Pete's May 2000 Article

"A 1793 Penny" by Pete Bennett

I had driven by the place several times since moving to the area about a year before. This was on a Sunday and today someone was there allowing people to tour the facility.

The place I'm speaking of is the "Old Stone House", a historic Butler County Wayside Inn/Tavern dating back to 1822. Old, I thought, I'd sure like to metal detect there. My wife said, they will never let you hunt there. They might I said and I pulled in to the parking lot. As I exited the car I could just feel the history in this site.

The Old Stone House has an unusual history. Near where it is now located ran an ancient Native American path known as the Venango Trail. During the French and Indian War, this trail was the main military road for both the French and British armies. It connected a series of forts between Lake Erie and the forks of the Ohio River. The area was not settled until after 1794 following General Anthony Wayne's victory over the Ohio Indian Confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. In 1797, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania constructed a new road through the wilderness from Pittsburgh to Erie which closely followed the Venango Trail. This is US Route 8 which passes within 100 feet of the Inn.

I walked up the path and was met by a young gentleman who was allowing people to tour the building and grounds. He is a student at Slippery Rock University which manages the place and had a lot of knowledge about the site.

In 1963, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy purchased the Old Stone House and the surrounding land. They then began the extensive task of reconstructing the building. Following restoration, it was donated to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission which managed and maintained the site until 1983.

In January of 1983, Slippery Rock University, recognizing its obligation to help preserve and maintain Western Pennsylvania's cultural heritage, became responsible for the administration of the Old Stone House. In the summer of 1999, Slippery Rock University acquired the site from the state, becoming the proud owner of the historic Western Pennsylvania wayside inn/tavern.

I ask him if it was possible to coin detect there and he said. Yes. Go ahead, several others had hunted here and there probably isn't much left here. I told him I would gladly show him anything I found, but he said that wasn't necessary. Good, because I didn't plan to hunt there today with all the tourists there.

On the next Monday, July, 12, 1999, I returned to the Stone House and hunted to my hearts content. All alone, no one to bother me I enjoyed the beautiful warm summer day. The solitude, peace and quite. The hunting wasn't that good though as all that I found was newer money, maybe the young man was right! Could it actually be hunted out?

One week later to the day, on July 19, 1999, I returned and began hunting again. While hunting near a large rock located on the northwest end of the inn I got a signal that showed half dollar at 2 1/2". I dug, I found!

There in my hand rested a coin that was worn very smooth. I later identified it as a 1793 flowing hair (chain link reverse) large cent. I immediately thought of George Washington, had he stopped here?

As it turns out, he hadn't, but I had a wonderful prize. The find of my life! A 206 year old coin, made in Philadelphia the first year coins were produced there following the US Coinage Act of 1792 and the authorized building of the mint there.

Now one thing any writer should always try to avoid, is the overuse of the word I, but, I did it, I found it and I am pleased to say the least. Just to have it laying in your hand and imagining its history is an awesome feeling. Where it traveled in its years prior to being dropped at that location and the "who", of who handled it to cause all that wear is awe inspiring. As you can tell, "I" was excited. "I" still am!

George Washington did pass through Butler County once, but it was prior to 1792 on his way from a visit to Fort LeBoeuf near Erie in 1753. He was shot at by Indians in western Butler County, a bullet passing through his coat. He was just 21 years old. It would have been terrible if the beloved "father of our country" would not have survived his visit here to gain that great distinction. We all would have suffered. Some think the Marquis De Lafayette may have stopped at the Old Stone House after the American Revolutionary War, but then again, the penny isn't French.....

It's worn badly but it is identifiable by the words United States and the word "AMERI" Seems there are two varieties of this coin one with that word and one with the full word "AMERICA".

It's made of 100% copper (the reason why it wore so badly) and there were only 36,103 of them made back in 1793. It has a small square hole in it probably made by an old forged nail used to puncture it. What for, you say? Probably so that it could be carried on a string which is often times, how money was carried prior to the invention of trouser pockets.

The value of the coin is undetermined at this time a newspaper reporter told me that someone gave him a value of $1900.00 for it, but I don't know how that could be sight unseen and I've not had it appraised. He also told me there are only 350 to 400 of these coins estimated to be in existence. It is a rare find!

My first thought after finding the coin was that it should stay where it was been for these years, there at the Old Stone House. So, I have donated the coin for display there at the Stone House. The Curator was happy! I am happy, and I hope that people everywhere will be happy to see the coin there.  It's certainly my "best find"!

The Butler Eagle called me, took pictures as I presented it to the Curator. Now, everyone is happy.

In this year, 2000, Butler County is celebrating its Bi-Centennial. History is preserved here!

See you next time!

Below is a pic of the large cent and one of Pete w/detector:

.....Pete......

Click to read the coin picture above to read the Butler Eagle Story about the coin find:

 


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