This story actually begins 40 years ago. In the spring of 1963 my parents decided I’d go to overnight camp on Cape Cod that summer. But after a week I became quite homesick, and so spent the rest of the summer collecting coins and frogs and grasshoppers. The following year, my parents sent me to a nearby all-boys overnight camp which shared activities with the other camp, such as baseball games and off-camp outings. As I was by this time more mature, I was becoming better adapted to the away-from-home life. However, by the spring of 1965, I felt I’d be better suited to the coed camp to which I’d gone for that week in ’63. And so I would spend the whole summer of ’65 at this camp, and true to my beliefs, I did enjoy the experience, and to this day retain fond memories from that summer. On Monday, August 23, the last day of the camp season, my parents came to pick me up and I gave the camp director’s wife a big farewell hug. I have long since memorialized that date as one which marked the end of a “chapter” in my life, as it would be nearly 37 years before I’d set foot on the property again.
About 10 years ago I was doing research on sites that had been popular gathering places in the generations prior to the Civil War, and I spotted a reference to the small community where my summer camp was located! These publications referred to a revival by a lake, other outdoor gatherings in the 1830s and ’40s and quarterly church meetings every year from 1838 through 1846. There was also documentation of activity in the area as far back as 1813. However, since the printed matter was vague in its description of location, the notes I’d taken were rather sketchy and I felt I didn’t have enough concrete data to conduct a meaningful study.
Fast forward to July 27, 2002. I was on my way to pick up a friend enroute to our bridge game when I noticed a road sign pointing to the old camp site community. This sign gave me an impetus, so I got a brainstorm … the next day I’d try to find the old camp site! It was a weekend and my children were away up in Maine with relatives, so my wife Marita and I were free to roam about the countryside. And without much difficulty, we found the site. The area was no longer a camp but an essentially deserted expanse of fields and meadows, with only the main house of the original camp standing, as a private residence. A bit further down the vast complex, towards the lake, we spotted some people, and I casually got to talking with them about my camping here as a youngster and my budding research project. Soon they referred me to the proprietor. I introduced myself to him and his wife, gave my “dog and pony show”, and they granted me permission to search the area. Within the hour Marita and I had found a 1941 quarter and a few Wheat pennies.
During the remainder of last summer I made several stops here, finding many obsolete coins including my first Seated Liberty half dollar. The next day, September 8, I brought along a buddy from my metal detecting club, and he found an 1830 Capped Bust half dollar in nearly mint condition! This really got my adrenaline pumping, and for the next several months the two of us found many large cents and artifacts such as spoons, frock coat buttons and buckles.
I didn’t know what to expect when my detecting partner and I set out on the morning of July 6, 2003. We arrived at the site around 9:00 and detected until we worked up an appetite. We took a lunch break at about 11:30, but by 12:00 we were back out in the sultry atmosphere. Less than 10 minutes later, I was working an area where the grass had recently been cut (after having been several inches higher) and got two signals from my detector, one which was very good and one which was so-so in terms of potential for being a coin. The two hits were about a foot apart, and sure enough the strong one was a Draped Bust large cent, from about 7” deep. I then passed over the second hole, and still got a tone, lower but consistent. I thought it was perhaps another one of the many old frock buttons we’d found. But as the object came into view in a clump of dirt retrieved from the hole, it was in fact a coin about the size of a quarter with its reverse partially exposed. In fact, I thought it was a quarter at first glance. But when I looked at it closely I saw the denomination “5 D.” and my heart skipped a beat!! I’d found an 1834 Classic Head half eagle – my first gold coin in 31 years of metal detecting! OH MY … GOLD!