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GAIL WHITE Members of this club are very down-to-earth



Published: Wed, January 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Tri-County Metal Detecting Club has more depth than one might expect.

Though it may seem that digging in the dirt is rather shallow child's play, there is a wealth of history that lies beneath the ground.

I was greeted by DaveTheDigger, otherwise known as Warren resident Dave Gearheart, as I walked into the club's Warren meeting room.

Though the club is called "Tri-County," its members hail from all over northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

"Take a look around," DaveTheDigger encourages me.

Milling about the room, beginners are asking more seasoned "dirt fishermen" questions about equipment and artifacts.

Trip to England: Jim Blackburn of Warren has an entire table of artifacts he found on a detecting trip to England.

His finds include silver coins, buckles and several items that the British government is interested in purchasing.

In another corner, artifacts are placed on a table in contention for the club's "Find Of The Year" award.

A pockmarked silver artifact catches my eye.

Paul Williams, also of Warren, was happy to explain his most precious find of 2001.

"That is a World War I Army dog tag," he says.

Sure enough, through the pockmarks, I can see the etchings, "11th, INF, U.S.A."

Has a name: "This tag belonged to George Hachen," Paul explains. "Look closely. You can see where his name was misspelled." The tag carries the name Hachan.

Paul knows of this error because he spent most of last winter in the Warren Public Library researching the person behind the tag.

Such is a common characteristic of the members of this group. They don't just dig up relics, they research their findings.

Paul's research introduced him to a most remarkable man.

Using the number still visible on the back of the dog tag, Paul referenced the "The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in World War."

"Notice how they refer to it as 'World War,'" Paul says. "There wasn't supposed to be another world war after the first one."

The tag number coincided with a young man from Warren who lived on the very site where Paul found the tag.

"They leveled a house on the corner of East Market and North Road," Paul explains. "Before they built a gas station on the lot, I went over it with my metal detector."

Fiercest battles: As Paul researched George Hachen, he learned that the 11th Infantry division was involved in some of the fiercest battles of World War I.

Being one of the first American Infantry troops to fight in the war, the 11th Infantry was involved in several major offensives against Germany in France, including the Vosges Mountains, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, where they forged the crossing of the Meuse River.

"Hold this in your hand," Paul instructs me. As I hold the silver disk, he says with passion, "Imagine, this was around his neck when he left this country. He wore it through all those horrible battles. He came home with it on, only to lose it in his back yard."

Paul hopes that his find will garner him the club award of "Find Of The Year."

But award or not, Paul's research is not over.

"It's very rare that we find something that is traceable," DaveTheDigger explains.

Seeking family: Paul has painstakingly traced his find. He knows that George Hachen died November 27, 1973, at Trumbull Memorial Hospital. He was 80 years old. Paul's research has turned up no living relatives.

"I want to find a member of George Hachen's family and give this tag back to them," Paul says.

It seems that returning lost treasures is the "dirt fisherman's" ultimate reward.

gwhite@vindy.com

XAnyone with information regarding George Hachen or for more information about the Tri-County Metal Detecting Club, call (330) 847-6959.




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