The Delaware County Diggers is a group of metal detecting enthusiasts with a passion for history and preservation. We joined them at the John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, NY, where they beeped and dug their way to an eclectic assortment of 19th- and 20th-century treasures. Come along with us for an archaeological treasure hunt just beneath the surface of John Burroughs' property at the historic Woodchuck Lodge!
--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/kaatscast/support
Welcome to Katz cast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. On a late summer day in Roxbury, New York. We met up with the Delaware County diggers, a group of metal detectorists, who were invited to the property of the john Burroughs wood Chuck Lodge. The famous Catskills naturalist grew up on this property, and returned in his elder years to the Woodchuck Lodge, where he hosted famous friends like Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford. There's plenty of history here on the property. And with metal detectors in hand, Jason Schwartz, Chris Altman, and Kim altman set out to see what treasures might lie just under the surface. My name is Jason Schwartz, from wall in New York, originally from Chow Creek. We started Delaware County diggers in 2017. The board president for the Walton Historical Society, we love doing these sorts of things, meeting new people. And we like doing talks for kids and just looking for things for people, historical places. I'm Chris haltman, with diggers and my wife and I are from East Meredith, New York. And we've been doing this about 12 years. Every year we go to England and do metal detecting over there, which is a lot of fun. In this hobby. We just love talking to homeowners and getting to know them better. And we've been made a lot of friends for that. I'm Kim altman. And I've been digging probably about as long as Chris, although I started out digging his holes. And then I decided I needed to get a detector for myself. So I've had a lot of fun with it. And it's great fun to just get out in the fresh air and do something in nature. And also find some amazing treasures. I'd like to find something that even has, even if it's not john burrows is in particular, just something that's burros related that to the family. That'd be pretty epic. Just a few minutes into the day, Kim made a front lawn discovery. So I just found something really cool. Here. I'm pretty much right and the left side of the house, I don't know if you recognize it, but it's part of a cradle Bell, CR o t, a L sleigh bell, jingle bell. And so this would have been worn by around the neck of an animal or it would be on a sleigh back in the late 1800s, just so that you would know that the vehicle was approaching, and it would jingle. So they're also called Jingle Bells. This is a small one, we've gotten them as big as like a baseball or softball size. So this is pretty cool. This is definitely of his era. So I'm pretty excited about that the detectorists sweep the grassy earth with their metal detectors. And when the audible beeps signal something worthy of further investigation, they break out a shovel and a Garrett carrot. So this is what's called a Garrett carrot. It's about the size and shape of a carrot. And it's orange made by Garrett, the most well known type of pinpointer. a pin corner just helps us we find it with the metal detector, where we're going to dig approximately and this once we've had the hole open just helps us get closer to it and do it really efficiently and quick. And also, when we're detecting these houses, if it's an 1800s house, we kind of know some of the objects we might find iron objects could be a horse shoe or an oxen shoe, we find a lot of harmonica reads, we might find musket balls. When you're doing this long enough, you just kind of know the contemporary objects that people would have lost outside. We've even found mantel clock parts, years and stuff like that. And I can never figure out why people had their clocks on their lawns. The most common utensil we find is spoons. And for every 100 spoons, we find we probably find one fork. So it's just odd. You know that kind of a ratio on that. It wasn't long into the day that Jason proved Chris's point. This signal I was getting here was very choppy what we consider choppy sometimes it could be iron. But now I see why it's choppy. It's all bent up. But we were talking when we first started, how we'd like to find a a spoon or something that was monogram and lo and behold, like my fourth or fifth signal, and I got a spoon but I don't see anything monogrammed on it. But it's definitely early 1900s it says it's a teaspoon. But the reason why it was such a like a choppy, jumpy signal, it was all twisted by the roots. That's why it was all bent up. But I don't see anything monogrammed on it right now. It's definitely time period to what we're looking for. So that it's cool to have a spoon john Burroughs could have used that is so cool. This is this is what I mean. We've only been here 10 minutes. I'm having a ball already. This is a lot of fun. Later that day, the Delaware County diggers gave that spoon a good cleaning and discovered that in fact, there were two initials monogrammed on the handle a J, and a B. JOHN burrows died in 1921. And of course, he wasn't the last person to enjoy this property. As Kim's next discovery illustrates some sort of earring. It is an earring, I would say that's a modern one. A gold hoop with like white enameling doesn't look like john Burroughs style. No, it doesn't. That looks more like something from the 80s. But it's neat that we got some pottery shards there at the bottom, I would say those are I mean, that's really thin. So that definitely would be from a china set. So that's it. And then so to clean up, you always got to double check your home, make sure you got everything. And then you want to make it look like you were never there. So you put the dirt back in nice and neat. And then a little making sure that's nice and set. And then on to the next day I started out with a very cheap machine was probably I don't know, $80 $100 whatever it was. And it was actually a friend of mine from work. Let me borrow his machine and detector. And I went to the local park and I found I don't remember what it was 1940 something mercury