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Digging at McFerrin Park

by: Donnie Vaughn

I started metal detecting around 1972 or 1973 and like most of you I started out coin hunting. After about a year of hunting schools, yards and some local parks I realized that I would have to come up with some new places to hunt in order to find more coins, especially silver coins. Then I remembered McFerrin Park in East Nashville and I'm glad I did.

I grew up in East Nashville and played ball in this old park when I was a kid so I knew where the old concession stand was, where the bleachers had been, the water fountains, etc. In short, I remembered the layout of the park which proved to be very beneficial in helping locate coins. I suggested to J.B. that we go over and check this place and see if we couldn't dig some silver but he said that he was sure it had been looked on, as every park in the Nashville area had been and besides, it was a "rough" part of town and it was too dangerous over there. Well, I made up my mind that I was going anyway. Upon arriving at the park I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting on his porch across the street from the park and went over to talk to him. He said he had lived here a good number of years, sits outside on pretty days, and had never seen anyone with a metal detector over there. I couldn't wait! I walked across the street and tuned up my old Garrett T/R detector and dug a silver dime at about 2 inches on my first sweep. Within 30 minutes I dug around 20 coins and a couple of tokens, so I was pretty sure this place had never been looked on or if had, someone had really left a lot. After a two or three hour hunt that first day I had around 60 or 70 coins, a silver ring, 2 or 3 street car tokens and a pouch full of trash and I had only hunted part of the right field section of the ball park. I knew the rest of the park had to be full as well so I made my way back home to tell J.B. about my finds. Well, old J.B. couldn't believe the place had never been hunted and of course he wanted to go back over there that evening but I convinced him to wait till we had all day. After a week of work, my day off finally came and I was ready to dig some silver, and I wasn't disappointed. J.B. and I arrived at the park early and we were digging by 7:00 AM and coins were everywhere. We had never gotten into a place like this; it was truly a coin hunter's dream. We were digging wheat cents, Indian heads, barber dimes, V-nickels, silver halves, and plenty of tokens. One day I dug 18 silver coins in a row before finding anything else and it was there that I found my first minnie ball. A .69 caliber.

Over the summer we made several trips to the park and we were never disappointed. We would always come home with a pouch full of coins. Once, while hunting where the old bleachers had sat, we dug around 60 coins one morning and about half of them were V-nickels, the oldest being an 1889. We also found two class rings, a mans gold wedding band, 2 street car tokens (Nashville Ry. & Lt. Company), a couple of watch fobs and a handful of buttons, advertising tokens, etc. McFerrin Park yielded over 1500 coins and rings just off the ball field as the rest of the park had been field years earlier and some of our better finds included 11 class rings, 16 silver halves, an 1898 Mardi Gras souvenir (brass heart), 3 minnie balls, 1 Union button, around 40 or more tokens, 1 gold chain and coins dating from the late 1870's.

As our interest in Civil War artifacts grew we started losing interest in coin hunting and spent more time relic hunting. By no means did we clean the place out as many more old coins were found here by other coin hunters but we did put a dent in the coin population of McFerrin Park. I still ride by the park every now and then and each time it brings back fond memories of some of our greatest days of coin hunting.

Diggin, Friendships & A Good Morning

by: Mike Cox

Everyone who ever hunted had to go that first time in order to be bitten by the bug. I started my Middle Tennessee hunting around 1982. I had talked with Larry Hicklen on the phones several times and decided to try my luck in the Murfreesboro area. After arriving at my motel and checking in, I went over to the battlefield and made the usual tour of the museum. Leaving there, I went over to Larry's shop. We talked for some time and then I went back to the motel in anticipation of tomorrow's hunt.

I arrived at Larry's the next morning ready to conquer the world or at least find a melted piece of lead. Larry was busy and couldn't hunt but he directed me to an area that had been productive but was believed to be worked out. About this time, a man came into the shop and Larry introduced me to him. I can't remember his name but he agreed to take me with him. It was a short drive to our destination, but along the way he asked what kind of detector I used. I told him, a Garrett Groundhog. There was a moment of silence and then he politely told him that I wouldn't find anything with that machine and needed to get a White's. Well, I know about the White's line of machine but I have had some success with my Garrett, and since I couldn't buy another detector I decided to use the one I had.

We arrived at our destination and unloaded our gear. We had hunted for a few minutes and I was beginning to believe that the ole Garrett wasn't going to get the job done. I had found two bullets and a brass finale. My only consolation was the other guy hadn't found anything.

I was working my way around the side of the hill when I noticed another gentleman a good ways off in front of me. I didn't know anyone in Murfreesboro so I continued to work my way toward this other hunter. Finally, we met on that little hillside. Turning off our machines we introduced ourselves. He was an elderly gentleman and it didn't take long for me to recognize the personality of this man. He was a soft spoken, kind, caring man. He ask if I was having any luck and I quickly replied, "not much." I told him that the other guy who had brought me here, told me that I wouldn't find anything with my Groundhog. I will never forget what he told me that day. His exact words were, "It's not the detector, it's the man who has his hands on it." He said he was getting ready to leave, but if I was to go around this hillside, he was sure I could pick up a few relics. After shaking hands and wishing each other luck, we parted.

