Outhouse finds

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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby angolito » Sun Jun 21, 2009 9:14 am

people who are "into" outhouse diving are often called "honey dippers". i know a guy here in stjo who has an iron rod about six feet long with a "t" welded to the top. he goes around in the back yard and probes until he finds an underground void.

i found our outhouse quite by accident. we got a real treasure trove from it!

often you will find broken bits of pottery. we found dozens of "elixer" (read prohibition alcohol) bottles unbroken with the labels still intact and the tiny corks still in place. often people find old china doll heads from when a brother would seek retribution by tossing sissy's dolly into the mess. s(h)itting also could cause the men's coins to drop into the hole while removing their trouser/overalls.

nearly any house which was pre 1800's would have a outhouse, wouldn't they?
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby bofusmosby » Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:30 am

OK, let me set the record straight about old outhouses. I have dug outhouses for over 35 years, and they are a fantastic time-capsule! I have assisted the local archaeologists for years, and an old outhouse is one of the best places to dig. If you are wondering what can be in an outhouse, well, let me tell you. ANYTHING that can fit in the hole can, and usually has been found in them before. You name it, its been found. Sometimes, something would accidently "fall" in, while other times, they were used to get rid of trash. Now, keep this in mind, what was considered "trash" years ago, could be a real treasure to the digger, or property owner. Way back, when outhouses were common, the better ones were brick or wood lined, with a brick bottom. When the hole became full, they would call a company to scoop out the contents, making the outhouse like new again. This is where the term "honey-dipper" actually came from. The "probe" that was mentioned is commonly known as a bottle probe or probe rod. The shaft was usually made of spring steel, with a "T" handle welded to the top. These are used to probe the ground. When an item is hit, you decide if you want to dig it. When you get good using one of these, you can tell what the "struck" item is made of a lot of the times.

Most houses built before 1900 had an outhouse. Sometimes in a neighborhood, there would be common usage outhouses located in the middle of the block. Sometimes, there would be more than just one located there. These are commonl;y referred to as a "2-holer", "4- holer", etc. The best method of digging one is to sift all the dirt inside the hole. If any one is interested on how to build a sifter, I'll be glad to post some photos of mine. They're not difficult to make, and you might be surprised with what you find. A lot of the time, an outhouse location can be found by looking for a dip in the ground. Using a probe rod (bottle probe) you can determine if anything is down there. If a homeowner finds their old outhouse, and they are interested in the history of their place, digging it is a MUST! Where I live (tampa), there used to be an old military fort dating back to the 1820's. I got into the officers quarters outhouse, and found an entire bowl and pitcher set from the 1820's. Most of it was broken into pieces, but after glueing it back together, it makes a great display, that any museum would love to have.

OK, now here's a word of caution. Some of these outhouses can be quite deep. BE CAREFUL!!! The possibility of the side caving in are there. Even though this is quite rare, it has happened. Of course, be careful with the glass, it will still cut you easily. If you are sifting the outhouse, you wouldn't want to throw the bottles and large items in the sifter, these you can pull out one at a time. But, by sifting all the dirt, you'll find EVERYTHING that was ever dropped, or tossed down the hole. Also, as a rule, there will be no remains left of the um...well....the um....crap. Sorry, didn't know of a better way to say it. :lol: :lol: Always wear gloves when you are digging, and be sure and keep EVERYTHING you find that you are not sure what it is. You can always throw it away later, but if would be impossible to go find it again, if you find it was of value. At my house, I have a museum set up in a room at my house, that contains everything of interest I have found on my property.

Here is just a small idea as to what can be found in the outhouse. Bottles, china (dishes, plates figurines etc.), doll parts, coins (copper, silver and sometimes gold), tokens, clay pipes and pipe stem, buttons, musket balls (the old bullets), clay marbles, jewelry (costume as well as gold & silver), and the list just keeps going on and on. Not every outhouse will have these items, but the chances of some of these items being found is good. Keep this in mind, when an outhouse was "taken" out of commision or service, it was a common pratice to fill the outhouse with trash to help fill it up. So, by looking at what comes out of what layer may give an indication as to when the outhouse was used, as well as filled in.

