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Sleuthing the Marshes

By: Claudie Benjamin, Guest Writer

Passing through the Lowcountry, somewhere in the distance among the waves of sea grass, you may see a figure tramping in the mud. That could very well be marsher Ann Moore Dovre (right). She wears hat, gloves and high boots along with overalls and jacket for her forays and carries a burlap bag and a bucket.

She says that on the odd occasion when police have stopped and asked her what she’s doing, Ann, who is over 60 years old, says, “I bat my eyelashes, tell them I’m checking the marsh and keep on doing it.”

What she’s actually doing - and has been doing for decades - is searching the marches for old bottles, fragments of English china and beautiful iridescent pieces of sea water-polished glass. An especially rare find is a glass bottle with its stopper intact.

Ann has lived all her life in the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant. She’ll tell anyone how much she loves the community. The pursuit of old brown, green and blue medicine bottles and glass was shared by her younger brother and her aunt Ann Moore. After they passed, she inherited part of their many finds and now hundreds of pieces of the joined collections are stored in crates in her workshop.  Ann notes that she was named after this aunt who was known for her treasure hunts and who, when her niece was 11, taught her bottle digging.

Quite a few pieces see a second life under Ann’s highly creative touch. She and her identical twin sister Marie, as administrator, have a thriving gardening business in the Old Village called Flip and Flop Garden Twins of Mt. Pleasant. The business, employing a team of women, specializes in planting and maintaining very personalized gardens in the area. They also create the floral arrangements for weddings and parties at the historic Alhambra Hall and other area venues.  Not infrequently, Ann incorporates selected bottles as vases and other finds as part of floral arrangements at celebratory events or home decorations. For Christmas she only uses white flowers.

Her collection also inspires her to design conversation pieces like ornate mirror frames or decoratively arrange a tea tray by placing fragments of sea glass among the cups, saucers and dessert dishes.

She goes out searching year round, occasionally with some other ladies.  Always watching the weather, Ann is particularly interested In times of King Tides that most forcefully unearth treasures. Bottling or marshing as Ann prefers to call it, is popular in the low country where seasonal hurricanes have churned trash deposits for centuries.  She notes that, “a lot of people dig privies, but I’ve never done that.”

Revealing some secrets of her successful searches, Ann says it takes time and practice to learn how to extricate objects from the muddy tangle of seagrass.  She uses a probe to ensure a route of solid footing while in the marshes.  Patience and persistence are key to  making finds.  These elements of character have served Ann well in the past.  For 18 years before retiring and starting the gardening business in 2015 with her twin, she worked as South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) certified private investigator.

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