WARREN, NJ - Brad Bocksel, a 2001 graduate of Watchung Hills Regional High School, returned to his alma mater on Monday, March 9, to share his success at finding and donating to museums historical artifacts such as Revolutionary War and Civil War-era coins, musket balls, and belt buckles, among other artifacts.
Bocksel shared his experiences, including his use of a variety of metal detectors, both on land and in the water, with students of English and Social Studies classes. He appeared at the invitation of English teacher Laura Goodson, who had been his instructor when Bocksel was a student at Watchung Hills. Prior to moving with his family to Long Island, Bocksel lived in Warren Township. “Brad was always passionate about history,” Goodson said.
In February, Bocksel donated 20 Revolutionary War-era items he had found to the Fraunces Tavern Museum, at the corner of Pearl Street and Broad Street, near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Manhattan. Built in 1719, the Fraunces Tavern Building, a national historic landmark, was the site of several key activities before, during and after the Revolutionary War. Among the noted historical events held in the tavern were peace negotiations with the British to end the Revolutionary War.
After the Revolutionary War was won, it was at Fraunces Tavern that Gen. George Washington bade farewell to his officers on Dec. 4, 1783. The event is depicted in the masterpiece by New York painter Alonzo Chappel (1828-1887), “Washington’s Farewell to His Officers.” For more about Fraunces Tavern Museum, see http://frauncestavernmuseum.org/
For more about Chappel, see http://www.alonzochappel.org/
Director Jessica Phillips said that the Fraunces Tavern Museum was thrilled to have received the donated artifacts from Bocksel. Many of the items Bocksel donated to Fraunces Tavern he had found on his family’s farm in Aquebogue, a village in the town of Riverhead, New York, on the north fork of the eastern end of Long Island.
In addition to items from the Revolutionary War era, Bocksel has found items dating back thousands of years, including a stone spearhead that the Southold Indian Museum, further out on the north folk Long Island near Peconic, has estimated to be more than 3,000 years old. Bocksel said he found the spearhead along Sound Beach in Mattituck, also in that area.
On his family’s farm, Bocksel has also found a 1700s-era Spanish reale, which was the currency of the Spanish colonies in America. The residence on the Bocksel farm, itself, called the Luther Moore House, dates back to the 1860s. Bocksel’s great grandmother on his mother’s side had owned the house, so some of the items he has found belonged to his ancestors. His house is registered with the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission. Bocksel moved there with his parents not long after he graduated from Watchung Hills. He is sometimes joined during his treasure hunting by his father, Robert. Bocksel’s mother, Karen, said that her son’s interest in this form of treasure hunting started when he was in middle school. Now, it has flourished into a lifetime passion, she said.
More information about Bocksel and his treasure hunting can be found at http://www.diggerbrad.com
Bocksel said he, and all treasure hunters, must be careful to not search grounds that are private property, or national historical sites, or public parks. He said he has done some searches outside the United States, although there are some whole countries, including Ireland, Scotland and Greece that frown on artifact searches. He has found artifacts from the Roman Empire in England. Among the other items Bocksel has found is a gold ring, bearing a diamond and a ruby, from the 1870s. And, he once came to the aid of one young couple, who had lost a wedding ring. With the help of his metal detector, Bocksel found the ring.
On the other hand, in addition to rings, various items made of steel, copper, bronze and nickel, Bocksel said, he has also found many pull top tabs from aluminum cans.
One large source of finds are on beaches after a storm, when items are thrown up on the sand, or left behind after the ride recedes.
Bocksel demonstrated how to operate his metal detector, and showed how sensitive it can be, sending out pings when hovering near to a ring was placed on the tile floor where he spoke to the students. He said that he has a variety of metal detectors, including ones that are made primarily for detecting items on the surface, and others capable of detecting metals below the surface.
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