something like the Ulen Sword story
Hello everybody--

The following story appeared on the front page of the Preston [Fillmore county, MN] Republican on 15 Apr 1880:

--The Caledonia Argus has been shown an ancient two edged Spanish sword, 564 years old, as shown by the date arranged upon it, which was picked up in the woods, in Houston county, in 1854, lying on the ground thickly encrusted with rust. The blade of this strange weapon is twenty-four and one-half inches in length, one inch and a quarter in width at the hilt, from which it tapers gradually to the point. The blade is quite rusty, but in large ancient figures widely spread, the date "1316" is deeply engraven and plainly discernable on either side. Also on each side of the blade, about one third of its length from the hilt, are partially obliterated engravings of a knight on horseback, the design of which is extremely crude. The guard, which is nearly three inches in width, is of brass, elaborately engraved with a shield and other devices which are not decipherable. The handle mountings are also made of brass, and engraved like the hilt. This interesting relic of antiquity was found in Wilmington township, by a brother of the present owner (Bailey Webster,) who was chopping poles in a poplar thicket, when his axe accidently struck the ancient blade, which was lying on the ground under a thick covering of grass and leaves. The handle had entirely rotted away, leaving only the iron or steel center or brass trimmings. The sword is of ancient Spanish pattern, and the date engraved upon it renders its antiquity indisputable. How this ancient weapon came upon the soil of Houston county will probably further remain a mystery. Whether it was brought by some old Spanish explorer, and afterwards came in to the possession of the Indians, or whatever its origin may be, the curious may imagine for themselves.

I'm a history buff who knows next to nothing of amoury, but I've pursued this story to the point that I believe it is authentic. It surfaced first some five years earlier, when Mr. Webster had taken it in to another newspaper editor. The sword was given in 1885 to the museum at the Winona State Teachers College, and presumably was lost in 1922 when the building housing the museum burned competely to the ground.

Can anyone offer useful commentary on the artifact as described?
The numbers don't necessarily prove a date. The relatively short and narrow blade with brass fittings could correspond to several different swords that were common after the 17th century. My gut tells me it was probably a town sword or similarly configured hanger, not quite as romantic as the big Medieval swords maybe but still excellent weapons in their own right. Then again the brass may actually be latten and it could be quite old. Got any pics?
Just a thought, any noteworthy biblical verses with the numbers 13:16?
Well, there is John 13,16: Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
I didn't want to get into this, but:

Hosea 13:16New International Version (NIV)

16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open.[a]
Based on what is said here, there's no reason to doubt that this story was told in the 19th century and that there was some sword involved, but there are a few elements to the story that lead one to believe that it was not an ancient find.

First, it would be rather unusual for a medieval sword to have the date of its making on the blade. The only dated swords I can recall were done after confiscation at the Armory of Alexandria in Arabic script. As pointed out by others above, there are more likely explanations to fit the facts, involving a more recently made sword.

Second, based on my own experience digging up antiques as a youngster for some years, even items that had been discarded a century ago were buried well under ground. Items that were exposed or near exposed on the ground surface were much more recent. It seems to me that something found under grass and leaves would have been laying there in the order of years or decades at most. (I don't know this for certain, its just based on personal experience).

Finally, having cut down a number of small trees with an axe as a youth, I would find it rather unusual that a swing would miss and strike the ground, let alone that it would then happen to strike the location of a sword laying on the ground. More likely I suppose would be to hit the ground while trimming branches off a felled sapling, but still rather clumsy and coincidental to strike a sword.

I suppose we will never know, but I suspect this story was cooked up by a 19th century hoaxer with an old sword.
I agree that the story as told would tend to indicate that the sword had not lain there for hundreds of years. In any even I don't think the brass would have survived in that environment. But I'm reasonably convinced that the story was not an attempt at hoaxing anyone. Benjamin Bailey Webster was a farmer all his life, the son of a carpenter, who came to Minnesota Territory and obtained a homestead patent in the area by his labor. There isn't a contemporary public record of much of anything at that time. Even the local newspaper from 1875, in which the story first appeared has been lost, as has the local newspaper from 1880, so we know of the sword and its story only from the exchange policy of the editors of newspapers in the area.

What I would wonder is if anyone can say anything about the artifact as described. Would there have been brass guards of that type on a sword of that antiquity? When & where would swords with such guards been manufactured? Is there any knowledge of other swords that have engravings of knights on horseback on the blade?

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