KILGORE, Texas (KLTV) - There are ghost towns in East Texas that many people don’t even think about. These are the communities that sprang up around lumber mills that predate the East Texas oil boom.
Some of those artifacts that were unearthed at those ghost towns are on display at the Kilgore Oil Museum.
Terry Smith with Relic Hunters of Texas knows where to look for these items.
“This display comes from probably around six different sites,” Smith said.
Smith is retired from the Longview School District and has been hunting relics for a long time, and he has a lot of them.
“For about 25 years in total of East Texas Civil War and Colonial; I’ve probably got about fifteen thousand pieces,” Smith stated.
Most of it was found at old lumber mill sites on private property where he had permission to search with his metal detector.
“This time period, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, was a hard time back then. People didn’t get very much money,” Smith revealed.
So finding even pennies is a big deal. He says if any coins were dropped, the entire family might look for them, especially since:
“Ninety percent of the ghost towns where lumber companies came in, they paid in tokens,” Smith explained.
Tokens that were only good in the company commissary, thus the term:
“Heart and soul belongs to the company store,” Smith said.
But he has found much more than change and tokens like political memorabilia.
“This political pin from the 1860s; John C. Breckenridge, and Breckenridge was our thirty-sixth vice-president,” Smith relayed.
He will never know the story behind that pin, or the gold watch he dug up. The bottles don’t set off the metal detector, but metal trash does.
“Just start digging and metal detecting and you start coming up with bottles, too,” Smith stated.
So Smith brought all his best stuff in for the display at the East Texas Oil Museum.
“You walk over thousands of pieces of artifacts every day,” Smith said.
And he seems to have a pretty good start towards finding them all.
The East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore is open Wednesday through Saturday.