If there are treasures hidden in your backyard, the N.C. Dirt Detectives want to find them.
In partnership with Preservation Burlington, the NCDD brought their metal detecting equipment and more than 200 artifacts to STEAM Junction in Burlington on Saturday, March 10, to educate the public on what it is they do.
The event came together pretty serendipitously as the Dirt Detectives were knocking on doors in historic Burlington and happened to run into Sharon Roderick, vice president of the Board of Directors for Preservation Burlington.
“It developed into asking if we could do a presentation and teach the community about how we metal detect and what metal detecting is about, and why we do it,” said Adam Larrabee, the founder of NCDD.
Larrabee began metal detecting at 12 years old and says he was “brought up around a love for history.”
His most interesting finds have been confederate uniform buttons and an Ames model 1834 Revenue Marines Officer sword guard.
Tim Booher’s pride is a piece of eight, a Spanish silver coin, and Jeffrey Zabodyn’s is a 1773 Virginia halfpenny he dug up in Windsor, N.C.
“It’s kind of a mystery, you know, not knowing what you’re going to dig up next. I love the thrill of it,” Zabodyn said.
“We go anywhere with history: old farm houses, plantation homes, old neighborhoods. We focus on homes built before 1950, colonial times, and just anywhere with history,” Larrabee said.
Within that, the core band of NCDD proudly follows a strict code of ethics:
Never trespass — respect all property, and always get permission;
Dig properly — fill all holes, and leave the area cleaner and better than when you arrived;
Dispose of litter or trash in proper containers;
Obey all laws and ordinances that may pertain to a site;
Protect our heritage of natural resources, wildlife, and private property; and
As representatives of the hobby/sport, be courteous to all.
“Our Facebook group itself has about 3,300 members, but they’re all around the country. As far as our circle that we hunt with — me, Tim, Jeff — there might be a handful of about 10 people whom we trust. You know, with any hobby, just like hunting — there are people who hunt illegally,” he said.
The group gives homeowners and property owners the option of keeping any of their finds. They also donate or auction off many of the more valuable artifacts.
But Booher says for every 100 holes they dig they might find two decent items; the rest is trash.
“Buckets full,” he said.
“Soda cans, bottle tops — if people were to see the amount of trash that we’ve cleaned out of the Earth, we’d be given the Nobel Peace Prize,” Larrabee added.
Their dream sites include places like the White House and Monticello, but Saturday’s event was about the incredible history we can discover in our own backyards.
Roderick set up around seven houses in the Front Street and West Davis Street areas of Burlington for digs last week, yielding quite a few local artifacts, such as jewelry and figurines.
“Sometimes I think we take our surroundings for granted, and I don’t know that we see the history,” Roderick said. “People say, ‘Oh, I love the old houses on West Davis Street,’ or ‘I love the old houses here,’ and they maybe don’t realize that there’s literally history all around them, and it’s all so important to preserve and appreciate. So I guess that is my hope: that people will see the potential and the treasures that aren’t appreciated or noticed sometimes.”
Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.