Good luck!

Bofus
Jim

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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby angolito » Mon Jun 22, 2009 8:29 am

duh, i meant to put pre 1900's.......

bofus, i agree that a LOT of caution should be used, especially in locations ike florida which has such a large sand composition to the soil.

also, often if the home is old enough, you can locate two holes. here in stjo, many homes are old enough to have had the original outhouse be filled and a second one dug. we thought that might have been the case with our house, but discovered the second treasure trove was actually a burn/trash hole.

i had to watch the guys when the electric and sewer was being done here. i let each of them pick one artifact, but not until i got to see and photograph them.
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby pqtex » Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:43 am

I'm disappointed! I found out that in all likelihood, my old outhouse is probably located on my neighbor's property. My family homestead once had substantial acreage, but was divided and redivided amongst family members, and most of it has now been sold out of the family. My neighbor isn't the type to be interested in letting me poke around for it. My father's 92 year old cousin has a good memory and may remember the location to help me pinpoint it, though, so there is some possibility of getting a general idea of where it was. I did found out my great-uncle had a well that they filled in with trash, dishes, mason jars, etc., much as Angolito stated above. I know for sure that is not on my property. I know about where it is--and it's close to my property line--but it doesn't do me any good. :-(
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby Theresa » Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:33 am

I've probed my whole yard but have never located the privy. Is there any rhyme or reason for the location? Close to the house? Close to the property line?
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby bofusmosby » Mon Jun 22, 2009 11:23 am

Theresa wrote:I've probed my whole yard but have never located the privy. Is there any rhyme or reason for the location? Close to the house? Close to the property line?



Sometimes, it was located close to the house, near where the outside wall is of the present bathroom. Sometimes, it was a ways from the house. You would think that it would be close by, but remember, they also used chamber-pots to do their business at night. If you have, or know of someone who has a metal detector, you might locate it by looking for deeply buried objects, that gives a real big signal.
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby Theresa » Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:56 pm

I've tried using my metal detector and have found a gazillion boring pop tabs. I also got a HUGE signal and dug up a round metal lid about 20 inches in diameter that covered a equally large pipe leading straight down. I'm guessing it was part of a septic field?
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby Eden » Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:46 pm

Bofus

Thanks for taking the time to fill me in, very interesting.
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby bofusmosby » Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:17 pm

Eden wrote:Bofus

Thanks for taking the time to fill me in, very interesting.



You're welcome. Can you tell I am very passionate about history? :lol: :lol: If you ever have the opportunity to dig your own outhouse, I suggest you give it a try. You'll be finding things that were tossed or lost a hundred or so years ago. You might even find some museum quality items. You never know what you'll find.

Theresa wrote:I've tried using my metal detector and have found a gazillion boring pop tabs. I also got a HUGE signal and dug up a round metal lid about 20 inches in diameter that covered a equally large pipe leading straight down. I'm guessing it was part of a septic field?


Wehn you are looking for an outhouse, forget the little items (pull tabs, bottle caps etc.) look for the large targets like you found covering that pipe. That large pipe that you found could be from the old outhouse, in a manner of speaking.

Since I mentioned about the screening, keep this in mind also. Back in the old days, the trash man didn't pick up the trash like they do today. It was common pratice for the household to dig holes in the ground (usually in the back yard a ways from the house), and bury their trash in these holes. They would sometimes set fire to the trash, so they could fit more in the hole. Once that hole was full, they would cover it up and dig another one. This was done year after year after year. Sooo, if you don't feel like digging an outhouse, you could always look for trash pits. Just about anything that can be found in an outhouse, can also be found in a trash pit. With the use of a "Probe rod", you can probe the ground until you start hitting things at the 1 3 foot depth. Then, you dig it out to see what it was that you hit. If you start finding burnt wood, old rusted iron, or pieces of glass and china, you might want to sift the dirt. You would really be amazed with the things I have found over the years.
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Re: Outhouse finds

Postby Theresa » Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:08 pm

I have an archealogist's screen - is that similar to what you use? Would I be right in assuming that the outhouse would be located far away from the well?
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