Privy Digging

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

Moderators: oldhouse, TinaB, Don M, Schag

triple L
Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Jan 17, 2007 12:30 am
Location: Hiawatha Kansas

Privy Digging

Post by triple L »

Last week someone noticed the picture of the outhouse I posted and said I should go privy digging for old bottles. I've since googled it and been reading about this. My family is not really willing to do this (thinks its gross). Does anyone know someone who would do this in northeast Kansas?
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CThomp
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Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2006 10:15 pm
Location: Ft. Myers

Post by CThomp »

When was the last time the out house was used?

Schag
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Post by Schag »

Triple,
More than likely, anything that would be gross in the pit has decomposed to the point where it's just dirt now.
Also, if you do dig up the pit, you can use what you remove to compost your garden beds. Your plants will love you for it. :wink:

KSR
Posts: 1110
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2007 1:49 am

Post by KSR »

There may be some eager and energetic archaeology students at a college/university nearby who'd volunteer to help you.

RioG
Posts: 188
Joined: Mon Dec 18, 2006 5:35 pm
Location: SW Ontario, Canada

Post by RioG »

Just remind your family that the vegetables they eat are likely grown in fields containing manure fertilizer... Everything will be absolutely decomposed and done its job of enriching the soil! (Unless of course the outhouse was in active use until recently... in which case I second their "gross" opinion. :D)

mbb41
Posts: 129
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Post by mbb41 »

Search for metal detector forums. I know as I metal detect as well but a little to far away from you. May detectorist also dig old privys. The really old ones often have great old finds in them from bottles to old coins and or jewelry. I recall some finds of old copper coins dating to the 1700's.

You could start by posting here.
http://www.ighunters.net/phpBB2/index.php
Truly they do not make them like they used to. I have learned first hand what this means and am glad to have done so.

triple L
Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Jan 17, 2007 12:30 am
Location: Hiawatha Kansas

Thanks for privy digging advice

Post by triple L »

There is a bathroom in the house and has been probably since the 1930's. I would think the grossness would be compost also, unless because it is on a farm, someone used it rather than go in the house. It does still smell. Anymore advice? I did post on the suggested treaure hunt web site so I'll see if they have any advice also.
New to old houses

Civil War Seamstress
Posts: 1016
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:28 pm
Location: North Abington, Massachusetts

Guilty as charged..you have a pretty privvy.

Post by Civil War Seamstress »

That was um....me who suggested you might want to dig for bottles. And don't forget unless the privvy was "dipped" it is likely you have more than one site for treasures as these filled up, and new potty sites were dug! Depending if your house was built wayyyy before trash collection was the norm, you might also get lucky and find the old trash heap on the property (unless your land has been subdivided over the years, then this will make things more difficult).

I would love to be able to locate anyplace where the privvy had been on my land. (house was built in 1880, and the bathroom addition went in maybe in the 20's or 30's according to someone who knew something of old buildings and claimed he could "date" my foundation).

I have so far no records showing my old out house location, though the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps might provide the locations of the buildings on the property, if I can locate one for my area.

Remember it can be dangerous if you have to go down very deep. But the best bottles are at the bottom!!

Just in case you haven't found your way to this link, try these:

http://www.jldr.com/ohdigger.html
http://www.antiquebottles.com/digging.html
and when you find them

http://www.antique-bottles.net/

have fun!!!!
"If everything is coming your way....you're in the Wrong Lane!"

Image

http://s166.photobucket.com/albums/u86/Wackyshack/

KSR
Posts: 1110
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2007 1:49 am

Re: Guilty as charged..you have a pretty privvy.

Post by KSR »

Civil War Seamstress wrote: I would love to be able to locate anyplace where the privvy had been on my land. (house was built in 1880, and the bathroom addition went in maybe in the 20's or 30's according to someone who knew something of old buildings and claimed he could "date" my foundation).
I have so far no records showing my old out house location, though the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps might provide the locations of the buildings on the property, if I can locate one for my area.
We were able to locate the outhouse on our property through the Sanborn maps, and they are online now, *if* you can figure out how to access them through the website.
Through library copies of the Sanborn maps, we determined that our outhouse was located at the property line, straight out what was at that time the side exterior door. That made sense, as it was the most direct route out what was the 'nonpublic' door, but set away as far from the house as it could be.

Civil War Seamstress
Posts: 1016
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:28 pm
Location: North Abington, Massachusetts

Out to the Out House!

Post by Civil War Seamstress »

Yes, that would make perfect sense. Especially in the days when you had to light the lanturn to get out there, or use the moonlight! I am pretty well assured that my privvy was not way out back because the stream overflows the back 1/3 of the yard constantly. The water table is HIGH here, you dig down 2 feet and hit water.

I will hunt the library and local historical society. Thank you for that tip!
Never found a Sanborn map on line for my area of town. :cry:

If it was straight out the back door then I have just hit the realization that my old site might be under the horse barn! That barn was put up in the 1980's. I have room to look behind the barn along the side property line, but the PO built it closer than town regulations allowed.
"If everything is coming your way....you're in the Wrong Lane!"

Image

http://s166.photobucket.com/albums/u86/Wackyshack/

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