Chance encounter leads to a good dig, and more in the future......

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cannibalfromhannibal

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Well, been digging more than finding lately. Last dig before this past weekend was a month ago when I dug a 13 foot stone liner for a mid 1860's home, and you guessed it. Like a broken record in this town, anything more than 20 years older than toc was heavily dipped. I was lucky to come away with a handful of keepers, such as they were and all were duplicates or a variant to a duplicate and 1890-1900's. So I was eager to an out-of-town dig when it was offered. I was exiting an antique/oddity shop of a friend on Main Street last Thursday when a couple were happening to cross main street towards me when the fellow says, "Are there any good bottles in there?" He looked familiar but I couldn't place from where I knew him, but as we bantered in meaningless talk for a minute, it came to me. He was the neighbor to a fellow digger & friend of mine who recently passed away in July. We reminisced his passing and talked bottles briefly and then began to go on with our day when I noticed they were passing up my friends shop. I suggested in a moment of thoughtlessness they ought to go in and check it out as there are always some interesting things in there. He replied, "Oh yeah, we've been in there before." I asked if recently and when they said no, I strongly urged they go in, as there were new things to see. Chiefly was his latest acquisition, "The Bearded Dwarf Mummy!" That hooked them and they went in to see this historic roadside attraction. Feeling my job was well done, I went on about my business. Later in the day I discovered a voice message on my phone from the lady of the couple. She had received my number from my friend while in his shop and was calling to see if I might be interested in probing their backyard for the old privy. It seems they had torn out a back room to their circa 1888 home to create a more modern extension and their always meticulous yard was now a muddy mess where contractors and workers had been tearing it up for the renovation. I had to think about it, for like 3 seconds, before calling back and agreeing to the task. I had tried a few years past but as I mentioned there was a nice brick patio style yard with only about a 2X8 foot strip of yard open to probe and of course I found nada. My hopes were not too great but I figured, Hey, maybe getting out of town for a day is a good idea. So I asked about the next day but she was afraid I might create some interference with the workers and so we agreed the day after was a better day being a Saturday. The only real issue was that on Monday they were expecting to pour cement over the area and it would have to be a well timed surgical type dig. OK, I'm up for a challenge......So I arrive late Sat. morning and nobody answers the door. Hmmmm. I walk around to the backyard and find her talking with the contractor! Apparently she was unaware and not expecting workers on the weekend, as this project had been going on for awhile with no-workie weekends. No problems, as the contractor was not only cool with it but somewhat in the know of what I was doing. I was surprised at how tore up the yard was from the last time I remembered it and noticed they had trenched the parameters and set cinderblock to about 3 feet tall already. I asked if he had noticed anything while trenching out the footings and he said it was clean as clean. I surveyed the dirt walls still exposed and had to agree. NOTHING! I noticed a couple bricks in the center side of the interior of the newer addition and was informed that the old part of the house that was removed was supported with brick piers and this was likely left over from that. I went over and removed the 2-3 bricks and probed under them with only clay underneath. No wall, nothing, so I headed back towards the alley where I began a tight grid probe pattern near the original carriage house. I had studied the Sanborn maps the night before and I knew there was a large shed and a smaller shed next to that one that were long gone. I probed my arms off for about 3 hours with half hour interval checks on my progress from the lady of the house. Nearing my last hope of finding anything, and being too close to the house to believe in anything being there, I noticed right along the trench line looked like a brick wall. Wondering how I missed it earlier, I got a closer look and thought it looked like a foundation of sorts. I decided to check the other side to see if there was a wall there and there wasn't. So I get to angle probing just as I get checked on #12. When asked, I said I was afraid I was striking out unless this line of bricks turns out to be a wall of sorts. That's when she said, " Oh, well when the old room was here it was a bathroom right about there and always had an irregular shape to it. When the house was on the home tours I pointed out to people the oddness and someone suggested it might have been where the outhouse might have been." I decided to mess with her at this point and in an exaggerated manner said, "Really? And it never occurred to you to mention this to me until AFTER I probed for 3 hours?" I really was teasing her because I always start in the most likely areas and work my way to the least, and knowing a big chunk of the original house sat over this spot made it not unlikely, but likely impossible it was a privy! But I had nothing left to hunt and this was the last gasp effort. So angle probe I did and what do you know? It was a wall! I worked my way around and discovered 2 other walls and the last was underneath the footing, so I left it alone. I began to dig through a very unusually clean looking clay cap, no ash, no lime or any trash. I used my 5 foot probe while a foot deep and felt like the top of a use layer at about the 6 foot level. Finally at the 5 foot level, I hit metal, but it was strong, not old & weak. By now the husband was home and eagerly watching in hopeful anticipation as I struggled with this stubborn metal piece. When he asked what it was I said, "It has the shape of a license plate." After a good tug, up popped........a freakin' license plate! Dated 1941!!! UGH!! REALLY? I mean, REALLY??? He thought it was really cool, I wanted to cry. Or spit & cuss. I about threw in the shovel and quit but I knew better. Besides I had too much time & effort invested. Persistence is what separates the successful from the less successful, I have discovered over the years. So I kept digging more license plates, same date! Then applied decorated 1940's drinking glasses! Suddenly up pops an undamaged child sized beer mug slightly purpling! Then a 1930's screw top med, with an amber tool top med next to that! What the Hay is going on here! I began to think I was digging in a cistern as jumbled and mixed things were. I was now not only disgusted but confused and intrigued. Well, that was enough for day one. I figured I'd go home and ponder on it and return earlier the next day and give it a couple hours to find a true use layer or I was going to call it DOA......I arrived the next day early as planned and was in for a nice surprise.
 

