FAIRFIELD Duane Bylund doesn't see himself as a treasure hunter as much as a guy who just enjoys checking out the territory with a metal detector.
But in the past 12 years, he's uncovered more than 100 buttons, bullets and miscellanea that soldiers in Johnston's Army left behind when they marched and camped in Utah.
Mark Trotter, director of the Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park, thinks people like Bylund are good people.
He wishes more people understood the value of the artifacts they find or possess.
"It happens all the time," Trotter said, "People find something . . . . They don't know what to do with it, so it gets shoved into a shoebox somewhere, and nobody can see it or enjoy it."
Trotter said it's actually a felony to remove anything that's found on public land.
It's also a real shame, he said, and Bylund agrees.
"It is unsafe for gold coins, diamond rings, and other historically important artifacts to remain in private collections. They belong in a museum where they can be preserved, studied and enjoyed by everyone," Bylund said.
To honor that sentiment, Bylund has donated the better portion of his decade of findings: brass buckles, pewter buttons, a jaw harp, a powder flask, bullet molds, silver and gold coins (including a dime-size 1852 gold dollar), nails and uniform insignia to the Camp Floyd Commissary for permanent display. He has a No. 6 insignia that is one of a kind, because most of the soldiers were in the 2nd, 5th or 10th infantries.
"After 12 years of hunting, this is the best of it," Bylund said.
Included is an unusual, beautiful diamond ring with 17 mine-cut diamonds arranged in a cluster that is supported by a delicate, entwined gold band.
Bylund thinks the ring may have belonged to one of the wives of one of Johnston's officers, Mrs. Charles H. or "Lizzie" Tyler. Her husband was in the 2nd Dragoon unit in the Army, commanded by Col. Albert Sidney Johnston, which passed through Salt Lake City in the fall of 1857.
Bylund found the ring after a 2001 thunderstorm washed away large amounts of topsoil in the "Old Camp Floyd" area west of Salt Lake that had previously been well-hunted.
After two hours of hunting, he found a few square nails, a tent grommet and was about to call it good when he spotted what he thought was a costume jewelry brooch with stones that looked like little wet ice cubes twinkling in the sun.
Jewelers today are hesitant to guess the ring's value. Some say the diamonds aren't real but are what are known as "foil-backs." Others estimate the value of the ring at a couple thousand dollars, but to Bylund it's priceless.
It's 144 years old, having rested for 143 years on a swell of land threaded with a small stream.
Whether it was tossed away in a jealous rage or lost and searched for in vain remains a mystery, said Bylund. "I'd love to know the story, because that's what makes all of this interesting, the stories behind them."
The ring is clearly the prize find, but Bylund is just as interested in the more common discoveries.
"I have always considered the places I hunt as hallowed ground. They are sacred to me. These were the spots where Johnston's Army camped. The soldiers and citizens of Johnston's Army suffered through many deprivations, especially during the rough winter of 1857-58. Many of these people are heroes. I love the history and reading and studying the journals of the people who were involved.
What: Camp Floyd Commissary displays and gift shop
Where: 18035 W. 1540 North, Fairfield in Cedar Valley off U73
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Cost: $2 admission fee
E-mail: [email protected]