dime. And I was like, Whoa, this is cool. As I started finding a few more things with that $80 machine I said you know what, maybe, maybe this can become a little bit more of a hobby and then I went out and bought a Ace 350 and that was like a 200 and something dollar machine. And I started finding more things and I found I got my first permission to actually go metal detect. And I started find some really cool old not only just coins, relics, it was at an old school in Wallen, and I was find some really amazing things, and the homeowner was appreciative. And that's how I got involved with the wall Historical Society. And then from there, I upgraded to what I have now, which is the Garrett AT Pro. When we first started detecting, we got a bounty hunter, which is probably the lowest level machine, it's like, you know, 100 bucks, and we were hunting a field, there had been some relics coming up, but we didn't really think we were gonna find anything. The problem with the low end machines is they pretty much beat for any kind of metal that's in the ground. So you're going to find a lot of iron and a lot of beginning detectorists get a little frustrated with that until they upgrade. A few years later, for Christmas Kim bought me a higher level detector, it was a whites XL T. And we're detecting on my dad's property in the Catskills. There had been old logging trails and an old school house on the property. And I got a pretty good signal. And it was an 1817 large set. It was an incredible find. And it was our first coin. And from that point on, Kim and I were totally hooked on the hobby. It's really amazing how one little object like that can totally change the direction of your life. And we preach this, it's not just the shiny things that we get out of the ground meaning coins, it's the artifacts Do you you on Earth, it's spoon with the with the homeowners engraving on it, everything we find we either give back to the property owners or like for today, we give it to them to put on display, you know, we're not in it for any money, we're not in to make any sort of money. If they don't want it, we either keep it for our personal collection or the stuff that I find Personally, I put it on display at the at the Walton historical site. When you buy an old house, the objects that the people used back in the 1800s and 1700s are still preserved under the ground. And you can find the old jewelry that people wore an old Civil War button that a soldier wore or stuff like that. So it's nice to keep these objects with the house. And people do put them in display cases. And they show people when they're having a party or whatever. And it's just really nice to tie it to that house and to have those interesting objects. Some of the most meaningful discoveries can be tied to more personal connections. I was on my dad's childhood home and I got a pretty good signal. And it was one of those lead Native Americans from like the 1950s. And I showed it to my dad and he said that was a toy I had played with. So I actually unearthed his toy. And the last person to have touched that was my dad and the next person was me. So that was that was pretty exciting. The key to do this is to try and get it out without getting too close but just close enough. been pretty good. I'm surprised. Delaware County is known for having very rocky soil. This may be not very interesting. So that's just a piece of lead. Lead was pretty much the duct tape of the early 1900s. So you find that a lot, they would use it for everything from mending a pot, to just roofing kinds of things, any place that you just needed to have something that you could bend and then use. This is a this is a good signal right here. I've been getting a lot of what we consider mid tones, which are, you know, on the Garret is like 40s to high 60s. But I have a signal here that is amazing. This signal right here. It's a nice signal. While Jason digs quick words from our sponsors, the central Catskills, Chamber of Commerce, providing services to businesses, community organizations and local governments in the central Catskills region. Follow the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, and sign up for a weekly email of local events at Central catskills.org and by the Catskill center, founded in 1969. The Catskill center is committed to the protection and preservation of the environmental, cultural and economic resources of the Catskills. They believe that the vitality and prosperity of the Catskills depends on wise stewardship of our natural resources, thriving local communities and robust collaboration with others. Their work includes the Catskills Visitor Center to public lands preserves advocacy for the Catskills in Albany, regional collaboration, natural resource protection and more. Learn more about the Catskill center and become a member to support their work in the Catskills by visiting Catskill center.org. Now, back to that whole. It's just a modern dime. It's just a modern dime, unfortunately, but I've been hearing not very many higher signal. So hey, least there's Higher, higher stuff here. Metal Detectors emit different tones for a variety of metals, low pitch tones for iron, for example, and higher frequencies for silver or brass. Now this was this was coming up in the mid 60s 10 cents richer, Jason pursued a lower tone and found something more historically significant. It could be a pull tab, some sort of aluminum. But this was coming in mid 60s and was saying about two inches down, maybe three, there was probably close to probably about five inches down. I think it's a buckle. Oh, no. Yes, it is a buckle. And it is old. This probably dates at least mid to late 1800s. This is cool. This is really cool. This, I definitely dates to when john Burroughs was here. But yeah, this is really cool. There's a lot of good iron artifacts out there. The early colonists and the blacksmith who were making all kinds of early tools and things like that. And you know, it sounds corny, but those things really built our country. And those are nice artifacts to have just as important as an old coin. One thing when you're metal detecting on a property or in a field or whatever, you you try to determine where the high traffic areas might have been along walkways next to cars, where cars would have pulled in, or little hills where people