There was a flurry of activity on the farm fields north of Head of Pond Road between Deerfield and Blank Lane over the weekend, prompting a number of phone calls to the Grist hotline, as well as to The Press office. Usually, the fields are quiet, uninterrupted vistas following the fall harvest, but starting on Friday and continuing through Sunday, an army of pickup trucks lined the fields’ edge and individuals were spread out for acres walking slowly back and forth.
A closer look revealed that every person was waving a metal detector back and forth as they walked and my first thought was that one of the Wesnofskes lost their wedding ring. Further investigation got to the real story.
For three days the Artifact Detecting Team, a group of metal detector enthusiasts from up-island, had permission to scour the Wesnofske fields for artifacts. The really cool part is that it’s the Southampton Historical Museum that benefits from the event.
John Wesnofske has given the team permission to pursue their hobby on all of his properties this fall, and they’ve already been to three. They will be back again in early to mid-December once some corn comes down.
The way it works is, members of the Artifact Detecting Team pay a fee to participate in the event. The fee is turned over to the Southampton Historical Museum. The enthusiast gets to keep whatever he or she finds, but, of course, nothing would prevent them from giving it to the landowner if they so choose. According to Barry Small, the founder of the ADT, these hobbyists are in it for the thrill of the find, not because they are going to find any hugely valuable treasures—but sometimes they do! It’s about digging up history. Many share their finds with museums for display.
There were more than 30 participants last weekend, the largest turnout since the events started last November. Among the finds were military buttons (including an 1812 artillery button!), musket balls, buckles, and coins, including Spanish reales and colonial coppers.
The typical detector, I learned, operates in depths up to around 8 inches. Sometimes a large item like a colonial brass buckle will sound off to 10” or so. This is the plow zone. Every plow season, both fall and spring, items are moved up into detecting range and brought down to lower depths. The plowing rejuvenates the fields for many years to come.
To date, the ADT has raised more than $16,000 for the museum. “Detectorists” from as far away as Kentucky and Ohio plus New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and upstate New York participated, a bonus for our local economy during the off-season.
The search is on right now for properties that may have some known “history,” such as once being the location of an old homesite or trading spot. These types of properties would command a premium detecting fee, putting more money in the coffers of the Southampton Historical Museum. If you’re interested in learning more about it and possibly know someone who’d be interested in allowing the ADT on their property, check out a wonderful video about the group at Vimeo, http://vimeo.com/28953294. You’ll see locals Midge Fowler and Glen Halsey talk about having the group on their land last year. You can also find information about the ADT at its website, www.artifactdetectingteam.com.
It’s a win-win all around.