History comes in many forms and sometimes includes finding buried treasures in your own backyard! Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust President Pattye Benson recently had three members from Chester County Metal Detecting visit the property that she and her husband own in Malvern, Pennsylvania, an original William Penn land grant property, the pre-Revolutionary stone farmhouse dates to 1690 and sits on four acres. The detectorists used futuristic looking, hi-tech equipment which can detect things up to eighteen inches underground. Today’s metal detectors are designed to be “smart” and feature different tones, numerical readouts, a depth indicator, and Bluetooth headphones which help cancel background noise. Brendan Picha, President of the metal detecting club, explained that, “Based on sound and the number displayed, you can often tell what you are about to dig. The beeps get more intense as you get closer, a sign of potential treasure buried just beneath the surface.”
A good detectorist does not dig holes but instead cuts plugs. Using special digging tools designed for metal detecting makes it easier to retrieve the treasures and minimizes damage to grass. Benson reports that the detectorists cut in a circle leaving a “flap” of the lawn attached, with the grass roots embedded in the dirt. After the “treasure” is retrieved, the sod is then returned to its original spot, leaving a minimal trace of damage to the lawn so that you never know they dug a hole. Digging history is about one story at a time. Some of the treasures found on the Benson property indicated where children once played. Unearthed close to the eighteenth-century stone smokehouse, the detectorists found a lead Indian soldier from the late 1800s. In another area, a group of miniature cast iron toy vehicles from around the 1940s or 50s with “Made in England” markings were discovered. The detectorists found many other items on the property including an assortment of early belt and shoe buckles, wheat pennies, an old silver jewelry token, utensils, pottery, a small oval tray with a makers mark of a Menorah, and an elaborately monogrammed nail buffer, just to name a few. The sterling silver Victorian nail buffer with the initials K.A.W. is dated 1894 and was made by W. J. B. (Braitsch) & Co of Providence, RI. Interestingly, the company was in business for about thirty years and its founder, William Braitsch, interned with Charles Lewis Tiffany of Tiffany & Co. Local artisan Tracy Phillips of Reimagined Style (www.reimaginedstylestudio.com) finds new life and purpose to vintage items and created a special necklace for Benson from some of the found pottery shards.
The rebuilding of the 18th century Jones Log Barn Living History Center in Chesterbrook by Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust is now complete. The exhibits, which will help visitors understand the history of the barn and its rebuilding process, including its unique log construction, is slated for completion soon.
Displays will feature antique hardware, farm tools, a seed sorter, and a threshing machine from the original Jones Log Barn. Another exhibit will feature the generous contribution of local company Eadeh Enterprises, the Eadeh and Fritz family stories, and the Fritz Lumber history. The doors to the Living History Center will soon open to the public.
Like other nonprofit organizations, COVID-19 has unfortunately placed Trust events on hold, including its annual historic house tour, lectures, and field trips with Tredyffrin Easttown School District students. “We just were not able to do our regular events in 2020 and to date, in 2021 said Benson. The Trust has a goal for this year to come up with an alternative plan to raise funds for the Living History Center, something a little different but still meet safety concerns and restrictions. As a result of Benson’s positive experience with members of Chester County Metal Detecting, there may be a history hunt in Tredyffrin’s future this fall.
For questions and further information about the Jones Log Barn Living History Center, treasure hunting, or how to get involved with the Trust, please contact Pattye Benson at info (at) tredyffrinhistory (dot) org, or visit the website at www.tredyffrinhistory.org.
Original write-up published in the Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, Summer 2021 Newsletter, Page 20