Bullskin man explores Fayette fields for relics
For more than 50 years Wiley Miller of Bullskin has scoured the fields, streams and woods of Fayette County collecting pieces of Western Pennsylvania history.
He said he started collecting as a kid growing up in Mill Run, where he would look through dumps and old buildings.
“I found my first arrowhead when I was 15 and that got me interested,” he said.
Miller now has almost 3,000 pieces of American Indian artifacts including 2,000 arrowheads. He found most of his collection on farmer’s fields, with his best finds coming in plowing season, after a rain.
“I worked at Davies Ford and got to know a lot of farmers who gave me permission to search on their land and that is why I’ve been successful,” he said.
Miller said the ground in Fayette County is rich with history and artifacts especially arrowheads, because it was the hunting grounds of the Iroquois Confederation. In addition to the arrowheads, he also has mortars and pestles, tomahawks, celts (hand-held axes), pounding stones, hoes and spades.
“It really takes a trained eye. I usually just see a piece of it sticking out and have to dig the rest out of the ground,” he said.
The most interesting item Miller ever found was a necklace made of bone. He found the beads, which look a lot like Cheerios, scattered over a small section of a field. Miller said he took the necklace to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art where he was told it was a rare find.
In addition to the American Indian artifacts, Miller has 13 cannonballs including a 6- pound ball like those used in the French and Indian War. He also has a 72-pound ball similar to what was used at Fort Niagara.
Miller said he walks every day and looks for treasure. Some days he can walk up to 10 miles through fields or along streams, rock ledges, cow paths and deer paths.
“I love the thrill of the hunt. It’s what’s over the next hill or under the next shovel of dirt,” he said.
Miller explores any cave he can find. “I just can’t pass up a hole in the ground,” he said.
One of his most memorable ventures was when he entered a field not realizing there was a bull in it. He said when confronted by the snorting bull, for some reason he had no fear and began to throw rocks at it until he was able to get out of the fenced area at the other end of the field.
Once out of the field he met a man who told him how dangerous the bull was. Miller became too scared to go back in the field with the bull. He ended up walking a mile around the field to get back to his car with the bull following him along the fence line the whole time.
Miller also collects antiques and has collections of antique bottles and Tonka toys, keys and marbles.
He showed part of his vast artifact collection to the public for the first time at the 12th annual Bullskin Township Heritage Day last month. Miller said he was thrilled to see so many people took an interest in his collection.
Event Chairperson Bonnie Brougher said she thought Miller’s collection was a great addition to the festival and she was very impressed with the variety of items he had.
“Different people came up to me and said, ‘We didn’t know we had these things in our area,'” Brougher said.