Backyard archeology

| 24 Apr 2015 | 03:28

May compels us to dig. We till, turn, mulch, plant, transplant, work in, out, under.

Every so often the shovel or trowel hits the unexpected. At the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf, we’ve unearthed a few dump areas of artist materials from the 40’s and 50’s [see page 12] and a few iron pieces from the earlier days as a dairy farm.

It’s all part of backyard archeology. This is not an exotic desert fossil project or jungle temple excavation. Just start where you are. This does call for patience, a virtue any gardener knows well. You cannot just will a plant to thrive or bloom – or odd objects to present themselves. But when they do, the world seems an enchanted place.

A few years ago, I was transplanting one of those frisky forsythia suckers from the mother plant. As I was digging the new hole about six inches deep: chink, chank. There it was! A round dirt-caked coin. Roman? Sumerian? No, it was a Canadian large half-penny. It was dated 1854 and had a hole in it. Our property was farmland until 1906, when the house and barn were built. This find has sent me into reverie ever since. “How did that penny get to Warwick?” The list never stops:

In 1855, a crow was migrating from Ontario to Philadelphia and had this then-shiny coin it its beak. It sneezed over Warwick and dropped it.

Perhaps there’s a forgotten agricultural superstition that if you bury a foreign coin in your field you’ll have a good harvest.

In my more rational moments I think that Thomas Welling, the young boy in the original family, collected coins and lost this one day playing in the backyard.

Finally, this coin is just one piece of The Great Lost Treasure of Canada. All I have to do is keep digging!

That hole in it deepens the mystery. Was it part of a charm bracelet or watch fob, or strung with other coins for safekeeping?

What have you found as you’ve been digging? Share at, click on Special Spots. Daniel Mack