Revolutionary War coin found in Old Ortega yard

Revolutionary War coin found in Old Ortega yard
Chip Kirkpatrick digs around in an Old Ortega yard.

Chip Kirkpatrick is still digging up history in Old Ortega.

His latest find includes a gold-plated, silver-colored Victorian-era coin purse, or flapper’s purse, popular from the late 1800s to the 1920s.

Example of a Revolutionary War era coin similar to one found in Old Ortega

Example of a Revolutionary War era coin similar to one found in Old Ortega

Using his metal detecting skills, a curiosity for finding lost objects and a passion for uncovering the past, Kirkpatrick unearthed the purse from four inches of dirt at a property on the point in Old Ortega, after about two hours of detecting. 

“At first I thought it was a wad of screening but my wife cleaned it up and we learned that the mesh was used to hold rose petals or perfumed cloth,” said Kirkpatrick, a former AT&T employee from Avondale. “There would have been a thin chain so it could be worn around the neck.” 

A fanciful person might imagine a young lady tucking a perfumed hankie into the purse on her way to a dance at the Florida Yacht Club at the turn of the century.

Kirkpatrick’s most interesting Ortega find, a Georgivs Triumpho or Tory’s Penny, is a possible link to Ortega resident Daniel McGirtt, the notorious Revolutionary War Tory and bandit.

After being ousted from South Carolina for his misdeeds in 1779, McGirtt then continued his pillaging and punishing of Patriots throughout Georgia only to be banned from there in 1782.

Flapper’s purse, about four-and-a-half inches in length

Flapper’s purse, about four-and-a-half inches in length

Revolutionary War Col. Elias Ball had been farming and cutting lumber at what is now Sadler’s Point in Ortega but eventually returned to England. This was a convenient spot for McGirtts or McGirth as he was later known, to continue his shenanigans throughout East Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, so he established a farm there around 1782.

The copper coin found by Kirkpatrick on land once inhabited by McGirtt was minted in 1783, the year which ended the Revolutionary War.

“It was the first true American coin and was intended to honor George Washington but it was minted in England,” remarked Kirkpatrick. “They used a bust of King George III – the loser – on the front since they had no idea what General Washington looked like. There is controversy among scholars whether that was intended as a joke.”

Romantic notions of McGirtt’s buried treasure have been handed down through generations of Ortegans but Kirkpatrick says the coin is a truly rare find.

“The last reported coin like this was found in South Carolina in 2005,” said Kirkpatrick, noting although these items do not have much monetary value they may be his best finds ever. “Generally, I dig up pop tops, nails, cans – things like that. That’s why it’s called hunting – not finding!”

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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