Thursday, November 3, 2011

Detecting the vineyards, and a Tarheel Confederate in Saxapahaw

Hey everyone!  I got an email in response to my call for old sites from the owners of Benjamin Vineyards asking if I would like to search their property on Whitney Road.  It was once farmland belonging to a prominent local doctor, Dr. McPherson, who lived very near by.  It appears on the 1893 map of Alamance County as belonging to the Stockard family.  It became a vineyard in 2002, and now sells local wines and hosts vineyard tours, wine tastings, and private events.

I spent several hours roaming the property, looking for any signs of significant activity.  Unfortunately I didn't stumble upon any hotspots, and the finds were limited to bullet casings and shotgun shells (although some of the shells were manufactured over a century ago!).  Just the same, the weather was amazing, and the scenery couldn't have been prettier.  Strolling through the rows of grape vines and around the scenic landscape was a meditative experience, and one I'm sure I would have missed out on if not for this great hobby.  A special thank you goes out to the owners of Benjamin Vineyards for the kind invitation to their property.

After returning home and finishing the rest of my daily "to do's", there was still a little bit of daylight remaning, and I decided to use it up detecting around Victory Calls Stables.  I detected on the half of the farm where most of my CW relics have come from, including last month's Civil War era Virginia state seal button.  A detecting partner of mine also recovered a North Carolina state seal button from a neighboring property.

I was having trouble finding targets that weren't iron (and dug some of those for good measure), when I had an epiphany. Several of my period finds have come from the area around a specific set of fencelines. And while I've detected hard all around them, I've never gotten right under the fence. So I shut off the electric top strand and worked my way along the fenceline.  Sure enough, I got a weak signal.  I moved some clay and it got stronger. Using a pinpointer and hand digger to avoid scratching whatever it might be, I carefully removed the clay to reveal a flatbutton with no shank, typical of the 1800-1860's timeframe.

I instantly noticed that this particular button was actually convex in shape.  The next thing I noticed was that it had some design on the front.  I knew what I was hoping for (having seen this button during my research), and brushed the front of the button to reveal a circle with the letters "NC".

What I was holding is known as a North Carolina Sunburst button, used on uniforms of NC troops during the Civil War.  It's a "local" button, a term used to describe buttons made in the South during the War.  This is in contrast to many pre-war buttons that continued to see use, such as the Virginia state seal button I found nearby.  They were crudely made one piece stamped copper buttons, with soldered shanks.  The solder joints were usually poor, and frequently failed, so finding one with an intact shank is nearly impossible.  Original solder marks can be seen on the back of the button, along with a weak impression of the stamped device.  This makes the second Confederate button from my own farm, and third from these two properties.

I feel once again blessed and humbled to be given to oportunity to recover another rare piece of our state's history so close to home.  As always, feel free to email me with anything you would like to see featured here, or any tips for old sites in the area, or leave a comment on the facebook page.  Thanks for checking out the blog and in advance for any comments you may have.


  1. Tony: The button is wonderful. I wish it could speak, I guess you are talking for it. You should think about putting together a book deal with all the facts and treasures you share with us. Lv-M2

  2. That's the thing about relics such as this. It once belonged to a person who had aspirations and goals and beliefs. We can only guess who this person was but we are surely connected to him via this find.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks ya'll! I need to pry myself away from the soil and do some research, I'd love to track down what units passed through here. You're right Pulltab, the human element is very strong with relics like this.