Find Them While You Can…

Over the years people have asked me what my favorite place to detect was, and I would always answer old picnic groves, and here’s why….

  • Few if any other detectorists were interested in them
  • The landowners almost always gave permission
  • I was usually the first one to detect them
  • The soil was always very accommodating
  • They were quiet and  tranquil places to detect
  • They usually offered up a lot of old coins and very little, if any, trash


In the mid 70’s I was living in central New Jersey, and spent every waking moment treasure hunting. I was addicted, obsessed and embarrassingly fanatical. As a result I decided to join the local historical society.  It was a wise move, and one that resulted in my finding my first old grove.  Amazingly it was located on….are you ready for this? Picnic Grove road!  Wow, who would have guessed? Actually Picnic Grove road was not on any of the local maps, nor was it even a known entity to most of the locals.  It was, at that time, nothing more than an overgrown path, connecting one road to another. At one time however it led to a fun day for the locals.dineout

When I first searched the grove I was using one of the first detectors that offered a visual ID meter, and while I am ashamed to say it, I was brainwashed into thinking it was infallible. As a result I left there empty-handed.  Then a week or two later, I decided to give the area another go. I just had this feeling that I had not really given it my best. Anyway when I got there I decided to dig every signal, no matter their readout and it was a huge learning lesson for me. The first item I dug was a “fat” Indian Head cent, which read out ‘below’ the penny mark on the analog meter. I continued to dig every single audio response, and at the end of the day I had an apron full of coins, with dates ranging from the mid-1800’s thru the early 1900’s.  My silver consisted of mostly Seated and Barber, many of them in excellent condition!

This very recent Google image now shows Picnic Grove Road with a paved culvert and a manicured grassy entrance...

This very recent Google image now shows Picnic Grove Road with a paved culvert and a manicured grassy entrance…

I continued to hunt the grove for some time, and almost always came home with a few keepers.  I also decided that there had to be other groves in the area and headed back to the historical society, as well as the county library. I had ‘grove’ on the brain, and read everything and anything that might help me locate others. I eventually found mentions of few more and needless to say I was pumped.

At the same time it also occurred to me that there were other roads with the word ‘grove’ in their names, and I spent a lot of time driving them, looking for any indication of another “picnic” grove.  I had the advantage of knowing what the first one was like, and started looking for something similar…an area with a canopy of trees to keep out the summer heat, very little ground vegetation, and one that was conducive to picnicking, i.e., enough spacing between trees where people could put down a picnic blanket.  A path or entrance was more icing on the cake.

My travels resulted in quite a few areas that deserved a closer look, and I made my way to the county tax assessor’s office to see if I could find out who owned them. It took some time to accurately locate the exact areas on the tax maps, but eventually I had the names and addresses and began making phone calls. To make a long story short I was able to contact maybe eight or ten landowners and they were all extremely helpful(Remember detectortists were few and far between back then).

Two of the property owners verified my suspicions and knew their properties were once a gathering place, while the rest didn’t think so, or simply didn’t know one way or another. Amazingly all gave me permission to detect anytime I wanted.  I eventually wound up with five or six more very productive sites to search, all within ten miles of home.

Nothing fancy.....

Nothing fancy…..

If you are a coinshooter do yourself a favor and join your local historical society, and for that matter, join those in the surrounding areas as well. They will have books, periodicals, memoirs, diaries and photos not available anywhere else, and individuals more than willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

Many of the groves in the Northeast came about because early churches would frequently have outdoor gatherings after services (I have also heard them referred to as “harvest home suppers”).  In the South they are sometimes referred to as “dinner on the ground”.  Depending on where you live you might also throw in keywords like reunion, revival, potluck, meeting, feast and break bread when searching online.

If and when you do find a grove, search in the all-metal mode and dig all of your targets. I also found a lot of coins among the roots of trees, probably the result of them growing out and over through the years. In one grove I wandered out of the wooded area to an adjacent field and found coins there as well. My guess was it had been used for games and/or athletic events.  Finally, most of the groves I hunted were carpeted with years of decaying leaves, leaving ‘tekkie-friendly’, easy to dig, loamy soil.

I am not sure if any of what I’ve shared here will get you enthused about seeking out similar sites in your area, but if so you might want to read this earlier post from May of last year…

PLEASE NOTE:  Do not assume that every road or street with “grove” in its name is going to provide you with great detecting.  It was just a starting point.  Here in North Texas street, road and highway names are seemingly pulled out of a hat, with no relationship to landmarks or logic. Research!




Lakeview Chronicles

Dinner on the Grounds

Dinner on the Ground Video  How the Did it in North Carolina

Bledsoe Creek Church

Fine Picnics Never Go Out of Style

Salem Church Picnic Grove



John Winter and I have always had a lot in common, and his latest post makes me think he is a distant relative….

A Grumpy Old Git’s Predictions for 2015 

Couldn’t have said it better John!


TRX On Sale



Filed under Metal Detecting

4 responses to “Find Them While You Can…

  1. Wendell Ellerbee

    I found an old site in the history books and got permission from the only people who had access to this area, but was shocked that even tho they had access, they didn’t own the property.  When I went to the tax assessor’s office thinking only one person owned this property and found out there were over 100 landowners, I decided to contact the largest land owner who had 33 acres.  Due to my elderly Mama’s health, I couldn’t go the first time and the only time I could go was on Mondays in November and December.  Maybe next year.I know this is a hot spot but the largest land owner had problems with another site with unethical people trespassing and metal detecting without his permission and I doubt he will allow me in there, but I plan to write him a nice letter and find out. 

    Digger is a talented dog.  Good luck & happy hunting.  

  2. Wendell that sounds like one complicated site…keep us posted on your effort and what happens. Incidentally, Digger is one very good dog, all kidding aside.

  3. coin25

    Dick, i bet those still existing grass pastures are still very peacefull theses days. If you do find them they would beat hunted out parks anyday.
    Thanks for another tip

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