Spring Dig


The history of this site was not really to interesting but it was plenty early for some good prospects. In 1856 a large building was erected here that served as many things over the years. Through the 1860's it was a boarding house run by the widow of a Civil War army officer, later in the 1870s t0 1883 a grocery store, at the turn of the century a residence. By the 1940s it was had fallen into disrepair and torn down. Today not a trace of anything old remains above ground.

 It was a beautiful day as we arrived early in the morning to start our project.  The week before we had surveyed the lot finding that it contained three 19th century privies in the back yard.  Hopefully this property would prove to be more worthy than the neighbors.

The hole we decided to excavate this day registered 14' in depth with a trashy use layer starting at about eight feet. There was no telling what age it was going to be but I could tell that is was layered down deep, un-dug and definitely worthy of an investagation. Slowly I began opening it up with the backhoe and find a un-marked gas line the utility locating service failed to find & mark. These things somehow like to find me, it's never easy.


It's a good thing to be cautious and know when not to tug to hard with the hoe because that could be a problem if your not careful. Repositioning myself, I carefully dug down deeper into the pit excavating more clean hard compacted fill material. At seven feet the light colored dirt I had been removing was now giving way to a much darker looking night soil with shards of pottery and glass starting to show. We could now see the privy starting to take on a square 4'x4' shape with reminents of an old crumbling wood linning, things would definitly be slowing down now.

 Leisa's cousin Michelle would soon be arriving from Washington to visit for a week and take part in her first dig. My son Nick climbed down in the hole first and started hand digging followed by his mom while I sat on the machine waiting for their signal to bail out more dirt. He soon shouts out; "BOTTLES THEIR ALL OVER, THIS ONE HAS WAY MORE THAN THE LAST ONE WE DUG!" and that would soon prove to be true.  After only about ten minutes of digging he removes a nice tooled top amber Western whiskey 5th, it was 1890s and the start of the use layer.


Down we went being ever so careful hand digging uncovering layers from the past and removing more long forgotten bottles that were once discarded as garbage. It was clear that the people who once resided here lived their lives in abundance as evidenced by the amount and variety of trash they had discarded. There was lots of broken crocks/dishes/pottery and ohhhhhh the bottles; medicines, foods, whiskey, beer, sodas, etc. 


At about ten feet down Michelle arrives to a freshly open 120 year old privy pit with lots of bottles being unearthed.  I can't even begin to imagine what she must of thought seeing something like this for the first time in her life. I could tell she was interested but what was really funny is how she almost immediately became transformed.  When she jumped in and started experiencing what a part of 19th century life was like and finding her first bottle, she was hooked.


"Hey this is fun!" she shouts out and together the girls carefully dug the pit down a few more feet while unearthing more old bottles.


When the soil started getting wet at twelve feet indicating we're nearing bottom, they had enough. Nick jumped in to finish out the layer while I pulled buckets of muddy water with a  rope. It was definitely older as we approached bottom turning to all 1870s material but along with the age change came evidence of a more conservative life style. There were several more busted ironstone dishes but fewer bottles as he hits bottom at fourteen feet.


It's been a long hot 14 hour day and we're all tired. We backfilled & compacted the hole, cleaned up the lot, loaded up and headed for home.



A Few of the 19th century bottles


©2022 Tuesday, May 28, 2024