Hobbyist with metal detector discovers historic item from 1609
The Bridgeville Area Historical Society kicked off its 2018-19 program meeting sequence with a presentation entitled “History Hounds — Preserving and Saving Local History Through Metal Detecting” by two hobbyists, Rob Hilt and Rob Best.
Hilt had given a talk on the same subject last spring; this time Best provided some additional information. The two speakers discussed their hobby and their commitment to local history.
In Hilt’s presentation last March, he mentioned the fact that his colleague, Best, had found an interesting artifact in Beaver County that might have significant historic implications.
Consequently, when Best discussed this artifact, I paid specific attention to his interpretation of its significance. This time it was described as a “grant marker,” proof that some government had granted land to someone named de LaSalle in 1609.
Fortunately, he had brought the artifact with him and had it shown prominently in a display case. It is a lead disc about 3 inches in diameter and perhaps three-eighths of an inch thick. On its face, inscribed with a dull tool are the words, “CHEV. DE LASALLE” and the numeral “1609.”
When I inquired about inscriptions on the back of the disc, he sent me a copy of a photograph of the reverse side. It shows, inscribed with a sharper tool, “CCS,” “ECB,” “AOUT,” and “30,” and “22” inscribed with a die of the numeral “2.”
This is indeed an intriguing artifact. We amateur historians have two basic fears. We worry that some bit of information we uncover may have historic significance and we are not sufficiently knowledgeable to recognize it. Similarly, we worry that we may incorrectly imply something historic to an item we report.
Both of these concerns are relevant to this artifact.
In an effort to help Best learn more about the artifact, I have attempted to contact a number of historical organizations and individuals in an effort to find an explanation for the inscriptions on it. It will be interesting to see what response we get.
Assuming the artifact is authentic it could provide information that would change some of our interpretations of local history. La Salle’s famous 1669 expedition into the “Ohio Country” is a well-known subject of controversy. At this time, it is believed that the expedition was restricted to the Great Lakes and that he never reached the Ohio (or Allegheny) River. Could this artifact refute that opinion?
We hope some professional historian specializing in La Salle or in Western Pennsylvania history will be able to help us unravel this mystery.
The next Historical Society program will be on Oct. 30, 2018, at 7:30 pm, at the Chartiers Room of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department. Todd DePastino will discuss “World War II on the Home Front.”
John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributor.