BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN A wrong turn led to the discovery of several artifacts underneath Railroad Avenue in Delano. Those artifacts are currently on display for all Delano Public Library patrons to see, and will be through the end of February.
Longtime friends Jason Olson, of Cokato, and Shane Rien, of Howard Lake, had driven east to Delano one summer day to use their metal detectors in the city’s parks.
“I happened to turn down the wrong street and notice the construction,” Olson said.
Having heard from many metal detecting enthusiasts that sidewalk and street tear-outs are usually hiding a lot of history, he said, “When I saw the road tore up, I had to stop.”
So, they called Delano City Hall to obtain permission.
“That’s our code of ethics: You always get permission wherever you go, aside from public places,” Olson said. “They were more than happy to say, ‘Yes, have at it.’”
It didn’t take long for the decision to be validated.
“I found an 1876 Indian Head Penny within two minutes,” Rien said.
“When you find something that quick, it drives you to go that much longer.”
They went on to find several coins from the late 1800s, along with many other finds.
Having found success searching in the area, Olson said he returned about 10 times, with Rien accompanying him on a couple more occasions.
Not every day was as easy as the first two minutes of the first search.
“It was really trying,” Olson said. “The ground was like concrete. It would be 90 degree days and humid, but I wouldn’t care. Wherever I’m at, it’s going to be hot. I was chiseling through that stuff.”
The hard work paid off with the discovery of unique artifacts.
“One of the first odd items was the 1-gram apothecaries weight,” Olson said. “It’s an old pharmacy scale weight. It was from the late 1800s. Out of the many forums I’m on, I’ve never seen anyone find one of them. For me, that was pretty rare. I originally thought it was a token for a mercantile store. Once I found it, I was dumbfounded.”
The two “reverse research” many items they find, which was the case with the weight.
“Thankfully, with Google, you can usually look up things and learn about them,” Olson said.
Other items included an ox shoe, various bullet casings, several buttons, coins such as a 1929 mercury dime, various oil lamp parts, garment clasps, a piece of a gun, and a Dayton’s lipstick container still containing lipstick.
Olson and Rien were not surprised to find such a wealth of history in Delano.
“We’re not really big history buffs, but we know every town has their history,” Rien said. “Delano, especially, was ahead of their time. I found some old pictures of Delano online. It was pretty nice over there in the late 1800s.”
Unearthing a portion of that history was enjoyable for both of them.
“We had a great time out there,” Olson said. “It’s hard to find places that are un-searched. That’s a big thing when you’re metal detecting. Most city parks are usually hit by local guys. I was surprised not to see anyone out there (detecting).”
While detecting, Olson and Rien met several curious onlookers, including Dan Smith, a library-card-carrying member of the Friends of the Delano Library.
“Dan approached us,” Olson said. “Some people would just holler, ‘Finding anything good?’ We’d gladly say, ‘Yeah.’ . . . Dan was walking across. We showed him a few of our finds, and he got really interested. He walked around with us a few times to watch the machines and to see what we’d come up with next.”
That led to an invitation to showcase the events at the library. After all, the items were discovered mere feet away.
“I gladly let Dan take these things because it’s more your history than mine,” Olson said.
Librarian Carol Plocher is thankful for the opportunity to showcase history at the local Great River Regional Library branch.
“It’s a beautiful display,” Plocher said. “This is absolutely fun, and I think people are so interested.”
So much so that Plocher invited Olson and Rien to present about some of their favorite finds in the future, likely in the fall: an invitation they have accepted.
They hope to have found more items in Delano by then, as they plan to return when the weather warms. Anyone interested in having Olson and Rien search their property should call Olson at (320) 310-2040.
“We just do it for a hobby,” Olson said. “We’ve offered up a few times to recover rings or lost items for people. We just offer it as a friendly service. We never ask for any payment . . . Usually, if we get permission, I’ll gladly give them all the artifacts so they have a story to tell or can put them in their building.”
Olson has been detecting for about five years, and Rien has been detecting about half as long.
“I got into it out of curiosity,” Olson said. “I had bought my first machine. It was bare bones for $100. I started just hunting parks. I’d go out with the kids and bring my detector to see what’s in the rocks or wood chips. I started finding cool stuff, so I went from a cheap machine to one at the top of the line.”
That also inspired Rien.
“I started to detect because I enjoy spending time outdoors and being with my good friend looking for items that are from our past,” Rien said. “Jason started detecting first, but after I tried out his detector, I was hooked and I knew I had to get one myself . . . My favorite part is digging up something that has been untouched in many years, hopefully 100 years or more, because that is the best feeling.”
Contact the Delano Public Library at (763) 972-3467, visit https://griver.org/locations/delano, or see the Delano Herald Journal events listing for more information about events at the library.