The Third Branch
Childhood discovery leads to life-long hobby
Fifty-three years ago, while attending the Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado Springs, a young James Beer, now Judge James R. Beer, Green County Circuit Court, kicked up a flint arrowhead while walking along a path.
Green County Circuit Court Judge James R. Beer poses with part of his collection, a copper artifact dating back to 5000 BC.
That find would develop into a lifelong interest and hobby of collecting rare artifacts from early civilizations in what is now the United States. His collection was recently featured in Wisconsin Archeologist, published by the Wisconsin Archeological Society.
Beer said he has collected over 3,000 flint arrowheads, as well as 1,000 pieces of copper. Beer considers one of those copper finds – a nine-and-a-half-inch copper spear, which he estimates dates back to 5000 B.C. – to be his most valuable.
Ten pieces of another of Beer's collections, Native American birdstone carvings, were featured on the cover of the magazine, and Beer submitted a summary of the collection history included in the magazine. The thoroughness of the detail was commended in magazine's editorial.
"This is the kind of documentation we encourage for avocational archaeologists, but do not often see," Editor Joseph A. Tiffany wrote.
"Birdstones are one of the rarest of items, and artistically the finest product of prehistoric Wisconsin," Beer said.
Beer, who serves on the board of directors and is a past president of the Genuine Indian Relic Society, said he enjoys the opportunity to be out in nature that the hunt for artifacts provides. He appreciates the chance to walk along various rivers, lakes and streams, which, he admits, is sometimes a muddy job. But Beer said he enjoys the thrill of the find, and the fact that he may be holding something in his hand that no one else has held for thousands of years. He also enjoys the companionship of his fellow artifact hunters. He has travelled to Kentucky, Texas, Michigan and Illinois in the search for new discoveries.
Freshly plowed fields where buried artifacts had been brought to the surface had also proven to be an archeological goldmine in the past, but according to Beer, the shift to no-till agriculture has made finding artifacts more difficult.
Several birdstones from Beer's collection. Photo credit: Judge James R. Beer