Gold and silver coins, a storied diamond ring, buttons, insignia, iron keys, buckles and bullets.

Camp Floyd/ Stagecoach Inn State Park in Fairfield received an unexpected gift on Thursday morning when the owner of a private collection of Johnston's Army artifacts called to say he had decided to give the items, worth perhaps tens of thousands of dollars, to the state park for the museum's collection.

The largest military installation in the United States at the time, Camp Floyd was the site of General Johnston's army post from 1858 to 1861. The Army was brought in to quell a rumored rebellion of Mormons in Utah.

The Army relics had been on loan since Tuesday for a special exhibition at the park's museum this month. It is the first time the collection has been available to the public.

The gift is the largest donation of artifacts in the park's history, said park director Mark Trotter.

The artifacts were gathered throughout the past 12 years by Duane Bylund of Eagle Mountain, often using a metal detector. Park officials had not even asked Bylund to donate the items, about 100 in all, and were stunned when Bylund casually telephoned Thursday morning and said he had decided the items should be displayed for the public permanently and for that reason he was turning his loan into a donation.

"Even the ringfi" Trotter recalled asking. Part of the exhibit includes a 150-year-old ornate gold ring with 17 mine-cut diamonds.

Yes, even the ring, Bylund said.

"All along I've believed the artifacts don't really belong to me," Bylund said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. "I've been taking care of them for the past 12 years, and I believe they belong in a museum."

The donation represents perhaps only a hundredth of his collection of Johnston's Army artifacts, but they are the best of the collection, he said.

A metal detector hobbyist for 30 years, Bylund said he got hooked on searching for Johnston's Army relics when a co-worker told him about finding a $5 gold piece.

"Where did the $5 gold piece come fromfi" Bylund said. "I always thought it was a fascinating tale, kind of like a story that never got resolved."

So intrigued was he, that he decided to try to research how the money had ended up in the dirt in the middle of nowhere. In the library he found a book with an 1859 map, and on the spot where the coin had been found, in tiny letters, were the words "Old Camp Floyd."

"It was like getting knocked on your seat," he said of the discovery. "The answer to the old unresolvable mystery just came in a flash, and ever since then I've felt like it was my destiny to find and research these things."

Trotter said he originally wanted to exhibit Bylund's collection because most historic and archeological treasures that are collected on private ground "end up in a shoe box in someone's closet."

When that happens, the story the artifacts tell of the lives of the people who used them is lost, he said. Displaying Bylund's collection enables visitors and researchers to learn more about life in Camp Floyd among the troops of Johnston's Army.

Among the collection are metal rosettes made as ornamentation for the belts of soldiers, lettered and numbered insignia, as well as decorative insignia including a tarnished copper eagle called a Hardee hat pin, which was worn by soldiers on their hats.

There is an 8-point star, known as a lieutenant colonel oak leaf, and iron molds for making both large and small spherical lead bullets. There are buttons and a larger oval plate bearing the initials U.S., and a metal gun powder flask that looks like it was stepped on by a horse a century and a half ago.

Also on display are brass and iron keys, a shoe buckle with part of an ancient leather strap still intact and a jaw harp. There's also another display of artifacts, collected by Bylund, from West Creek, near the modern-day Kennecott copper mine, where the military was once stationed.

Trotter said he wishes to emphasize that Bylund's artifacts were collected on private land with permission of the landowners. Collecting artifacts on public property is illegal.

The Commissary Museum at Camp Floyd/ Stagecoach Inn State Park in Fairfield is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Admission fees are $2 per person or $6 per family. For more information call 768-8932.

Caleb Warnock can be reached at 756-7669 ext. 19 or cwarnock@heraldextra.com.

On July 11, 2001, Duane Bylund of Eagle Mountain was using a metal detector to search for artifacts from Johnston's Army on private property near Fairfield.

"The particular site I was searching has been hunted hard for several years, even decades, and it's been difficult to find anything at all lately," he wrote in a short history titled "Secrets of the Ring." Both the history and the ring that inspired it are on display at Camp Floyd/ Stagecoach Inn State Park.

A large summer downpour had recently hit the area he was searching, "the type of storm that comes maybe every 50 years or so, and it gave me the edge I needed," he wrote. "Large amounts of topsoil were eroded from the plowed fields ... on a rise threaded with a small stream. These were the areas where I was concentrating.

"After two hours of searching I started to get discouraged."

On that hot summer day, signals from his metal detector "were few and far between," he wrote. "I had found a few square nails and one tent grommet. I was thinking I would be better off back at the ranch watching chickens."

Suddenly, his detector gave a strange reading, making it unclear what the machine had detected.

"I dug a shovelful of dirt out of the ground and recovered two small square nails," he said.

He was trying to fine-tune his detector when he realized there was something else in the dirt, he said.

"I spotted what looked like a costume jewelry brooch," he said. "Closer inspection revealed there was no patina on the stones. They looked like little wet ice cubes."

The 18-karat yellow gold ring has a large mine-cut diamond in its center, surrounded by a circle of eight more mine-cut diamonds, surrounded by a second circle of eight more -- 17 jewels in all. The highly detailed goldsmithing resembles a crown around the diamonds, and the band is decorated with two entwined ribbons.

There is no maker's mark and little or no sign of wear on the ring.

From his years of research, Bylund knew the area where he dug up the ring happened to be the dragoon camp of Johnston's Army.

The "few meager clues that history has left us" reveal that only four women are known to have lived at Camp Floyd, and only one of those, Mrs. Charles H. Tyler, née Lizzie Wright, lived in the dragoon camp.

Bylund believes the ring was once hers. He plans to continue his research.

"One often ponders the historical significance of a find such as this," he said of the ring. "When was it lostfi Did it slip off a finger in the dark, or was it thrown away in a rage of jealousyfi Was it desperately searched for in vainfi"

-- Caleb Warnock

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1.

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