Guest Post: Lumber Camp Rediscovered


I’ve been metal detecting for only a year and it is safe to say that I am fully addicted. I’ve spent many enjoyable hours researching and doing field work. I’ve also enjoyed reading all the amazing stories and articles of finds discovered, hoping someday that I might find something to contribute. Well, now I think I have a story worth telling. Maybe this could give inspiration to some aspiring treasure hunters out there.

Actually, to set the record straight, I have metal detected in the past with my father when I was a child. We had a cheap detector, which had no discrimination and had no pinpoint, what a drag compared to today’s machines, but never the less we use to go out all the time.

We use to go to a small lumber camp in Western Montana near my home town. My father originally discovered it when he was about sixteen hunting and trapping in the area nestled in a draw. He remembered this for many years later, and bullet casing and chunks of iron debris were all I remembered finding. We always thought of the gold coins the lumberjacks had to have dropped, but were never found.

Years later I decided to start the hobby again, but this time with a new hunting partner, my wife. Buying our detectors and going for hours around our local town to parks and private lawns, we felt like we were getting the hang of it.

In the back of my mind I always thought of that old lumber camp, so I gave my father a call. After many failed attempts in trying to relocate the site, I was finally rewarded with the site of rotting log foundations, the only evidence of that long forgotten camp. It was amazing to see how nothing had changed since I last visited it. It was like seeing an old friend.

My wife and I immediately broke out our Garretts and put the headphones on, and set those search coils a swinging.

We pulled many lumber type relics, like axe heads, ox shoes and chain links. There were also numerous old bullet casings found just like before with my father. After we cleared most of the area of large trashy debris, we started to focus the search, looking for more conductive metals like coins!

At this time I received a signal reading in the dime range. A smile creeped up to my mouth and the nervous anticipation began. Digging just below the surface, I uncovered a tie pin, smaller than a dime, and looked to be made out of bronze with silver. On the face of the tie pin were an axe and hammer crossed with the letters M.W.A. I thought to myself that was a good find, because it may help date the site.

After returning home, I began researching the pin. It turns out the M.W.A. stood for “Modern Woodmen of America“, a fraternal life insurance company, which is still active today. I was able to contact their historian and they were able to determine the pin’s time period to be from 1890 to1910, which was the time period we had been suspecting for some time. It also confirmed that this was most likely a lumber camp. We often thought it may have been a mining camp.

Lumberjacks joined the M.W.A. to insure that if something tragic happened during their job, their burial was paid for. You will often see the M.W.A. logo on old tombstones.

After making many trips back to the area, and returning with slim finds, but still enjoyed being in the outdoors, I started to become discouraged. I made fewer trips, and when I would go, I would only stay for a short time. I was definitely burning out. Until one fall afternoon, just on a whim, I decided to return.

Returning to the site, I got out of my car and walked to where I thought I should start, which incidentally was a place that I have searched many times in the past (including the days with my father). Within fifteen minutes I got a good nickel signal. Usually these nickel signals turned out to be spent rifle casings.

I bent over lazyily to “pop” it out, and out came a 1901 Liberty V Nickel! The first thought that came to my mind was, “it’s about time”. I rechecked the hole with the search coil and a solid dollar signal pinged back. “It can’t be”, I thought to myself.

A little nervously, I checked the hole carefully in case the reading was accurate, then out rolled a 1896 O Barber Half Dollar! At this point I was weak in the knees and I needed to just sit and savor the finds.

After recovering my composure I began to search the hole again, but no signals appeared. Just a few feet away I received my next signal. A quarter signal was ringing loud and clear, and to my disbelief a 1892 Barber Quarter appeared!

After these finds, I was so distracted I simply packed up my gear and headed out. Using the logic that I used up all my luck for the day, and I opted to return another time. I know there will be many more finds in the future, and with every find, it is important to savor and enjoy every moment!

I’ve learned some important lessons from that experience.

– Even though you might have thoroughly checked an area, the possibility of missing something is always there. Never cancel anything out.
– Never give up hope. The hours you put out in the field can reward you at any time.
– Do your research

Author: Hank D.

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12 Responses to “Guest Post: Lumber Camp Rediscovered”

  • xlt Says:

    Sounds like you got a great site there.. many more finds to come!!!