Arriving around the hillside I started finding relics one after another. I hunted hard and it payed off. It was getting late and I began to work my way back to the car. Upon arriving there, we began to compare finds. Something happened then that never did before and usually never does. I had found much more that the other guy. My total for the day was 83 bullets, 12 buttons, and a sword belt hanger and various brass odds and ends. The guy I was with was astonished. He couldn't figure out how the Groundhog had found so much. He quickly wanted to know where I found it. I told him right there and pointed to a 60 acre field. Disgusted he got in his car and didn't waste anytime getting me back to my car.

How well I remembered that day. I never found anything of great importance but I did make a friend. Years later after I had met Donnie Vaughn, we were in Murfreesboro and Donnie wanted to go by a friends house who was also a relic hunter. Upon pulling into the driveway an elderly gentleman came out form around back of the house. I quickly remembered the gentleman who had pointed me in the right direction several years before. Donnie introduced me and believe it or not, he remembered me. He told me where and when we had met and even asked if I had found anything on that hillside. We talked for a few minutes, then he invited us inside. We sat down in his living room and he began telling us about some of his recent finds. It was easy to see that this man was a wealth of knowledge and unlike most of us, me included, was willing to share this information. After about a thirty minute visit, Donnie and I headed out in search of that elusive piece of lead.

By now most of you are wondering who this person was. Well through the last twenty years I've been fortunate to meet, know or hunt with some of the best hunters anywhere. However, I can honestly say that I have never met a kinder GENTLEMAN than Mr. Roy Blick. He took the time to talk to and point me in the right direction that day.

I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing last year. He was, in the truest form, a relic hunter with high morals and principals, always ready to share his knowledge with less informed beginner. Those who truly knew him, loved him and those who never knew him really missed a special man.

Mr. Blick, I miss you and I know several other people do too. I'm sure you're looking down on us rookies and every time we unearth a bullet, a smile comes on your face.

Finding a Lost Place

by: Charles "Tyson" Carr

I had reserved the Saturday following our May 1 club meeting to research for one of Donnie's "Lost Places." This particular one is very near my childhood home and one I have searched for many times. The spot I had pinpointed on the map was too over-grown to properly search and a stream I needed to cross was too rain-swollen to ford. Things were looking bleak; the day half gone and me half dead from hiking who knows how far.

I refused to give up and was determined to have a go of it somewhere. I remembered a diary by a Union soldier who described marching to a nearby location after it was learned that a large Confederate force was there. I theorized that so many troops and horses would likely be near water. After securing permission, I began my search along the banks of a likely looking stream. The location was very remote and ....... I climbed up and down numerous hills along this stream without so much as a peep from my detector; until...

Cresting the next rise, I saw a beautiful spring bubbling up and flowing down to meet the stream below. This spring was bounded by gently sloping hills of old growth forest dotted with large boulders here and there.

I moved toward the spring and having just thought what a beautiful spot to camp this would be; my detector blasted me back to reality. Digging in the soft loamy soil (you could dig with your bare hand) I brought up a minnie ball. At last, a good sign; things might start to pick up after all! I tightened up my pattern and after a few yards, started digging so many bullets it was unreal!! I would get a signal, lay my detector down to dig and it would sound off again as it touched the ground nearby. The targets were for the most part very shallow; some recovered after scraping aside the leaves with my boot. I'm sure most could have been located by even the cheapest detector; but I'll stick to my trusty Tesoro!

The countless bullets and various brass items were soon joined by one of the best US belt plates I've ever dug. And SURPRISE, rechecking the hole (never forget to wash behind your ears or re-check your holes), out came another US plate, this one a rarer medium size and worth a lot more. I believe this is a rebel camp. I have found several bullets and a spur which I think are Confederate and hope to have them positively ID'ed by this printing.

I love the outdoors, wild animals, hiking etc. and always try to work these into my hunting. That's why I love this sport so much. It is wild, remote and undisturbed. You can still see fire-pits. You can tell by the relics where the soldiers sat to eat and pass time. This was a hunt I'll never forget at a place many only dream of. Even so, I am sure many surprises yet await my certain return.

If my story has a moral, I'd say it's "Do a little research, add a lot of legwork and anyone can find real treasure."

If you read closely, you may have noted some clues to my spot but as Donnie might say, "They are sketchy at best." so I'll be fair and let you know that my spot is between Nashville and Chattanooga!

Editor's Note: Unlike Paul Klipa, at least Tyson has narrowed it down a little. Paul would have said, "It's in Tennessee somewhere."

Good luck and good hunting.


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