N. GRANGE / SOLE AGENT / PACIFIC COAST
Circa 1877 -80
I have many fond bottle digging memories while growing up in Santa Rosa California. I became more interested in history and digging in 1971 when the city fathers decided to level fifteen blocks of Victorian homes and business to make way for a new shopping mall. They so cleverly called it "Urban Renewal" and claimed the land of families many of which had been there for generations while giving minimal compensation. Government by force and the taking of citizens rights by special interest groups is a sore subject with me but that's another story. The mall was built in the heart of the old section of town that contained well over two hundred historic homes & businesses. It's a shame our government at times can be so ignorant to peoples rights and history. However it was a golden opportunity for a newbie bottle digger like myself. The city granted our bottle club permission to dig so we could try and rescue some of the artifacts from destruction that the many city blocks contained. There were no overzealous archeologist, no fences and no uptight people back then, it was sure a different more pleasurable sort of world we lived in despite the destruction of our historic town.
The town was laid out in 1858 on the banks of Santa Rosa Creek where at one time a huge Native American settlement once existed. As the town grew so did the demand for products that were being consumed by its citizens with good ol drinking whiskey being one of them. When the excavation of privies on the project started it soon became evident that "N.Grange" whiskey had been distributed in town as evidenced by the number of whole and broken examples being dug. Most all of the bottles and shards surfaced from within a four block area leading me to suspect that they were likely distributed from a nearby outlet. Research soon revealed there was a local bar run by a Thomas Gimmetti who was a wholesale liquor dealer as early as 1873. He was most proud of the fact that he made every effort to stock his bar with some of the finest whiskies available to the trade. One of the brands he sold in the late 1870s was supplied by the "Numa. Grange" wholesale liquor firm of San Francisco California.
My long time friend Ray Bramer had learned of where the Gimmetti house was located and set out to find it's privy in 1971 which would later prove that he indeed was connected to the Grange product. It was a dark and rainy day in the winter of 1971 as he and Jim McKinney surveyed a partially bulldozed block on the development project. They had determined the exact location of the old Gimmetti home which was then the site of a auto repair shop that was soon to be bulldozed. Being a little creative for their time they angle probed under the concrete building at the back property line and found the old out house. It was an awkward excavation that went well into the night producing five intact N.Grange 5ths and several broken ones and a wide variety of other liquor bottles.
That was a major bottle find in the early 1970s as it would be today and back then everyone in our club had high hopes of finding one of these highly prized bottles on the project. I personally witnessed Ray digging another one some two years later from a large privy pit along with one perfume bottle and that was it. Two more were dug behind the old Occidental Hotel with a beautiful yellow green example being broke by the demolition equipment and another whole one turned up further down the block. I wanted so bad to find one of those bottles but out of the over one hundred holes I dug on the project all I got were pieces.
Almost twenty years had passed when a new building project had opened up on a lot that was near the old bar just on the edge of the Urban Renewal project. My digging partner and I were down there almost daily monitoring the progress of the project while buildings were being demolished. When the cement slabs were cleared the contractor let us dig and dig we did to the tune of eleven privies for the five houses that once occupied the site. The first night the concrete slabs were lifted I probed out two side by side privies. While I was digging one pit my partner was digging the other. The hole I was in produced a very rare "Our Choice Old Bourbon H. Brickwedel" 5th, wow I was stoked. As I was finishing up my hole I looked over and saw my partner filling in his hole after only digging about three feet down. I questioned why he was filling it and he insisted that it was finished and not that deep. I knew better though because I had initially probed that hole to a depth of no less than six feet so I told him to leave it open so I could have a look. It did appear to be bottom but he had failed to probe far enough through a clean clay cap layer that was about two feet thick. It was hard and slow going but I managed to get through and when I did it was bottle city, all glob top whiskey 5ths. First bottle out was a Star Shield Cutter with a busted top, then a slick 4-mold Western 5th, then another and another. They were in there one on top of the other, more slick 4-mold 5ths and a busted Jesse Moore 5th came out. Digging a little deeper I came upon one that looked different. I could tell this one was a 2-mold and definitely not a Moore or Cutter. Carefully I removed the dirt from around it and lifted it to the first sunlight it had seen in well over a century. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, it was one of the most beautiful N.Grange 5ths I had ever laid my eyes on, yellow green, hammer whittled and in mint condition. After digging to the bottom and moving sideways I uncovered another Grange, this one was a killer amber color, crude and super whittled too. All those years of digging and wanting that bottle and it finally happened two decades later.