18th-century artifacts — including British half-penny — found during Camp Security dig

YORK, Pa. — Volunteers found several artifacts from the 18th century — including buttons, a British half-penny with a bust of King George II on it and a musket ball — during the second day of an archaeological dig in Springettsbury Township.

"Today we hit pay dirt," archaeologist Steve Warfel said

Volunteers found several artifacts from the 18th century — including buttons, a British half-penny with a bust of King George II on it and a musket ball — during the second day of an archaeological dig in Springettsbury Township to find evidence of a Revolutionary War prison camp.

"Today we hit pay dirt," archaeologist Steve Warfel said.

The first 18th century find came in the morning when volunteers found a button, which is made of a metal called tombac, an alloy of zinc and copper, Warfel said. These kinds of buttons are commonly seen on sites that date to the middle of the 18th century and also during the Revolutionary period.

Mike Stahle and Mike Myers said they found a tombac button. Stahle was using the metal detector when it registered a hit. Myers dug to find out what it was when the button popped right up.

Myers, 64, of West Manchester Township, said at first he thought it was coin, but when he turned it over, he saw the ring to put thread through it.

"Our day was made," Stahle, 53, of Manchester said.

The dig, which is on about 4 acres of field off of Locust Grove Road, started Monday with a surface survey to look for any element of Camp Security or Camp Indulgence, which were prisoner of war camps during the Revolutionary War. On Tuesday, Warfel, field assistant Amanda Snyder and volunteers used metal detectors to search for artifacts. They covered about half of the site, and the search with the metal detectors will resume today.

Lucas Crumling, 17, of Chanceford Township said he found a lead musket ball. Crumling said he saw a little bit of the edge of the ball, which was white from being in the ground. He also felt how soft it was and called Warfel over to check it out.

Warfel said he gets excited when he sees a lead musket ball because it would be affiliated with the militia that would have been guarding the prisoners. The lead ball starts to oxidize when it has been in the ground for a period of time and gets a whitish cast to it.

"It's exhilarating and humbling at the same time to know that you're touching something that somebody who helped found our country had with them at one point," Lucas Crumling said.

Three generations of the Crumling family — Lucas, his father, Matthew, and his grandfather, Larry, — were helping with the exploration.

"I'm just very pleased that this is working out," Larry Crumling, 67, of Springettsbury Township said.

It has taken years to preserve the land, he said, and some believed the Revolutionary War prison camp existed there.

"I think we're proving that it was here," he said. "This is a boon for the whole valley — any historical site is, as far as I'm concerned."

Volunteers also found a coin — a British half-penny made of copper — with a bust of King George II, king of England right before the American Revolution, Warfel said. During the war, King George III's coinage was not as widely dispersed.

When they clean it with a soft brush, they might be able to get more definition showing up, Warfel said, but he pointed out "or" and "g" where it would say "George" on the coin.

"So those are the big finds of the day that establish this as being an active part of the Camp Security site," Warfel said. "Now we don't know what part of the site we're on at this point in time. We won't know that until we've done a lot of testing. So we're hoping to gather that information over the course of the next several weeks."

A limited archaeological dig that was done in 1979, which revealed pottery shards, buttons and coins, is at least a quarter of a mile away from the current exploration site, Warfel said. They do not know how this site relates to that one, but both would have been operating at the same time.

On Monday, they didn't find any evidence of the 18th century, but after the finds on Tuesday, they now know there was some activity going on at that site, Snyder said.

"It's exciting. It feels like it justifies all of the attention and the money ... that much more," she said. "We're actually getting information, which is the goal."

©2014 York Daily Record (York, Pa.). Visit York Daily Record (York, Pa.) at www.ydr.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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