Parkersburg, W.Va., native Edward Low was 12 years old in 1943 when he found a valuable archaeological artifact atop a hill near his childhood home on 36th Street.
It was against the rules to wander across Murdoch Avenue unsupervised, but Low and his two friends felt adventurous that day. They grabbed their shovels and climbed the hill where they began playing war games and digging trenches.
"I was a country kid back then, but we sold our farm and moved to the city. I was always digging around trying to find arrowheads and other artifacts," said Low. "That day was the only day I ever broke my father's rule. I wasn't allowed to go on that hill, but that day I went. And that day I found the tablet."
A rare Woodland Adena cultural artifact was found by Edward Low in 1943 on a hilltop in Parkersburg. The sandstone tablet is engraved with faces and bird forms and was recently appraised for around $200,000.
When Low plunged his shovel into the dirt, he hit something hard 18 inches into the soil. He dug up what he refers to as his "Indian rock," a 4-by-3-inch sandstone tablet engraved with two human faces.
"The first time I put my shovel in the ground, I hit the tablet. The odds of that happening seem so unreal to me," said Low. "I picked it up, rubbed it clean on my jeans, and saw those two faces."
From that day, Low kept his treasured stone wrapped in the Parkersburg newspaper and tucked away in his sock drawer. Occasionally, he brought it to show and tell at school.
He moved from city to city, working in computers, always taking the tablet along. Eventually he married and raised a family, settling in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
Until two years ago, he didn't know he was holding onto an Early Woodland Adena cultural artifact made between 1000 and 400 B.C. The ancient tablet was appraised for around $200,000 in 2007.
Today, the 76-year-old Low is involved in a legal dispute with the Ohio Historical Society. Low said he loaned the tablet to the society in 1971, under a condition the artifact remain on display.
Low said he made it clear to archaeologist Raymond Baby, the curator of archeology then, that when the time came, he would want the tablet back.
At first, Low said, Baby offered to buy the tablet from him.
"But I told him I wasn't interested in selling it. I did agree to loan it to them so they could put it in the museum," said Low.
In exchange for loaning the artifact, Low was made a member of the historical society.
"I just thought it was a nice gesture," said Low. "I never told them I was giving it to them permanently. It was a loan."
While visiting Parkersburg in 2007 with his son and granddaughter, Low learned about the Blennerhassett Museum on Juliana Street.
"I knew I wanted the Blennerhassett Museum to have it. The tablet belongs in Wood County. This is where I found it, and this should be its home," he said.
The Adena artifact has sentimental and historical significance to Low, who is researching his ancestry.
"When I was a boy, my father told me something he had never told me before, that we are part American Indian. I'm currently researching my background, and whether or not my ancestry can be traced back to the Adena people," he said.
When Low asked the Ohio Historical Society to return the tablet in 2007, he received a letter stating he could not have it back because he had given it to the society as a gift in exchange for a membership.
Low filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the Ohio Historical Society Museum in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. He recently wrote a letter to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, explaining his plight.
Low's attorney, Joel Rovito, is gathering depositions in preparation for their court date, scheduled for March 21.
Ohio Historical Society officials would not comment on the legal dispute, but they did release a statement that said Low's gift was acknowledged in letters from the society to Low as well as in the society's 1971 newsletter, "Echoes." The statement also said the Ohio Historical Society has prominently displayed the tablet in the museum over the years.
"Although Mr. Low has known since 1971 that the Society considered the tablet a gift, he did not inform the Society that he considered the transfer of the tablet a loan until December 2007," according to the statement. "The Ohio Historical Society is vigorously defending the suit filed by Mr. Low so that the people from Ohio, other states and other nations may continue to enjoy and appreciate the tablet."
Low maintains he never signed the tablet away and always considered it a loan.
"I just want to get it back into West Virginia. The truth is, I never felt like it belonged to me. I feel as though I'm the caretaker of it, but I've always wanted other people to see it," he said.
"I know by law they cannot do this, and I feel confident I'll get the tablet back, because I am in the right," said Low. "There is not one piece of paper, signature or pencil mark that says I gave it away."