My thanks to Nick Bell and his son (Relic Kid) for spending the morning with me recently to unearth physical evidence to support what I believe, after fours years of research, to be the definitive history. With a degree in archaeology and an avid metal detectorist, Bell specializes his hobby to Revolutionary and Civil War artifacts. Check out his YouTube channel where he documents his digs.
It was a clear cool spring morning when Nick Bell pulled his SUV into Posey Brown’s Cabin gravel parking lot, then partially filled with a load of topsoil. Opening the car hatch, he unveiled enough equipment to cover one of my barn walls: three professional grade metal detectors, smaller hand size ‘pinpointer’ detectors, canvas bags for collecting found objects, shovels, gloves and other small tools.
“I hope we can discover some artifacts here and confirm what you believe to be the history of the place,” he encouraged.
I had been up writing since 2:30AM and not in the best focus or energy for waving around a four foot metal wand attached to my forearm. In reality I think I woke up early, excited for what we might discover.
We took a tour of the property and cabin. Immediately he began describing the history he saw, “Maybe this and maybe that, possibly this and possibly that.” Nothing definitive.
Nick and his son Relic Kid, as he called him, began the slow methodical ritual of the waving of the wands. Instantly the detectors started to speak with high and low pitches talking to Nick in a language only he could understand. “The front yard is usually the best place to find objects of value,” as the wands stopped talking. Nothing there. “Let’s move to the back part of the cabin.”
At the back of the cabin, there had been a cookhouse and barracks behind the house, now long gone. Both had been erected in the 1930s. The barracks, confirmed by my neighbor who discovered a CCC button and saw the remains well over 20 years ago, was part of Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. The summer cookhouse was erected by the Justice family as the back kitchen was too hot in the summer.
The wands started screaming at the buried metal roof pieces, remnants of a brass lantern, and spent .22 caliber casings. “How can you tell that is brass,” looking at the dirty and corroded metal piece. “It has a reddish tint, see?” No I did not see. I decided my male colorblindness limited ability for this hobby.
“The higher the pitch the better the chance for a piece of metal.” Bell handed me a metal detector and I had some hope.
“Can we discover an outhouse?” I inquired knowing that the filled hole of an outhouse, or privy, could be a goldmine of relics.
“Don’t think there was an outhouse, Nathan. Most early mountain settler compounds had a privy that either hung over a creek or a hill. No wonder there was a lot of typhoid and dysentery in the settler period. Growing up our family would build a privy over a hill on our hunting trips.”
We started down the hill toward the water catchment. “Look Nathan, can you see the old path that led from the cabin to the water catchment?” I did, now overgrown with forest floor vines.
At the stone water catchment, Nick began narrating a possible history. “These are actually two different catchments. And I would say they were actually spring houses with a wooden structure above the small pool of water, for holding eggs and milk along with providing fresh water. The one on the left looks like it was fed by an underground spring. The course of the stream changed and a second one was built. There is concrete between the stones in that one.” He reached down with his wand and the high pitch rang out. Digging underneath with his bare hand he surmised, “There is a large nail under here. Possibly part of the wooden structure above.”
We walked back to his vehicle. “Sorry we didn’t find any gold or a Civil War uniform button.” I was not disappointed. We had climbed through the cabin and around the property, and was given a confirmation of a broader history.