NOTE: METAL DETECTIVES AT NEVINS LIBRARY
On Thursday, July 13 at 6:30pm, Metal Detectives Steve and Jonathan Stewart will be at Nevins Memorial Library sharing some of their favorite stories, showing items they’ve found and the equipment they use. Register for this free event at nevinslibrary.org.
In New England, there are many properties on the East Coast that are historically valuable to our nation’s history. Some of our most significant discoveries come from areas where there is water, or was water at some point, whether it be a residence tucked up next to a river or an inlet in a town. The possibilities of what could be found are endless.
Flashback to July 2019, smack-dab in the middle of summer. It’s a scorching-hot day and we set out to metal detect along the Ipswich River, in the town of Ipswich. We were with a small group of people and decided to target the banks of the inlet we were on since the tide was out. Our metal detectors (Garrett AT Pros) are not the best for water searching, but in this instance, it wasn’t too bad with the tide out.
Going off the instinct that the tide isn’t always out and the sand from the bottom of the river was exposed, it was an ideal time to get sandy. With Dad and I in agreement, we descended a little hill, under a downed tree and over a big rock, to the eventual sandy riverbank. We turned on our machines and immediately started finding some artifacts that predate the area to the 1800s with some modern pieces mixed in: things like musket balls, small lead droppings and wheat pennies.
It was a productive area, but one find took the cake. Dad got a nice high tone on his metal detector indicating a non-ferrous metal (non-ferrous metals are precious metals such as gold, silver, copper, bronze, etc.). As any metal detectorists would after hearing that signal, he gave a little scream and called me over. Two things stood out: It was a higher signal, but the find was also big. This isn’t always a good thing as it could be a large piece of scrap metal.
After about digging 8-10 inches down, Dad finally pulled out the target. It’s usual to find smaller pieces of silver, but on this day he pulled out a massive old sterling silver plate! We were astonished!
The rim of the plate had a nice design on it, along with a script letter “D” on it right in the center. We knew it was silver because of the signal but also because of how clean and shiny it came out of the ground. This was an amazing find!
Once home, we did some research on the piece and found that it wasn’t as old as we first thought. We learned that it was made by Towle Silverware, which is one of America’s oldest silversmith companies. They date back to 1690 and an old colonial silversmith, but this piece is more relative to the mid-1900s. It wasn’t in great condition with some ware to the plate and dents, but was still valued at around $150. As we’ve expressed over and over again, the money isn’t the thing we like most about pieces like this, it’s the historical value and the story it could tell us.
We decided to give this sterling silver plate a new life from its current dented-up state. Our buddy Mike Warren was getting into silversmithing and looking to gain experience working with silver. Collectively we came up with the idea that he could take the plate and melt it down and create a new piece that can give us a story to tell for years to come. We gave him the plate and let him get creative.
A few weeks went by and he was ready to give it back to us. We gave him a general concept, going off the fact it comes from a silverware company he could potentially make a knife or spoon. So, he took that and forged it into a colonial looking Rat Tail spoon! We were so happy with the piece, and he even put some specialized features on it like an “S” for Stewart. He cut the small, detailed pieces and the makers mark for memories sake, and inscribed it with “M. WARREN” to make it unique.
This piece is one of our favorite finds and tells an amazing story within itself. Yes, this piece was special in the first place, but it allowed us a unique opportunity to create its new story.
This is one piece we will be showcasing at Nevins Library on July 13. If you want to listen to stories just like this in person, may I suggest joining the signup list at nevinslibrary.org? You won’t be disappointed!
Methuen father/son treasure hunters Steve and Jonathan Stewart were the August 2019 MethuenLife cover story. They run YouTube, Facebook and Instagram accounts called Mass Metal Detecting and have followers around the globe. They love to save history and enjoy talking about it. If you’d like to invite them to your property for a hunt, you may be included in a future article! Please drop them a note via MethuenLife@msn.com.