By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
A Yale lock from the 1840s, believed to be handmade by Linus Yale himself, is just one of many treasures found in Buhl Farm park’s Lake Julia since it was drained.
A foot deep into the silt, volunteers found a sterling silver ID bracelet imprinted “Alice Jane Burns” and the year “1909.”
Those and other artifacts found in the lake bed are on display from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays in Buhl Timblin Casino. Among the other finds are: a token dated 1899, a 1951 Pontiac chieftain hubcap, and many ice skating tokens and skate guards. Ice-skating was a popular winter pastime in the early part of the 20th century whenever Lake Julia was frozen.
The display “is a unique opportunity to see what people did and enjoyed over the past 100 years,” said Bill Clepper of Sharon, who assisted the volunteer treasure hunters.
The park trustees gave the Tri-County Metal Detectors Club, based in Cortland, Ohio, special permission to search for artifacts for the specific purpose of displaying the finds in the casino.
Also unearthed were many old Coca-Cola bottles, with markings of where they were made or the soft drink bottled, including Sharon, Sharpsville, Butler, Clarion, and Youngstown.
“If you’re a treasure hunter like me, it’s exciting to hunt for old stuff,” said club member Jim Martin of Brookfield. For 23 years, Martin has focused on searching for old coins. He was eager to “be on the hunt” for more personal and historic artifacts for the first time.
The volunteers have had to cease their hunt for more treasures.
“No one is allowed on the lake now because it is very hazardous since the dredging is well under way,” said Debbie Fait, assistant general manager of the park.
Silt is piled high on the lake and it’s gouged with large crevices from the equipment.
This is the first time since the lake was completed in 1915 that it has been drained and dredged, primarily to clear it of the silt and trash that accumulated over the last 100 years.
Members of Shenango River Watchers were instrumental in cleaning Lake Julia, Fait said, noting they took out “bags and bags” of garbage since it was drained.
The trash found by both groups of volunteers included some hazardous materials, such as lead fishing sinkers, other materials used for fishing, and a lot of glass.
To prevent that from happening again, Fait urges everyone who enters the park to dispose of their trash and fishing materials.
“It is up to you to keep (the lake and park) as clean as you can,” she said.
Once the work on the lake is finished, probably in March, Lake Julia will be allowed to fill back up. The dredging will make it a healthier lake, Fait said. “It is very beneficial to the wildlife and fish.”
The five swans of Lake Julia, which are being protected in a fenced area in the sunken garden, will be permitted to return, and Fait hopes that the ducks will come back.
“The ducks are still around. They are natives to the lake,” she said.
The Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission will stock the lake with fish and put in a habitat for them.
Fishing will be permitted again after the lake refills, although a license will be required except for children age 12 and younger.
And people “may or may not be able to ice skate on the lake again,” said Tom Kuster, chairman of the park’s wildlife committee.
“It has to be cold enough for the lake to freeze and the dredging may stabilize the ice, but there are insurance liabilities that the park must research first.”