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What’s That? … Making Sense of the Stuff We Find in Our Backyards

July 1, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Columns, Uncategorized 2 Comments

If you live in Loudoun County – you’re sitting on history. Literally. This column looks at what’s turning up in Loudoun County gardens, attics and streambeds and asks local archaeologists, “What’s That?”

Look at this picture of the lock we found at the original Loudoun County jail site … and a copy of the 1758 survey of property showing the jail (gaol) and the sheriff’s house. The site is about two miles north of Leesburg along Rt. 15 on property that once belonged to Aneas Campbell, the first Sheriff of Loudoun. The jail was built by the end of summer 1757 at Campbell’s house near present day Selma. It seems to have been in use until about 1759-1760, when a new jail was built in Leesburg. Surviving court documents describe a roughly 12 foot square log structure with two sturdy doors and a brick hearth. Campbell complained several times that the structure was insufficient. A group of local citizens was asked to inspect the structure and submit a report on proposed improvements. One of these suggested improvements was that a lock be added to the door. This lock was found at the archaeological remains of Campbell’s house some 200 feet southeast of the jail site. Is this the lock that was recommended for the door? It is indeed of the right age to have been used on the jail and is a typical padlock of the period.

And … What’s That?

“What’s That?” WE DON’T KNOW! For this month’s column we also present our readers with a real mystery … we’re stumped! The strange metal object shown here was taken to an “Artifacts Roadshow” sponsored by the Loudoun Museum a few years ago. None of the archeologist there could identify it … but, can you?

Clues & Details:

*Archaeologists and members of the Lincoln Preservation Foundation found it on the yard by the ruins of a log house in the Lincoln, Virginia area.
*The house was probably built in the 1800s and was last occupied by an African-American family who apparently did some farming or gardening.
*The object is about eleven inches from side to side and folds where the two parts are connected.
*There is a copper covered pin near the middle. Small pendants dangle by rings from each end and from the sides.

People have guessed that it is some type of equestrian paraphernalia or perhaps some ornate piece of lamp hardware.

Can you tell us what it is?

E-mail carolbrleader@yahoo.com.

P.S. Some readers have sent other mysterious objects, or pictures of objects, that the Banshee Reeks Chapter of the Archeological Society of Virginia is working to determine the material, age, function, and background information. Thank you for your submissions – we are tracking them!

Mike Clem is a member of the Banshee Reeks Chapter of the Archeology Society of Virginia (BRASV.org) and the Loudoun County Archaeologist. Bob Shuey is an archeologist active in local historic preservation efforts.

Send a photo and brief description of your unusual backyard finds to carolbrleader@yahoo.com or mail it to Blue Ridge Leader, 128 South 20th Street, Purcellville, VA 20132


  1. Carol says:

    I think there should be a prize for the winning answer!

  2. Carol says:

    Here are some answers that have come in to the BRL so far:

    Woody Turner: looks like an old animal trap to me

    Carole Cloer: A stirrup?
    Looks like it would hang from the saddle from the ring. The ‘U’ shape of the attachment has the shape of a stirrup. I love looking at old finds and trying to figure out the usage.

    Emily Morris Pasco: An old hand cuff? Like from slave days?

    Rita Weber :looks like an old rudimentary horse bridle.

    Emily Morris Pasco: I think the square part went around a 4 X 4 post, the two pointy things in the middle kept it from sliding down the post, and the round thing hung down and was used to tie up horses or something.

    Emily Morris Pasco Horse hobble. Final opinion having just looked online at other ones.

    Jim Cooper: I believe that is, if I’m not mistaken, a pre-columbia, anti-pregnancy device.

    Karen Henningsen: A rusty piece of metal~~

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