Missouri rancher discovers historic mystery on his property

CLINTON COUNTY, Mo. - The mystery started five years ago for Mark Foster.

The rancher was pushing a steel post into the ground for a fence when he hit something hard on his land in Clinton County.

After some digging, Foster discovered it was not a rock, but a headstone. The name engraved was Flora Sparks. She was born in 1818 and died in 1823, but Mark didn't give it much thought.

"Of course, we didn't have anything to tie it into," Foster said.

Not until this summer.

Foster was riding his four-wheeler in a pasture near the spot he found the headstone when he hit a hole in the ground.

"I thought, 'Good grief, what the heck was that?'" Foster recalled.

It turns out he had run into an old well. Then he turned around and noticed the foundation of an old house.

Foster has owned the land north of Holt for nearly 30 years, but had never noticed the remains until now. He thinks the drought sucked moisture out of the ground, revealing everything.

Foster wanted to find more. He called in Chadwick and Jaci Oldham of Liberty, who have been combing his ground with metal detectors ever since.

"We did find four Indian Head pennies the first day and that was exciting," Jaci said.

The hits kept coming.

Since then the Oldhams have unearthed parts of a pocket watch, spigots, militia buttons, bullet casings, spoons and a bunch of harmonica reeds.

"It might have just been everyday life, we don't know for sure," Jaci said."But there's quite a bit of it." 

She detected the most significant discovery two weeks ago.

Oldham and Foster believe it is an old cot, maybe used for soldiers, buried in what they think was an old cellar.

Put all the evidence together and everyone thinks something significant might have happened on Foster's land, possibly during the Civil War.

They believe the old house burned down in a hurry, as evidenced by all the old bullets and charred wood they are digging up.

"I just know it had to have been something devastating (that) happened here," Jaci said.

The intrigue keeps them searching and digging. They hope to connect the original headstone to house.

"Your imagination obviously runs wild," Foster said.

There's much more to go as they search for answers in 130 Missouri acres.

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