cannibalfromhannibal

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So now after my pondering, I recalled an article about privy ordinances and this town had some of the most stringent ones in the country, most notably no privies may be placed within 50 feet of an occupied dwelling unless made a part of or attached to such dwelling. So I am hoping this is what I am in to. I dig for about an hour when the home owners show up and announce they are leaving for the day and won't be back until late. I told them if I find anything I would leave it on the back door steps. Before their car could be heard pulling away, I dug my first embossed tool top bottle, a sewing machine oil, with an Eddy & Eddy extract from St. Louis next to it. "Well, there's something for the homeowners." I repeated this phrase countless times until I literally had filled a gigantic plastic planter full of bottles, a buffalo pottery bank, salt shaker, plates, you name it. I was beginning to think my bottles were all broken. It really got thick about the 8 foot level and continued on & on. I dug a broken Safe Cure and a couple amber quart Safety fruit jars. I dug through at least 4 different lime layers and got to a point where it was getting dark and late. Knowing I would have to fill in this monster solo, I was beginning to make a deal with the bottle goddess. If I dig either a Safe Cure or an amber fruit jar, I was quitting on the spot & filling it in. Of course none of that happened. What did happen was I scratched up a broken amber med embossed "Gun Wa's Chinese Herb & Vegetable Remedies." REALLY? Now I was REALLY BUMMED! The iconic, scandalous Gun Wa! UGH! Well, my angst was short lived as I managed a whole one about 5 minutes later, all on the very bottom of this 11 footer. Next to it was an infamous "penis pump" from the Erie Medical Co. A good smattering of local pharms and meds rounded out the bottom and as luck would have it, a nice grass green Pepsin Bitters came out of the backside of the pit as I was finishing out that side of the hole. It was in a newer layer but had bluing residue indicating it was a late throw as it was repurposed for the bluing. I got her filled in about an hour and a half and arrived home about 10 hours after the beginning of the digging. I was one tired puppy (still am) and very happy for my finds. A couple days later I was able to catch up with my benefactors and they mentioned the vacant lot across the street belongs to them and there was a huge old home there. Hopefully, that one may have a similar hole, just easier to find!
 

cannibalfromhannibal

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The criers safe cure and Gun Wa's and a cool cast iron lump with Fire Patrol cast on the sides.....
 

CreekWalker

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Not a bad dig, way to go! My last two digs was much less productive. Hope the next one is as good, and yours even better. I like that toy cart and the little Keystone fruit jar.
 

2find4me

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Nice finds, and what a great story! Very nice Gun Wa's, love the color on the pepsin bitters! Looks like your hard worked finally paid off. The cast iron piece is a neat one as well.
 

sunrunner

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look's like a lot of work but you got some nice stuff . I like the betty Boop doll .
 

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