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Prairie

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Hello! I'm a retired History and Science teacher from Maine who moved to the Prairie SW Minnesota ares three years ago. My town used to be a train stop: it was established in 1881. This was never British land. It was occupied by nomadic Plains Native Americans. The first European settlers were Icelandic and Norwegian, then German, Dutch, some French Canadian, and Belgian. I haven't found much here yet! A WWI Army uniform button in my flower bed, a plated fork from under a fallen tree in the park. Nobody seems to know where the original town dump was. My yard is littered with scrap metal from roofing: aluminum pieces and nails. My house is a 1915 kit Craftsman type. The librarian has several medicinal bottles found somewhere but she can't remember where. She doesn't have an interest. I'm craving finding anything from fossils to arrowheads to buried trash. There is a winding river through the town and I know where the old swimming hole was. I look forward to seeing what you all find, and will appreciate any tips you may have. There's an old, crumbling grain elevator nearby: too unsafe to enter, with bad or missing flooring. Glad to be here! Thanks for the add.
 

CanadianBottles

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That swimming hole could be a great place to find coins if you've got a metal detector which can go in the water, a lot of the smaller towns weren't hunted as heavily as the big cities. For the dump, definitely try looking along the river banks because trash was often dumped into the river. In other places it would be dumped into wetlands or other low-lying areas, those are usually a lot harder to find and your best bet will be going through old newspapers from the 1930s and before. Sometimes dumps would be mentioned along with their location. Unfortunately in that case they were often covered over with some sort of municipal building in the mid-20th century and are now off limits to digging.
 

Prairie

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That swimming hole could be a great place to find coins if you've got a metal detector which can go in the water, a lot of the smaller towns weren't hunted as heavily as the big cities. For the dump, definitely try looking along the river banks because trash was often dumped into the river. In other places it would be dumped into wetlands or other low-lying areas, those are usually a lot harder to find and your best bet will be going through old newspapers from the 1930s and before. Sometimes dumps would be mentioned along with their location. Unfortunately in that case they were often covered over with some sort of municipal building in the mid-20th century and are now off limits to digging.
Thank you! I will go through the old newspapers!!!! So far I have noticed or found nothing in the river mud or embankments. I have a good magnet fishing line and a metal detector but it's my husband's and don't know if I can submerge it. I'm guessing no. And I have a handheld pointed beeper once the hole is started. Question. When I watch shows about bottle digging, why do they not also pull out metal? Some guy will stake out a digging spot, dig 4 to 5 feet down, or in an old cistern, outhouse plot...and only come up with glass and china! When I was in Maine, I stumbled upon a great older dumpsite with lace up boots, tin cans, apothecary bottles: a dream come true! It was behind a farm, in the woods maybe 100 feet from the last cornrow, and sloped. So I guess I should take my own lead and ask local farmers if I can poke around their boundaries...
 

hemihampton

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Any Ravine is a good spot to look. Good Luck. LEON.

P.S. Welcome to the site.
 

Newtothiss

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There's a good amount of digging and/or probing involved. My oldest finds (only "old" for my location) were 4'+ underground. If you find surface (or close to) glass, you're probably on the right track?
 

Newtothiss

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No joke. People loved to dump their refuse (our treasures) in creeks/water...
 

willong

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When I watch shows about bottle digging, why do they not also pull out metal? Some guy will stake out a digging spot, dig 4 to 5 feet down, or in an old cistern, outhouse plot...and only come up with glass and china!
Welcome to the forum!

Old town dumps can be difficult to locate. Those of smaller communities, and even many of the ones in large cities, were often informal trash disposal areas, and thus, not recorded.

If people in those shows you mention are digging old privy pits--it sounds to me like you might have been watching a few episodes of Below The Plains, one of the best of the bottle digging channels on YouTube in my opinion--then you need to consider first, that the diggers' video channel's focus is antique bottles, and second, that except for filling holes up to grade after an outhouse itself was re-positioned over a new pit, any trash dumped into a privy would have to fit through the hole(s) in the seat provided for the privy's intended purpose. What really amazes me, given the labor invested in digging a pit and moving an outhouse, is that people threw as much trash into the pits as they evidently did! I say that even though I have worked in National Park Service facilities and observed evidence of contemporary misuse of pit, vault and even composting toilets.

Most, though not all, of the digs featured by Below The Plains videos to date have been privy pits rather than dumps or random trash deposits. Even so, watch enough of those episodes and you will indeed see them extract metal objects, boots and shoes, and even clothing items such as shirts and trousers from the "use layer" of the old privies! Other diggers concentrate on excavating privies in urban areas, some of which are quite deep and are often lined with brick or stone walls. Original contents of such pits might well have been periodically removed by "honey dippers" at a monetary cost to the property owners. That expense would naturally discourage deposition of bulky and difficult to remove objects. It is not inconceivable that most objects, even such as bottles and pottery found in the corners of "dipped" pits were tossed into the facility by customers or tenants contrary to the property owners' desires.

By contrast Creek Diggers is a YouTube channel that has featured quite a few dump digs. Watch some and you will definitely see metal trash extracted. However, if a dump is old enough and in a wet climate, food cans and objects made of similar light-gauge steel will reduce to just crumbled or crumbling masses of rust. I hunted for surface dumps in the woods of western Washington State in the 1970's. Dumps that were then 60-80 years-old would be hidden by a natural accumulation of forest litter (leaves, bark, conifer needles, twigs and branches) decomposed into a loose humus overgrown with moss, ferns and bushes. Usually less than a foot thick, such coverings were easily probed with a pitchfork. It was often the crunch of crumbling cans pierced by the tines, rather than the "tink" of them contacting glass, that provided the first exciting confirmation that I'd located a turn-of-the-century trash deposit.
 

CanadianBottles

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Thank you! I will go through the old newspapers!!!! So far I have noticed or found nothing in the river mud or embankments. I have a good magnet fishing line and a metal detector but it's my husband's and don't know if I can submerge it. I'm guessing no. And I have a handheld pointed beeper once the hole is started. Question. When I watch shows about bottle digging, why do they not also pull out metal? Some guy will stake out a digging spot, dig 4 to 5 feet down, or in an old cistern, outhouse plot...and only come up with glass and china! When I was in Maine, I stumbled upon a great older dumpsite with lace up boots, tin cans, apothecary bottles: a dream come true! It was behind a farm, in the woods maybe 100 feet from the last cornrow, and sloped. So I guess I should take my own lead and ask local farmers if I can poke around their boundaries...
Yeah a fully submersible metal detector is a bit of a specialty item compared to a standard one. Some of the more common detectors can be partially submerged but you'd want to be very careful if you were doing that. If your spot has a bit of beach that would be very good for detecting too, especially if no one has thought to detect it before. And I imagine any swimming hole would have a spot where people sat around drying off afterwards, even if it isn't actually sandy.

And yeah in small towns your best bet will be talking to local landowners if you can't find the municipal dump. Most of what you find will be dumps from the 1930s-1970s, which is a bit late to be finding many interesting bottles, but there's still a chance for good milks and sodas. Those dumps are better for finding advertising items though, particularly enamel signs. Somehow even small rural farms would often end up throwing away enamel signs. Not sure where they were getting them from in the first place - some signs would be displayed on farm buildings (Robin Hood Flour and DeLaval Cream Separator are two I know of) but I've found a Pepsi door push and a gas pump sign in farm dumps, and I doubt those would have been displayed on the farm.
 

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