My Article on Treasure Hunting Research in W&E Treasures
How To Locate Abandoned Homesteads, Ghost Towns and Ghost Villages
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To locate those "excluded" sites, one can search for leads in books on local history. Talking to old-timers could help you gather some leads as well, but, unfortunately, the old folks do not remember everything. Another good source of information are local hunters; however, they may not always be able to tell you a lot, because they do not "read" the surroundings the same way the treasure hunters do. The hunter's eyes are trained for a different "game."
Finally, one can do a lot of footwork and observation in the area. The best time is during the milder days of winter. The greater visibility possible at such times will allow you to locate usually hidden, and therefore "virgin," sites. However, it is necessary to know the area of exploration before doing any footwork.
When studying old maps, you should choose one of the "white spots" enclosed by major roads. The next step is to check it on the topographical map. What does the terrain look like? Where are the creeks, lakes, ponds, or springs located? Would the area be suitable for farming or logging operations? Does it contain any old quarries, mines, or canals?
Winter Exposes the Remains of the Stone-Inlaid Cellar Hole.
Aerial photographs can be invaluable for research, especially for map research. When studying a few aerials not long ago, I noticed some almost perfect squares situated in remote wooded areas. Later, I learned that those squares used to be farming fields before the forest started reclaiming them.
A magnifying glass will help you see all the details on aerial photos. "Turn on" your imagination, and you can see the objects almost as three-dimensional. That may help you figure out their sizes and nature, but it is important to determine the direction in which the objects cast their shades.
The most helpful aerial photos for your research are those at a scale of 1:10,000 (1 inch on the photo represents 833 feet on the ground) and taken during winter. To obtain aerial photos, you can call the USGS at 1-800-USA-MAPS. The address for the USGS home page is URL: http://www.usgs.gov/
The next step is to drive around the perimeter of the "blank" area and look for signs of vanishing side roads that lead into the area. They could be the openings in stone walls, vistas in the woods, or continuations of existing dead-end roads.
Some abandoned roads are still in fair condition, while others are hardly visible; it depends on how frequently they were driven in the past, and on the terrain. For example, a steep mountainside road now 200 years old usually looks like a creek at first glance. If it is a road, though, any water that runs along the roadbed (which is always below the forest floor) eventually finds its way out when the road turns sharply or rises.
These are just a few of clues you should pay attention to. It is important to be observant and analytical when exploring the "white spots." Rely on your detective skills, common sense, and intuition, and never forget about permission or personal safety.
They say that "if there is a road, it leads to something." I hope that by sharing my experience, I might help you find your own road to success. Happy trails!
You can read my other metal detecting article, "Searching The Obvious", published in the Lost Treasure magazine.
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