Photos: Treasure Hunters Unearth History In Durham

Members of the Yankee Territory Coinshooters used metal detectors to search for treasure at the James Wadsworth Home in Durham on Saturday.


The James Wadsworth home at the corner of Higginum Road and Main Street in Durham was full of activity Saturday morning.

About two dozen members of the Yankee Territory Coinshooters methodically walked the fields around the home built in 1709, armed with metal detectors.

Henry Blakeslee has occupied the land for most of his 73 years and stood next to an old red barn that had been uprooted and moved to the property years ago, watching the men slowly move across his land in search of long forgotten treasures.

The YTC, a group comprised of people from all around the Hartford area that have a true love for American History, meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the East Hartford Library.

The consensus from the group is that metal detecting is both relaxing and thrilling at the same time. Each hunt has different outcomes, producing coins or relics.

Roger Moyles suggested that in metal detecting, a relic is anything that’s not a coin and while the crew may go home empty handed, the hunt makes it worth their while.

Common finds include belt buckles, pipes, buttons, hardware, tack, and bullets of various sorts.

The passion for the hobby becomes clear when a YTC member digs-up a three-cent nickel from 1867. Running a small stream of water over the coin reveals its beautiful detail.

Moyles also holds a large cent dating back to 1837 in his dirt-covered hands. The coin stands apart from the others because during the same period, a smaller coin of the same denomination was produced.

Robert Ellis, a specialist in artifact recovery and identification gathered with the men in the field to observe what they had unearthed on this sunny April morning. 

During their monthly meetings, YTC members present their newfound treasures unearthed at various outings, allowing them to gain valuable information from each other and look to literary resources for more information on the artifacts.

Ray Dapkus of Colchester huddles with the group to show everyone the Lewis Tomes button he had dug from the soil. The button was likely fabricated between 1820 and 1832, he thinks.

But with many finds, more questions are unanswered. “It’s exciting and you begin to wonder. Was it on his vest? What did it its owner look like? Was he tall or short, friendly or mean? Part of their personality comes out with each find," Dapkus says.

The club works with the state on various searches and even scoured Connecticut's eastern woods, digging to find the historical artifacts of the Mashantucket Pequots for Foxwoods.

But on this day, members are making their second trip to the Wadsworth home. The property has been nicknamed Arnold’s Corner because it is said that Benedict Arnold of Revolutionary War fame trained soldiers in the adjoining fields.  

The property's original owner had more than 600 acres of land, a territory that stretched from Haddam Quarter Road all the way to Miller’s pond. Thomas Hooker was said to be an occupant of the territory. 

Down in the field, Bill Wright proudly shows his Revolutionary finds for the day. He smiles as he dusts off a musket ball and a lead seal found a few inches below the dirt.

“That artifacts are usually found near the house, but you really never know what you’ll find in the fields," he says.

Treasure hunting is a great for kids and grown-ups alike. Higher end metal detectors range from $750 to $2000, but it doesn’t hurt to send the kids digging with their $25 detectors. 

For more information on Yankee Territory Coinshooters and the club’s activities, visit their website at www.yankeeterritorycoinshooters.com

Mel Tavares April 15, 2012 at 09:20 PM
We drove by and saw them searching. Thanks for posting the article so we know what their treasure hunt yielded :)
Jennifer Schulten April 15, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Deb, They said they like to keep the coins but are open to the idea of leaving artifacts with the historical society. It makes you want to go out and buy a detector and start digging.
Robert Ellis April 16, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Metal detecting is not a money making hobby.We have about one hundred detectorist in our club and I do not know one who made a profit over the course of their years in the hobby. If you consider the cost of the equipment.and the cost of gas to get to the hunt site no one is covering their expenses.. The cost for me in gas to get to Durham was about $15.00 with finds of less than $ 1.00, Over 25 metal detectorist attended the hunt on the ten acres of land with the average detectorist detecting and digging at least 4 hours which would amount to over 100 hours of detecting time for the group. Less than $3.00 (three dollars) of coin was found. Total numismatic value of these coins was less than $40.00. The results is an average of three cents per detectorist per hour face value and less than forty cents per hour numismatic value per detectorist. A hobby is suppose to be fun not a money maker. The Saturday hunt was a fun day for me. I spent the day detecting and visiting the other detectorist, meeting some nice local people incluing the homeowner and the Patch writer Jennifer Schulten, I enjoyed the beautiful weather outside and got lots of exercise. Some of my greatest finds are the people I meet while pursuing my hobby. Saturday I meet for the first time your Patch writer Jennifer Schultena who I later found out was a great photographer after visiting her website at WWW.SANDIASTUDIO.COM.
Robert Ellis April 16, 2012 at 07:16 AM
Most finds are kept by the hobbyist except for personal items like a ring that the homeowner lost. Metal detecting is one of my hobbies. I have set up displays for local Historical Societies. My email is EnjoyTodayToo@yahoo.com To Patch readers: Local Historical Societies need your support of time and money but they would love to have you visit their buildings and exhibts at least once a year.
Sarah Atwell April 16, 2012 at 12:50 PM
If anyone from your group has interesting finds from this property that they would like to loan to the Durham Historical Society, please contact me at 860-716-5497 or at durhamhistoricalsociety@hotmail.com. We are reopening on May 5th and 6th for the first time in over a decade and would love to have any Revolutionary War artifacts to add to our exhibits. -Sarah Atwell, President


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