  • Hank D Says:

    Thanks. I’m excited about visiting the site with a smaller search coil. It’s really trash infested, so I’m hoping a small coil will help me out.

  • Joe(TX) Says:

    If the site is really trash infested, you may want to dig all signals in the all metal mode. If this is too time consuming, hunt in the all metal mode and only dig coin type signals. JOE

  • Hank D Says:

    Thanks for the suggestion Joe. On certain trips, I’ve tried to focus on certain areas to remove the metal signals, but the quantity is super high. There is a lot of little pieces of tin mostly from cans that have disintegrated around the area. At least ‘ALL’ the trash is 100 years old, so it’s all pretty interesting. I was also thinking that a powerful magnet on the end of a pick would be nice for quick pick-up of metal scrap in the area.

    There are some log foundations remaining, and inside those, I’ve been trying to get in, but depth of pine needles, rotted logs and loose soil is about 20 inches. This site could be a full time job in itself. I could spend days just sifting out the insides of the cabins.

    I’ll see if I can dig up some pictures of the structures and get them on the site.

    Thanks for commenting (This comment feature is super cool!!!)
    Hank D.

  • Joe(TX) Says:

    Hank, too bad that you don’t own a Compass 77B. This is basicly an all TR detector but it nulls out on a lot of small iron trash. It has great see-thru ability and will see the coins underneath the small iron or right next to it! For depth, one can acquire their 12 inch loop! For sifting the floors in the cabins make a sifter like out 2 by 4’s–2 foot square or so. Use chicken coop type wire with holes a little bit smaller than a dime! This way you can retrieve anything from dime size and up!!! Sifting the dirt floors is a lot like Dump sifting one would be amazed at what is in there!!! Also this sifter can be proped against a tree or so and you can literally shovel the dirt right into it, stopping every so often to sort out all the debri!!! GOOD LUCK!!! JOE

  • Hank D Says:

    I saw an article somewhere on designing a sifter out of PVC pipe. This site is about 2 miles from the road.. so carrying a 2×4 sifter might be a little hefty. I can’t seem to find this article.. if anybody knows what I’m talking about.. can you point me to the link?

    I might post this on the forum as well.

    Thanks for your suggestions Joe.. much appreciated!!!


  • Finn55cats Says:

    Wonderful story and great lessons learned. I love this hobby!!

    Excal 800
    Fisher CZ70

  • Joe(TX) Says:

    Hank, I have a friend who made a sifter out of 1 by 4’s, so the weight is a lot less than if it was made out of 2 by 4’s. Also you can attach wheels (Lawnmower type) to one end of the sifter and basicly roll it in! Also the sifter can be made to be very small or very large! You need to decide what size that you need and then figure a way to get it to your site! HH JOE

  • William Kilgore Says:

    Last year I purchased a 20 acre placer mining claim in powell county, To date I have not had the chance to visit the property except for pictures. The claim is the Black Bear location is T.14N.,R.10W.,34 SW 1/4.Serial Number MTMMC 215331.I HAVE BEEN ADVISED THAT A PLAN OF OPERATION MUST BE FILED BEFORE I CAN PROCEED WITH PROSPECTING. ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH LOCAL REGS ??? AND CAN YOU HELP ME ???

  • DetectorBase Says:

    Hello William

    You should post this question in the Prospecting forum. You might get more exposure to this question. Hopefully you’ll get some answers.


  • Randy-KY. Says:

    You can make a nice sifter that is portable. You need either one, or two bicycle wheels. You can make a wheel barrow type, or a 2 wheel pack type. Use 1/4, or 1/2 inch heavy wire to line your frame for sifting. Either way, you can tie your gear to it, and carry everything on it to your site. Unless you are crossing huge rock the bicycle tires will roll over about anything. Also make a fold down handle opposite from the end of the wheels, the same height as axels. This will allow you to shovel in dirt, and have some ground clearence. If you have a backpack frame that you can remove the pack from, and just use the frame this can be attached to it, and your body carries some of the weight. It is a lot easier on long trips with equiptment.

  • unc Says:

    i made a sifter from wire they use on the bottom of rabbit cages works great cions cant go thru

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