Last time I wrote about metal detector enthusiast Adam Dowdall was the day he searched for things in my yard. Today he found his very first Spanish silver coin with a clear date of 1766– which makes it the oldest coin he has ever found. His father, Councillor Brian Dowdall agreed. He said it’s probably one of the oldest coins to be found in Beckwith. Why are there Spanish coins in this area?
The shortage of currency that had been experienced in the original North American colonies prior to the War of Independence continued in the remaining British North American colonies into the 19th century. The economy was still dependent on the fur trade and coins from England. Trade with various colonies plus the United States, resulted in an influx of additional additional Spanish-American coinage. In Prince Edward Island, officials punched out the centres of the Spanish American coins and made two coins: the one shilling and the five shilling.
Adam’s coin dealer said the British government issued Spanish coins to the settlers because of a shortage of Canadian tokens so that’s how his coin made it to the area. He is right–but there is also another reason. Local fur traders would take their goods to New York state where they would get more bang for their buck.The fur traders would either barter for goods, or get hard cold cash paid in Spanish currency. Spanish coins came into Canada as early as 1662 and were also charted as currency.
Another potential reason for the Spanish coin to be in Beckwith is that several early military settlers (both British regulars and Swiss mercenaries of the DeWatteville Regiment) had been posted to Cadiz, Spain c1811-1813. The DeWatteville Regiment then served on garrison duty at Kingston from October 1813 to the winter of 1816, then at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Sorel, and LaPrairie, Prescott and back to Kingston, before being disbanded and awarded land grants in the Perth area in June of 1816.
Watch for Ron Shaw’s upcoming book ‘Influence and Ambition, The First Persons of Perth’ which will be published by Global Heritage Press in spring 2016 for more details