would have sat for lunch and lost objects here. You're always trying to determine that Jason's getting a lot of signals over in that corner. So that could have been their little outdoor get together spot. I think Jason's in a pretty good area. A bit more beeping and digging, and Chris called us over to see another dime. This one a bit older than Jason's. This is a Mercury dime. And a lot of people are probably familiar with it. It's a beautiful design on this coin. I don't like to design to the new coins. I like to use Lady Liberty. They've used Lady Liberty for years and years since the 1790s. And even the Indian Head Penny is Lady Liberty and a headdress. That's it's not a man. But the mercury dime. It's fun when you get to the bottom of the hole and there's you see silver peeking out. It is a little treasure that you've just done Earth watching the Delaware County diggers at work. There's a great deal of collaboration and teamwork. There is also an undercurrent of competition and a point system adding one more layer to the day's challenge. Two or three years ago we started Chris made this really cool trophy out of different things that he found. We were basing it off of finding what they call large sense and large sense where before eight, mid 1850s and older and every time you found a large said you'd get a point a half cent would be a half a point. And I was for two or three years, I was kicking their butt. And towards the end of last year, I got thinking of, you know, I said, No, let's start including silver coins. And it just kind of give it a little more competition when we go out, you know, like a silver rosy dime would be a half a point, a barber dime, or a Mercury dime would be a point. And its scale would go up. And then if you get into the large sense, large sense would be two or three points, half cents would be a little bit higher points, British coins and 1700s us coins would be more reality, Spanish rails, they don't come out of the ground very often. Those are like, the big points. So when we go out, it's just a little fun competition. I mean, yeah, like I said, we're saving the history. But you got to have fun when you're out here during the day. And when you're out sweating your butt off in 90 degree heat, you got to give a little jab at each other. So you know, we have signals, you know, a silver coins a THUMBS UP capricoins, like a moon shape that we go. It's just different things that we have, especially when you're in a field. You know, obviously, you're you're watching each other detecting, and we all go in separate directions. But then if you notice somebody is in one spot in one area, they especially Chris, he'll start migrating towards you a little bit. And knowing that you're finding stuff so because you're not moving from that spot. That's what happened today. Kind of meandered over a little bit to where I'm detecting But hey, it's fun. It's where we're at. We're finding stuff. It's a lot of fun. You know, we're enjoying ourselves. We're finding some really cool stuff. So this is just a lot of fun. Chris signal's us over for another find this time a nickel and a story. So it just found a Liberty v nickel. It has Liberty on one side with stars and then has a Roman numeral V on the other in a wreath. First you had the shield nickel, and then the Liberty v nickel than the buffalo nickel. And then Jefferson. When these first came out, it had the V on the back, but it didn't have the word cents. So some individuals thought it would be cool to plate these in gold and use it as a $5 gold piece. The government did catch on Eventually, the second year of this coin they put on the word cents, so they weren't able to do that anymore. But this is definitely in john Burroughs timeframe. He could have carried this, it would be late 1800s to early 1900s. So that's a that's a great find. Even though I kind of put a little line through Liberty there, but it's still a nice coin. Toward the end of the day the Delaware County diggers crossed the country road separating Woodchuck lodge from an old apple orchard. And more beeping, digging and identifying ground isn't much easier on this side of the road. When settlers first set up homesteads and things the government said you have to plant an apple orchard, because that meant you know, they were going to stay and they were committing to the land. So that's why you'll see apple orchards near some of the older homes. And of course, apple trees aren't native to the United States. They're from Russia actually. Back in the day. The apples were not really used for pies as much they were used for making hard cider. It's tough digging down here. You get your workout. That's for sure. I got a couple of flat buttons. They're not they're not very big. But I got a cool piece of iron is hard digging. There's a lot of rocks, but there's stuff down there. All kinds of stuff but a lot of rocks. At the far end of the orchard, Kim found one more coin and we peeked over her shoulder as she attempted to identify it and nickel size. It's got a darker patina. So I'm suspecting that it's like what Chris found up there like a Liberty v could be a shield nickel could be a token to I don't think so. Well at times with these copper coins, they don't come out looking so great. If you just let them dry a little bit. The details start popping out to be identified. On our way out of the orchard, Jason showed us a small piece of silver he'd found engraved with a name not john Burroughs, but a doctor Barris. Dr. Clara Barris, in addition to her own accomplishments as a medical doctor and author was john Burroughs, his official biographer, literary executor, and longtime companion. This artifact along with bells, buckles, buttons, and yes spoons can be found on the Delaware County diggers Facebook page, and will be put on display for future visitors to Woodchuck lodge in Roxbury, New York. Check out Chris Altman's book from the ground up musings of an upstate metal detectorist at from the ground up dot shop. For more on JOHN Burroughs would Chuck Lodge and to make a donation toward its preservation visit. JB wood Chuck lodge.org cats cast is a production of silver Hello audio. Please don't forget to subscribe, and we'll see you again in two weeks. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening
Transcribed by https://otter.ai