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A century-old discovery

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Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Mason Robinson holds a War for Civilization Victory Medal from WWI that he found buried in his backyard off McAndrews Road in Medford.
WWI Victory Medal found by a Medford boy and his dog

With a little help from man’s best friend, 11-year-old Mason Robinson unearthed a century-old war medal from the yard at his home in east Medford.

The discovery also unearthed some little-known history about the family’s home, and provided some fun lessons on geology of the area, known prior to the 1960s as Buckshot Hill.

Mason and his dog found the World War I Victory Medal, adorned with a winged Victory, the words “The Great War For Civilization,” and 14 countries, while playing in his backyard.

Mason’s mom, Asia Robinson, posted on social media to gather clues and share the discovery.

“A few days ago Mason brings in this little old medal. We washed it and I looked it up on Google using key words/images on it. Come to find out it’s a victory medal from The WW1 War for Civilization. They were produced in 1914-1919.”

An example of the back side of the World War I-era medal Mason Robinson and his dog, Stella, found in the backyard.

The medal was designed by James Earle Fraser under the Commission of Fine Arts. It was originally intended to be established by an act of Congress, but a bill authorizing the medal never passed, leaving the military departments to establish it through general orders instead.

The War Department published orders in April 1919, and the Navy in June of the same year.

The century-old chunk of metal was found, Robinson said, when the family Rottweiler, Stella, a.k.a. “The Digger,” practiced her weekly ritual of inspecting mole and gopher holes on the family’s property.

“I initially thought it was closer to our garden, but it was actually next to this big hole that our Rottweiler must’ve dug,” she said. “When the moles come up in the yard, she’ll put her nose in the hole and then she’ll start digging right next to it.

“I’m sure it was buried and she brought it up with her digging. We’re in that backyard all the time, every day, and we hadn’t seen it before.”

Robinson, who purchased the property with her husband, Evan, in 2012, said she had fun looking up the medal and was in disbelief it had possibly been in the ground for more than a half-century.

The area along McAndrews Road was known historically as Buckshot Hill, named for the buckshot-sized pieces of gravel found throughout the area, according to Medford historian Ben Truwe. Before it was officially named McAndrews Road, the lane running east and west near the foothills of Medford was dubbed Buckshot Road.

A county deed record bearing the name of L.L. Poutre shows a possible sale in 1943 to William L. and Louise E. Bruchman, but chances are more likely a member of the Poutre family lost the recently unearthed trinket.

An example of what the front side of the medal looks like.

“It looks like they were made and given out between 1914 and 1919. I got goosebumps when I remembered, about a month and a half ago, these people who pulled into our driveway and were just looking at the house, told us they were the original owners of the land and that the house had been built before the 1920s,” she said.

“This lady was like in her late 80s or even 90. Her story was that they moved there and they built everything by hand and had camped out while building the house. ... Her parents built the house, and she’s almost 90.”

Robinson, who cares for special needs children, said the first property owner did, too.

“The woman said her mother had taken care of children with disabilities, and that was how the mom afforded building the house,” she said.

According to a story in the Dec. 7, 1958, issue of the Mail Tribune, a woman named L.L. Poutre ran a house dubbed the Doll House, then located on Buckshot Road. The home was a residential facility, which prepared severely disabled children for eventual transfer to the now-defunct Fairview Training Center, an asylum for the disabled with a dark and storied past.

Most of the children were said to be under “welfare sponsorship” to cover the $85 per month.

In a March 11, 1954 article in the Mail Tribune, L.L. Poutre wrote a letter to the editor describing, through the eyes of a baby in her care, the horrors at Fairview.

Robinson said it was interesting to learn of the history of her property and the connection to caring for special needs kids.

“When I moved in 12 years ago, I opened an in-home day care. I did that for a few years when I got pregnant with my last kiddo, but I still have a special needs child that I care for all week long,” Robinson said.

Mason Robinson said it was just fun to find something “really old” on his family’s property and to learn about the history of his home.

“When I first found it, I thought it was like an old dollar coin or something until I washed it off and I saw all the letters and design and countries on it,” he said. “I hope we can give it back to the owner or the family of the owner.”

Asia Robinson said she hoped the recent visitors would hear about her discovery and circle back around.

“When they came by, they told us they would come back some day and bring us a book they’d written about building the house and the Depression they went through, and all the 100-year-old trees they took down to build the house,” she said.

“We have found a lot of random things around the house when we were remodeling or working outside. When I dug up an area for my flower bed, we came across super old Hot Wheels and other random stuff you could tell was from a long time ago. It’s neat to think of kids playing in the yard, and it makes me wonder if some of it was from the kids who used to be in the home,” she added.

“We all know how kids will pick up anything and take it outside and just set it down. I wonder if the medal was from the family camping on the property or if it was years later and one of the children of the home were messing with it and took it outside and lost it? We might never know for sure, but it’s fun to think about.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com