Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Many people have emailed me or asked me at signings how I began researching history and eventually writing books.
It is an interesting story.
Years ago I was turning over a small garden in the yard of our first home in Haskell, NJ. The house was on a postage stamp lot so the garden was maybe 15' x 40'
As I removed the sod and turned the soil over I noticed what looked like a piece of copper. Holding it up to the sun I noticed it had some writing on it so I brought it in the house to clean the soil and grass from it. I realized it was very old and something I had never seen before.
In the pre-internet age my next step was the local library. There I discovered that I had unearthed a 1786 NJ copper coin. Apparently as a solution to the abundance of British counterfeit coins- used by most people back in the day - NJ decided to mint their own coins.
As can be seen here one side reads " Nova Caesarea " and the other, E. Pluribus Unum."
The grant from James, Duke of York, to loyalists Carteret ( Governor of the Isle of Jersey ) and Berkeley, it read, " which said tract of land hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Caesarea or New Jersey."
So how did this 1786 coin end up in my 1950s era sub-division? That led to more research and I eventually discovered that the entire neighborhood was built on a farm that had been owned during the Revolutionary War by a farmer sympathetic to Washington and so he permitted the general's troops to camp in his fields.
I then went to work with a trowel, screen and by the end of the summer my tiny garden gave up dozens of Colonial era coins-some NJ and some English-Irish, silver and pewter army uniform buttons, brass shoe buckles and a variety of metal and glass items.
It was my intro to history, research, archaeology and after that I was hooked.
I would often stare at my neighbor's backyards and dream of what treasures rested beneath their above ground pools and well manicured lawns.
Emil Salvini - August 2010