Metal detectorists dig in to find artifacts
11/17/2010 11:35 AM
By Brad Jones
Gold Prospectors Association of America
More than 35 treasure hunters and prospectors showed up at the Vail Ranch historical site in Temecula recently to lend a hand in the search for buried artifacts.
Sue Jeffrey, a Gold Prospectors Association of America member, who organized the event, said the opportunity was worth its weight in gold.
Because the Vail Ranch site is slated for development within the next year, Jeffrey said she and other metal detectorists were grateful for a last chance to uncover artifacts for the museum.
“That particular 4.5-acre site, between the 1850s and 1860s, was the center of Temecula. So, for 35 miles in any direction, if you wanted to vote, catch a stage coach or buy groceries at the general store, you had to go to that area. It was the hub,” she said.
“Once the construction starts, artifacts buried in the ground will basically be lost forever,” Jeffrey said.
Rebecca Farnbach, a founding member of the Vail Ranch Restoration Association, said VaRRA has been working closely with an historical architect to preserve the integrity of the site as it is redeveloped.
The $ 9 million project will be similar to San Diego’s Old Town, with retail shops and restaurants in keeping with the Old West ranch setting. The development, which has been approved by Temecula’s city council and the planning commission, is currently awaiting funding.
Metal detectorists from two GPAA local chapters — Temecula Valley Prospectors and the Treasure Seekers of San Diego County — participated in all-day event Sunday, Nov. 7. All artifacts were donated to the museum.
Farnbach, who is also a founding member of the Temecula Valley Historical Society, said that the event has changed her perception of metal detectorists.
“I see that they love history. And, what I’ve seen them get excited about are the historical finds,” she said. “They are like archaeologists, really. I am so impressed.”
“It’s been really a lot of fun. They found all kinds of things from a ring to a spoon to the radiator of a Model T,” Farnbach said.
“When they are digging up things, they are analyzing and saying what they think the item was. I think they are just spot on,” she said.
“I have never really hung out with metal detector people before and I thought they just looked for coins under the swings in play yards,” she said. “Now today, I see that we’ve collected all kinds of things with their help.”
Besides an old wedding ring, a silver spoon and the Ford Model T radiator, the local chapters filled a large table with historical treasure, including a vintage button, an old California license plate, tools, nails, coins and a battered old cast iron pot.
Some of the items found will be curated, possibly for display in the museum, Farnbach said.
Jeffrey, who recently opened American Prospector Treasure Seeker, a local prospecting shop in Old Town Temecula, said that while many people metal detect on beaches, she prefers gold prospecting and metal detecting in areas that are steeped in history, such as the Vail Ranch historical site.
“I like going to old places and metal detecting there. Historical sites — that’s where you’re going to find true treasure,” she said.
Jeffrey said both GPAA chapters may return to Vail Ranch to hunt for more artifacts before the development begins.
“We haven’t set anything up yet, but that’s our plan,” she said.
“I just think there’s a good opportunity to find some treasures that are still down there,” Jeffrey said,
“We might find more of the car — the Model T — too!”
For more information on metal detecting or to find out how to become a GPAA member, please visit www.goldprospectors.org or call (951) 699-4749.