Father, son team unearths and preserves history

By: 
Lisa Ingebrand, LRnews@frontiernet.net

Josh Smith (left) of Warsaw and his father, Dan Smith of Kilkenny, use their metal detecting hobby, combined with their interest in local history, to find and preserve historic metal objects. (Photo courtesy of Dan Smith)

They’re “beeping buddies.”

They are also amateur history junkies and treasure hunters.

Armed with metal detectors Dan Smith of Kilkenny and his son, Josh, who resides in Warsaw, spend hours scouring the local area in search of long-lost, forgotten historical items. When they come across a metal item on or under the ground, their detectors beep.

“Beeps are always exciting,” stated Dan, who was first introduced to metal detecting in the early 1980s when a friend of his talked him into purchasing a metal detector. “It’s a hobby. It’s always fun going out and searching, especially on nice days. It’s the thrill of the hunt in a way, never knowing what you might find.”

The Smiths’ collection of historical metal objects that they’ve located includes: old metal horse bells, wheat pennies, rings, decorative buttons, a pistol dating back to the 1850s, a unique hub cap from a Model T Ford, and numerous other trinkets.

The oldest item Dan has discovered is an 1858 Swedish Öre coin.

“That was an exciting find,” he stated in reference to the small bronze coin. “I found it out by an old farm site. There were probably Swedish settlers there at one time… It’s part of history, our local history, which probably would have been lost forever had the property owner not allowed me access to the site.”

While the Smiths have located numerous items on their own properties and public lands, they spend a lot of time talking to landowners about their metal detecting hobby and getting permission to search areas of historic interest.

“We look at old plat and road maps to determine where we’d like to search,” Dan shared. “It also helps to know the local history. I was born in Morristown and know the area pretty well, but I’m always learning… Old farm sites or other places where people used to gather are usually good spots to search.”

Every historical item the Smiths find they work to identify and preserve.

“Sometimes you know exactly what you find—a certain coin with a date on it or an old button that has ‘Morristown Police’ on it—but there are times that we’ve needed to do some research, which is all part of the fun,” Dan stated.

One object that still has the pair scratching their heads is an old token with the wording, “Dorn & Co. Headquarters to Holiday Goods and Latest Buys - Waterville, Mn.”

“I can’t find record of a Dorn & Co. store here in Waterville,” Dan shared. “So, if anyone out there has any information about it, I’d appreciate them sharing it with me.”

The Smiths add all the historic items they find to their...

To see more on this story pick up the February 23, 2023 print edition of the LifeEnterprise. 

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