Metal Detecting Stories
A Ghost Town Discovery
As metal detecting stories go, the one that follows was as exciting for me as it was for my detect’en partner John.
It was an adventure that we encountered while searching for a particular ghost town. In this metal detecting story you will see how we used all of the information that
I have wrote about in my website.
We planned this search for a group of us who get together every year to do some ghost town searching and metal detecting.
This particular ghost town was located on a large expanse of private property. It was known to have many cellar holes that were part of a ghost town.
This metal detecting story will show you how to find those cellar holes or ghost towns that others could not locate.
Apparently, others had been to this area searching for the ghost town, but could never locate it.
We located an old topo map, and F.W. Beers map,
from 1869 of the area.
Both maps clearly showed a large ghost town in the vicinity of where we planned to search.
We secured permission from the property owner and then picked a weekend for the trip. We decided the search would be in early May when the foliage was not yet thick enough to hide any of the cellar holes.
John and I started our two-hour drive on a Friday in early May. We drove to the motel where we were going to stay. It was there where we met up with the rest of the group. This metal detecting story becomes interesting with the addition of our detecting pals.
That Friday was an overcast day. Unfortunately, according to the local weather reports, the weekend we planned for this ghost town search was going to be a wet one. In any case, we were undaunted and were not about to let mother nature dictate to us whether or not we were going to search for this lost town.
I have many metal metal detecting stories. Keep this page bookmarked. I'll be posting more in the future.
We were excited about the possibility of locating the cellar holes and what we may find with our metal detectors. However, by the time we arrived at the motel, the rain had turned into a torrential downpour. In addition, the fierce lightning that lit the daytime sky was too dangerous.
You can’t mess with lightning.
Electrical storms are something that you need to pay attention to. We have all heard stories of someone being electrocuted by a bolt of lightning while being outdoors. You can’t take a chance in that kind of weather. So we decided to sit in the restaurant next door to our motel and review our maps. We were hopeful that the lightning would pass and eventually we could begin our search.
Our luck changed late Friday afternoon. The rain stopped and the sky opened to sunshine. It was time for our group of five people to begin our search for the ghost town.
Excited with anticipation, John and I led the way in John’s Ford Ranger, the others followed in their vehicles. Stay with me, because this metal detecting story gets interesting.
This metal detecting story is more than just about metal detecting, here's why.
The area we were driving to was half an hour from the motel. When we reached the area where we had permission to search, we pulled off the road to review our maps.
The farmer who owned the property told us there were old roads on the back of the property, but he was not aware of any ghost town on the property.
The farm had been in his family for over one hundred years. There were one thousand acres of property for us to search. We were excited and ready to begin.
We spread our maps on the tailgate of John’s truck. John and I knew immediately where the farmer was talking about. We remembered seeing an old road on both the old topo, and on the Beers map. We were sure that we were in the right area.
I have wrote about these maps in many of my metal detecting stories. They are great for research.
What excited John and I from the beginning was the fact that the old road on the maps went right through the middle of an old settlement. Neither map named the road, but did show the road as small, broken lines, which usually means that the road at the time the maps were made were much older than the others and were also “dead end” roads.
The “dead end” roads were usually abandoned after the town disappeared.
A “dead end” road on an old topo is a good sign for anyone who is searching for a ghost town. It usually means that the old road would be more difficult to locate. This metal detecting story would have never happened if it was not due to the fact that we had the old maps.
The reason was because it was unused for hundreds of years, the vegetation would have grown to thick and to the untrained searcher, and it would not have been seen.
After orienting where we were in regards to the property, our small group returned to their vehicles. We began to drive slowly through the area.
John and I led the way. As the rain fell lightly we kept our eyes open for any signs of a cellar hole. The vegetation had not yet grown too thick. It was relatively easy to see through the foliage.
The road we were driving on was an old wagon road. It was packed with hard gravel and was only ten feet in width. John and I knew from experience that a road such as this had at one time led somewhere. It took a lot of hard work to clear an area for the road. We knew that the old road would not have been built to use just a few times.
As I write this metal detecting story, I can still remember in great detail what that road was like.
After driving around a few turns on the old road we approached a hill. The road curved sharply and continued higher. We now knew that we were on the old road that led through the ghost town. This was because both the topo and the Beers map showed the road we were looking for as a winding road that went up into a high elevation.
The maps also showed three foundations at the top of the hill. John and I both agreed that we were close to locating some kind of a structure, and as we approached the top of the old road we immediately spotted a row of very old maple trees.
John pulled his truck over to the edge of the road. The others stopped behind us.
We decided to walk into the area where the old trees had grown to see if we could locate a cellar hole.
After a few minutes of walking back and forth over the area we could not find any cellar hole, or any evidence of one ever being there.
It was time to try another approach.
Our approach was this. We would assume that a cellar hole had been in the area we just searched.
Although we did not see a cellar hole, it did not mean that a building was never there. A church or a schoolhouse could have been located here.
Schools and churches were often built on top of the ground without cellars.
That would have explained why we were unable to see a cellar hole. However, to confuse us further, there was no symbol for either a church or a school on either our old topo or the 1865 Beers map, and without signs like myrtle, pottery chards, or apple trees, it becomes more difficult to locate the old dwellings.
We then checked the scale on the topo to try and locate the next foundation.
By assuming that a cellar hole was at the spot we just searched, we could use the trucks odometer to determine approximately where the next cellar hole was located.
The topo showed a structure approximately ¼ of an inch from the area we had just searched. The scale was equal to 1 mile per inch.
We estimated that from the area we just searched, we needed to drive approximately 2.5 tenths of a mile to reach the foundation.
