rare find

Morgan Silver Dollar

City worker makes rare find while fixing street


While working on the downtown Ellisville street repair project, Heath Pickering made an interesting find while repairing a sewer line. 

The crew was working on Jessamine Street in front of Community Bank to fill in underground erosion caused by a broken gravity pipeline. Pickering said they dug the hole about 15 feet down to a clay pipe they were trying to repair. When he dug by hand under the pipe to make room to put on a sleeve for the repair is when he grabbed something in the way and threw it to the side. 

At first he didn't notice it until he took a break and saw something shining in the mud, he said. 

“I picked it up and realized it was a coin,” Pickering said.

 It wasn’t a penny for his thoughts but a rare find. Pickering, who works for Bush Construction in Laurel, found an 1893 Morgan Silver Dollar. Instead of pocketing the treasure, Pickering gave the coin back to the city to be displayed. Pickering said the mayor asked him to donate the find and he respected the request. At first he wanted to keep it, but said, “it’s part of Ellisville history.”

Ellisville mayor Lynn Buckhaults said the coin will be displayed in a shadow box at the front of city hall for everyone to see. 

The coin was minted from 1878-1921 and only 100,000 were in circulation. It’s composed of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper and was named after its designer Grant T. Morgan. It’s denser and wider than a quarter and features lady liberty on the obverse side and an eagle holding arrows and an olive branch on the reverse side.

Depending on the condition of the coin, the value can range from $100 for fair condition to thousands for a coin never circulated and in near-perfect condition. The coin’s value to Buckhaults far exceeds any monetary amount.

“The value of it is as a city artifact and the history of our city,” Buckhaults said. “We’ve found everything from old tire gauge to other things while digging up the lines. But this by far is the most unique find.”

The downtown street project is on schedule, and crews expect to finish on time, Buckhaults said. So far, the city worked around two change-order requests after discovering the erosion in front of Community Bank. It was not actually a sinkhole, but erosion caused by a gravity pipe that has been repaired. The change order was around $9,000 for the repair.

Because some unforeseen repairs needed to be made the change orders allow for the city to add those into the street improvements. Another change order repair to fix drain inlets was $11,500. 

The city of Ellisville was awarded $500,000 earmarked for street and infrastructure repair in 2017 from legislation signed by former Gov. Phil Bryant and received the money at the end of 2019, Buckhaults said. The Downtown Ellisville Paving project work began in 2020. 

The city submitted the contract to begin bidding for the Downtown Ellisville Paving Project March 9 through Chas N. Clark Associates Consulting Engineers of Laurel. The contract was awarded to TL Wallace of Columbia for $305,363.50 . 


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