Monday, October 19, 2015

Ring Tells Its Story After 132 Years

Every item we find with our metal detectors has a story to tell.  Unfortunately for us, we seldom have an opportunity to hear the whole truth.  We are often left to speculate on the origins of our finds, making educated guesses based on the item itself, its location, and other objects found nearby.  But every once in a detectorists life, we get a more complete view of a particular object.  We often ponder, "If only these pieces of history could talk! What a story they could tell!"  Every so often, it turns out, they actually can.  This is the story of a very unique ring, which I will do my best to tell.

It started out as a fairly slow day searching along Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Road (on private property with permission, of course).  I had found some items of interest here before, spanning 200 years of history from the area once known as Oaks, NC.  This day I hadn't found anything particularly noteworthy, just a few bits of older brass, and a cool old Regal lock.  I was making my way back towards the road, getting ready to call it quits, when I got a solid low tone hit on my maching.  "BOOO-WOO"!


I flipped the plug, and instantly recognized the shape of a ring on the bottom.  It was a plain golden band, unadorned and classic in style.  I wiped it off, and saw hallmarks present inside, but initially I wasn't even sure if it was solid or plated gold.  It wasn't brass - there was no sign of oxidation, a characteristic of real gold.  Even after a hundred years in the ground, it will come out as shiny as the day it was lost.


I posted several pictures on my personal Facebook account, and several detecting forums asking for opinions on the hallmarks.  The first was the number 18, which I correctly assumed was the purity of gold in karats.  The second mark was a crown, a British pictographic hallmark denoting gold.  I was pleasantly surprised that most commentors not only believed that it was real gold, but that it had a very old look to the hallmarks.  I brought the ring in to see an expert at a jewelry store in Chapel Hill that specializes in antique and estate pieces.  They confirmed what I had already begun to suspect - the ring was genuine, and crafted sometime in the 19th century.

Here's where the story gets really interesting, though, because the ring had a secret that I hadn't shared yet on the forums.  In addition to the hallmarks, the inside of the band was hand inscribed with (albeit fairly crude) cursive letters.  It reads:

GWL To MFD 83

"83" very lightly in center.

Having confirmed the 19th century construction, that meant the engraving of 83 meant 1883 - one hundred and thirty two years ago.  Wow!  Now the real digging began, trying to put real individuals together with this object.  It was a time consuming task, but here is what I found.

Top: GWL
Bottom:  MFD


George Whitfield Lasley was born August 13, 1850 to Cynthia Crutchfield and David Lasley of Oaks, Orange County, NC.  Various documents have his name listed as either Lasley or Lashley.  Mary Frances Duke, daughter of Henry and Isabella Duke was born near Greensboro, NC on November 11, 1857.  By 1870, however, her family had relocated to Saxapahaw in Alamance county.

North Carolina marriage register showing George and Mary Lasley

The two would be married July 29, 1884.  They raised at least 6 children, and lived the remainder of their days here in Orange County.  George worked as a carriage maker and farmed the land.  George passed away in 1934 at the age of 83, and his wife followed just two years later.  They are buried in the Bethlehem Church cemetery along the Orange an Alamance county line.

George and Mary Lasley, photo from FindAGrave memorial found here

The ring presented from GWL to MFD in 1883 was likely a symbol of their betrothal to be married, a common practice at the time.  Exactly when and how it came to rest under a cedar tree along the Saxapahaw and Bethlehem Church Road will remain a mystery.  But Mary Frances Duke Lasley's ring can now once again see the light of day, and their story can be told.  If you have any more information or additional photographs of Mary or George Lasley of Oaks, NC, please contact me at detsax@gmail.com

Thank you so much for reading (if you made it this far), happy hunting, and God bless.

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