fine details that often separate trash from treasure."
At every event, Theisen said the Club adds a community component that allows people from the surrounding area to come and try detecting for free. They win prizes and walk away with great gifts like silver coins.
"I get so much feedback about how great it was to see an old friend and make new friends. Some of our attendees spend as much time socializing as they do detecting. It is a great community of people," said Theisen.
Anyone interested in seeing the types of items that were found at this event can view them on display at the Boyertown Area Historical Society Museum, which is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
For more information, follow the Boyertown Area Historical Society on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BoyertownAreaHistoricalSociety/.