DIGGING IN THE KENTUCKY BLUE GLASS
By Digger Odell
1998 Digger Odell Publications

 

February 1998
The map showed five structures that might have had early privies. We trenched across the back of the corner lot without success. The only features on the corner lot were a cistern filled in around the turn of the century containing a large number of blob top beers and a stone lined privy too new to dig. We did manage to find a couple of wood line holes at the far west edge. The most interesting one produced a large number and variety of Marine Hospital bottles, a Pine Tree Tar Cordial with the word "Patent," miscellaneous medical looking paraphernalia and a great pot lid marked "Dr. E. J. Coxe Sarsaparilla and Cubebs".

July 4th, 1861
Citizens of Newport were at each other’s throats over the diverse reactions to the Fourth of July parade.. Unionists and Sessionists, with their inhibition loosened by free flowing liquor, started fights, fires and even shootings, fueled by long standing debates about slavery, states rights, and never ending rumors about rebel espionage or sabotage,.

Tension had been building for sometime. No doubt partially due to the likes of William S. Bailey, a Newport resident and extremist. He wrote Abolitionist essays in the local paper in which he displayed his contempt for the South. Eventually, he purchased the paper which he renamed the Free South. In 1851 an angry mob burned his press shop, but he resumed printing in less than six months with the help of well- wishers. He faced pro-slavery boycotts of the businesses that advertised with him, competition from other pro-slavery papers, libel suits and other court harassment including being fined for letting African Americans celebrate a party at his house. However, after defending John Brown’s raid in one of his diatribes, a group of about thirty citizens broken into his shop and tossed his type out on the street. The next day they declared his paper a nuisance and marched to his place of business carrying off everything except for the press, which was too heavy to carry, and dumped it into the Ohio River.

Newport was in the throes of a great transformation. In 1820, slaves comprised 25% of the population and 40% of the mostly Southern families own them. With the influx of northerners and European immigrants and the economic changes slavery had been nearly eliminated by 1860 when there were more free blacks (56) than slaves (39).

March 1998
One of the companies, a steel fabrication business, would be moving out and the owner said we could go ahead and dig. The gravel parking lot in front of the building had been the backyard to two properties. Next door they were pouring the huge foundation for the new aquarium. We had opened up several test spots and found a brick lined hole in the center of one of the lots. We dug down to the seven foot level and hit water. The shards we found suggested a good old hole but time would nto permit us to dig this one by hand. Because the business had trucks coming and going we couldn’t leave it open. Roy walked over to the construction trailers. He returned shortly with the good news that one of the workers would bring over their back hoe and "take out a few scoops" for us. Without that help this privy would have needed to wait. As the third scoop was being dumped, I saw Mike out of the corner of my eye jump up and rush to the dripping pile. He returned triumphantly with something behind his back. In a moment he produced a beautiful cobalt blue pontiled root beer. We motioned to the operator to stop, thanked him with the promise of a six pack and proceeded to dig the rest by hand. Man, were we getting spoiled by using the back hoe. Digging by hand seemed primitive by comparison. In ten minutes the hoe dug more dirt that we could have in two hours. I think it was around 10:00 P.M. when totally worn out, we shoveled back the last bits of muddy dirt from the surface of the parking lot. If there’s one thing I hate more than digging the dirt out by hand, it is putting it back in by hand.

October 1, 1867
Owners of the Newport Ferry announce they are raising the rates. For the average commuter, the 600 trips across the Ohio annually meant an increase of 25% in his costs. For some families the increase would reach 60%. Since there was no bridge across the Ohio River from Newport, the only alternative was to walk or bicycle to Covington to cross. A bridge would revolutionize Newport’s economy. Business and community leaders successfully approached the Louisville, Cincinnati and Lexington Railroad Company to build a railroad bridge. They cleverly outbid their Covington neighbors by granting a railroad right of way to the river bank. The cornerstone was laid June 3, 1868 and the bridge completed in 1872, ending Newport’s semi-isolated status.

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