Beach Glass Report June 2019 – By Gordy Barr
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had to go out and find my own… The foundation of my 2019’s summer beach glass report is based on record northeast winds, multiple storms, and significant property damage. Sea break walls throughout the Lake Erie Islands are falling faster than the gates of Troy. Millions of dollars of erosion have plagued its shorelines. Chad Waffen of Kelleys Island reports that Lake Erie’s water level is near a record high. The low watermark (NOAA, since 1959) was 569’ above sea level. The high water mark was 576’ (1970’s). Our current watermark is (+/-) 574’8.”
“If it goes up another 1’4+” we will be at a record high water mark,” said Waffen. Beach Glass Reports The only bright side to this year’s high water and storm damage is that it has produced a bumper crop of beach glass. Sections of beach that have not been turned over since the 1970s are now in play. Reports from all Islands indicate that glass yield is significantly higher than previously recorded. Here are examples: Maureen St. John of Middle Bass found her first bottle stopper (green, frosted, tapered point). Barry Koehler of Put-in-Bay has found red glass (depression era, patterned), Vaseline (yellow glass), children’s marbles, and several large chunks of blue. Bud and Ruth Stonerook have lamented that high water has kept them out of some of their favorite beach glass hunting grounds, but one or two of their “secret” beaches are yielding well. Ruth recently found a very rare piece of china that was labeled “Hamburger Castle, Put in Bay.”
Lucy Schneider of Middle Bass has had great success at her Grandma’s (Carrie Schneider) beach finding some nice blues, chunky, highly abraded bottle bottoms, and recently two brown bottle stoppers (early Clorox bottles or beer bottle). I have a confession. I frequently send Lucy pictures of recent beach glass finds (from all over) and tell her that I found them all on her Grandma’s beach. Lucy (Junior, Putin- Bay High School) has a great sense of humor and is a highly competitive beach glass collector.
Jessie Greene of Put-in-Bay said that the high water has kept her from some favorite spots. However, she has found some unusual things including a miniature sun-purple stopper from a perfume bottle. Jessie also has the only piece of beach glass from a Put-in-Bay Bottling Works bottle, a valuable part of Put-in-Bay History. I offered her $10,000.00 for it. She declined the offer. Regarding Silver Spoons… Some of my favorite places to hunt beach glass required me to wade up to my neck in 45-degree water this spring. The early bird gets the worm, but also risks frostbite. In addition to beach glass, the spring storms have revealed everything from horseshoes and flat irons to Victorian window weights and potbelly stove parts. Common finds also include forks, spoons, and table knives.
I was hunting in a particularly hostile part of a favorite beach. In the summer, water snakes frequently drop on you from trees. In the fall and spring, the water is so cold your extremities sting before they go numb. I looked down in a crux and saw a spoon wedged between
the rocks. Old dining utensils found on the beach are usually worn showing some silver and the underlying red copper. After finding a few of these picnic relics, they don’t hold much interest. There was something different about this spoon. It had an early colonial design and there was no red hue where the plating had worn out. This was a special piece and was comprised of solid silver. It was signed Hotchkiss. An internet search claimed that the maker’s mark was for David Hotchkiss (1796-1874) of Palmyra, New York (east of Rochester). According to Hotchkiss’s mark on this spoon, it was handcrafted between 1816 and 1849.
The maker’s mark is like a social security number for silversmiths. It was an elite trade whose ranks included Paul Revere. After 1849,
Hotchkiss’s mark changed as he partnered with several associates most notably Andrew Schreuder of Schenectady, NY, from 1857 to 1871.
The name H.D. Farnum was custom engraved on the handle. Silver flatware of this type was a high-end luxury item. So who were the Farnum’s and what was their relationship to the islands? I reached out to North Bass Island (NBI) historian Robin Burris. Her research produced an 1874 North Bass Almanac map that showed Newell Farnum owned property across from her Dad, mid-Isle St. George.
Middle Bass Island (MBI) historian Mike Gora con-firmed that there was an islander named Newell Farnum (NBI, island assessor). According to a March 12, 1872 newspaper article Gora sent me, Farnum was active in local politics with other island forefathers like Simon Fox, Andrew Wehrle (MBI), Frederick Bretz (MBI), Philip Vrohman (PIB, treasurer), and John Brown Jr. (PIB, his father, abolitionist John Brown Sr. led the raid on Harpers Ferry). Newell Farnum must have inherited the family silver from his father, H.D. Farnum. All the dates fit. How the spoon ended up on a beach is anyone’s guess. Back then; everything was dumped into the lake at one point or another… I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. In my experience, it is more fun to find your own silver spoon than to be born with it (even if the water can be arctic cold or snakes fall on your back). 2019 Beach Glass Forecast: Hunting will be cloudy with a chance of excellent finds.