As more areas in Central Missouri continue to be developed, detector enthusiasts like Chris Heimsoth are working to uncover hidden treasures buried below the surface.
Heimsoth has been interested in history and finding relics since he began collecting arrowheads as a child.
Having always wanted a metal detector, he originally thought using one would be too complicated. But after his children had grown into adulthood and he found he had more time for himself, Heimsoth again became interested in finding relics, and purchased his first metal detector six years ago.
"The experience, it's just being in touch with history," Heimsoth said.
His particular interest is in Civil War artifacts and old home sites that date to the 19th century.
Heimsoth has so far found items such as several Civil War bullets, buttons as well as dated U.S. belt buckles.
"Possibly my favorite find was a large cent dated 1821," he said. "This is special because that's the year Missouri became a state. The coin was minted in Philadelphia, and I think about how it ended up in this part of Missouri."
Heimsoth mentioned there were about five forts built in Jefferson City during the Civil War.
By using old maps, journals, letters and other historical resources, Heimsoth can determine locations of interest and areas where major construction could potentially be removing relics.
One such area is the construction site for the new high school, which happens to have once been part of a Confederate camp.
"Several people I know detected out there before the excavation had begun and found Confederate buttons and Civil War bullets there, and there were sites like this all over Jefferson City, all over Missouri," Heimsoth said.
He also suggested Rolla as a good place to search for Civil War relics, given the high number of soldiers and supplies that passed through where the railroad terminated.
Although Heimsoth prefers to search for artifacts, he has also found himself in situations where he can help detect lost items. He told a story of asking for permission to use his metal detector on the farm of Gary Fleming, who told him he could come out and search, requesting help in finding his wedding ring, which was lost while he planted saplings. It took two search attempts within a 100-yard radius, but buried under 9 inches of soil, Heimsoth was able to find the wedding ring that had been lost in 1978.
For those interested in metal detecting, Heimsoth suggests that while lower priced detectors ($100-$200) will detect a lot of items, you can find much more with the more expensive brands because they allow you to attach different sized coils that search at deeper depths.
"A lower price metal detector will get you into it, no problem," Heimsoth said. "But you're probably going to pick up, I would say, at least 50 percent of what you would find with a much higher grade metal detector."
While Heimsoth uses his metal detector as a hobby, he expressed his finds provide a much larger sense of sentimental value rather than resale value.
"It may sound silly, but there's a special feeling when you find a site and dig a relic. It may be nothing more than an early 1800s flat button, but you know that someone touched this button regularly for years. Or a little brass brooch, that you know someone admired enough to purchase it, cared for it, and then it lays in the dirt for 150 years, and I'm the next person to touch it," Heimsoth said.
In going looking for items and relics, it is important to research the areas where you may be interested in using a metal detector, as laws, regulations and permits vary.