We got back into John’s truck and continued our drive along the old wagon road.
John was watching the odometer and I kept my eyes on the surroundings.
Suddenly we came to a large open area on John’s side. It was the same side of the road that showed a structure on both the topo and the Beers map.
The distance we drove was a little more than 2 tenths of a mile. However, there were no signs of a cellar hole.
The area was open and flat, an indication that it would have made a perfect place for a house. After walking around the area searching for a clue that a cellar hole was there, we found none.
Unfortunately the obvious clues of old maple trees; myrtle or pottery shards were missing. We decided to continue our drive up the old road.
About a ¼ of a mile from where we last stopped we came to a sharp right curve.
On my side of the old wagon road was a tiny, narrow, creek that meandered its way up into a hilly terrain. The small stream was only a few feet in width and just a few inches deep.
I saw that the creek wound its way up into the side of a steep hill. At the top of the hill next to the creek was a very old maple tree.
It was standing tall and proud amongst the newer growth trees. John and I both agreed that this area looked like a great spot for an old cellar hole.
The old maple tree was a sign that a cellar hole was close by.
I was becoming more aware that this was going to be a metal detecting story to talk about. I could feel it!
In addition to the old tree was the small stream. Many times the older homes were built near a steady stream of water because an accessible water supply was an obvious necessity.
The area at the top of the hill where the old maple tree was located was very flat. It would have been an ideal place for a home.
As we walked up the steep hill along the small creek we began to notice myrtle. We continued to walk up the hill and wondered how anyone could have lived on this hill. How did the occupants get up to the house? There was no visible driveway for their wagon.
Also, the steep climb up the hill would have been much too difficult for any wagon.
However, our enthusiasm vanished once we reached the top of the hill.
Where we were hoping to find a cellar hole, instead we saw nothing. We were confused.
There were indications that at one time a home was here. There was the myrtle, the old maple tree, and the small creek.
“There had to be a cellar hole or a settlement here,” John told me.
“Look at that tree, someone planted that tree,” he said as he pointed to the old maple.
“There’s myrtle over there. Someone planted that and look at this.” He walked to his left about 10 feet.
“Here’s an old bottle.” He picked it up and held it in his hands.
That bottle was a good sign.
We reasoned that we were in the right area of the ghost town. We also understood why others could never locate the cellar holes.
The clues were visible, but no cellar holes. Most people would just give up the search and move on. However from experience, John and I know that you need to be patient and re-check maps.
We decided to search the area with our detectors. We headed back to the hill where we saw the old maple tree and the myrtle. The others, except for Jim, who decided to ride with us, decided to search another area.
John, Jim and I reached the hill where we believed a cellar hole was located. We walked to the top of the hill and surveyed the area. John kept mumbling, “this spot just doesn’t look right. I don’t think there was a home here.”
When I sat down to write this metal detecting story I remembered how John was complaining about the area. He kept mumbling over and over,
“this spot just doesn’t look right. This spot just doesn’t look right.”
I had to tell him to shut up.
However, I had my doubts as well. I walked around the area looking for a starting point to swing my detector. I decided to head back down the hill closer to the road. John and Jim walked to an area approximately 50 yards from where I started to metal detect. They would have been standing in the back yard of where the old home should have been.
After ten minutes of not finding anything, I suddenly received a very good signal from my detector. I was wearing headphones so that I could hear any deep signal. I was excited because the signal I was getting was one that usually means a good target.
With anticipation I dug a 4-inch plug around the object. Within minutes I held an old brass button in my hand.
And as metal detecting stories go, I became extremely excited.
That button was the evidence we needed that proved to us there had been a building of some kind, hopefully and old home, on this spot at one time.
I looked around the area trying to get a better idea of where the house had been located. However, the absence of a cellar hole strongly indicated that a church or school was located here.
Just as I was ready to yell back to John and Jim that I had found an old button, I heard Jim calling me.
“Frank, you better come here and take a look at this.”
I could tell by Jim’s voice that he was excited.
I ran toward them screaming, “what’da’ya have? Did ya find someth’in good?”
When I arrived at the area were Jim and John were metal detecting, Jim said to me, “John found a mini cache.”
John was swinging his metal detector over the ground and saying,
“there’s another coin here”.
By the time I had walked to where the two were detecting, John had already dug seven old coins from the same hole.
They dated from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s. All of the coins were located in an area about one square foot. There were Barber and Seated coins, Indian Heads, a Buffalo Nickel and a Mercury dime. All total, John found fifteen coins.
Most metal detecting stories are not mysteries. This one was and still is a mystery.
What is so intriguing about this metal detecting story is that none of us could figure out how the coins got there. John found them in an area that was approximately two hundred feet from the old road.
Did someone bury the coins?
If they were buried, were they buried in a container?
There was no evidence of any material or other metal in the hole with the coins.
If the coins were lost they must have been contained in a leather pouch or purse. The fact that they were found together in one small area suggests this. However, if they were held in a pouch, we saw no evidence of old leather in the hole with the coins.
The mystery of how the coins ended up where John had located them remains a mystery.
Interestingly, the ghost town we were looking for was in fact located in that area. We did find many cellar holes where homes once stood. What made the search difficult was the vegetation that hid the old cellars. We had to walk through the vegetation and chop away at the scrub brush in order to locate them. We also located what we believed to be an old gristmill and a black smith shop. The area around the black smith shop was filled with old iron, horseshoes and an old anvil.
The ghost town had been hidden even from the farmer and his family who now owned the property.
This metal detecting story shows that if you are searching for a ghost town, it is important to use all of the resources that I have mentioned in this website.
on the homepage.
If you have any metal detecting stories that you would like to share please contact me.