We moved our operations back to the lot we had originally start on. Gone was the large apartment building and the automobile dealership. We located a half dozen or more privies. One twenty foot deep round wood liner produced a nice local embossed black glass piece. The best privy was a four by four wood liner that was packed with flasks and medicine bottle dating back the late 1850s. We found four Pikes Peak Flasks and a very rare Ohio pontiled medicine. Only a few feet behind that privy we found our shallowest hole it was less than three feet. It produced a nice black glass Congress Water and a handful of painted china marbles. Another brick lined hole gave up several cobalt sodas and an open pontil "Foleys Indian Botanic Balsam."
Two businesses still operated. The garage door company was to be vacating the premises soon and the other business was in court disputing the citys offer and bargaining for a better deal.
February 21, 1883
Although the Ohio River regularly overflowed its banks, Newport Residents were unprepared for the deluge of water that old timers referred to as "Noahs Flood". The deforestation and subsequent erosion had filled tributaries and the Ohio River with silt. Unusually large amounts of rain that winter had caused the part of Newport built in the flood plain to be covered with a few feet of water when the River crested a about 66 feet. The war Department deactivated the garrison at Newport due to the threat of periodic flooding.
Incredulously residents watched as the Ohio River rose for the second time in as many years. They joked about this years flood would never match last years, but great volumes of rain swelled the floodtide to unheard of heights when the River crested at 71.1 feet. The City turned off the gas and water delivery to the floodplain. Most cisterns were flooded so residents lived in darkness and without safe drinking water. Raging unrelenting currents carried off dwellings and outhouses the latter of which filled the area with filth and human excrement. At least 2,000 homes and 126 business were affected and 15,000 people were left homeless. Oddly only a single life was lost to the floodwaters. When the waters receeded, the house and streets were left with from 15 inches to three feet of mud. The flood of 1884 left a record which would stand until 1937. In the aftermath of the 1937 flood, a flood wall was constructed by the Army Corp of Engineers. Whole streets disappeared - replaced by a towering grass covered protective mound. Gone too was the residents view of the beautiful Ohio river.
For the most part, the cost of the back hoe was covered by the value of the artifacts we were finding, except for this weekend. Its not that we didnt find anything good. It was due to other unfortunate circumstances. The garage door business had vacanted and the building demolished, but the concrete slab on which the building had sat was still there. The back hoe could, little by little, pick at the concrete so we could probe. We found four or five holes most of which produced some good items. It was the fence posts that did us in. There had been a chain link fence around the property and it had been removed except for the posts. Mike was maneuvering the back hoe to get at a hole when he backed into the first post and severely punctured the tire. It was ruined. Luckily, the rental place was only two blocks away and within an hour they had given us a replacement back hoe and we were back at it.
"How much could it cost? Maybe just your share," I teased.
It wasnt 15 minutes later when I heard a loud pop and looked up to see Mike cursing like a sailor. He had run over a cut off fence post and punctured a second tire. Needless to say our spirits went flat as well. We called around; new tires for a back hoe arent cheap. The low estimate was $600. Ouch.
Newport was moving towards the twentieth century rapidly. By law privy waste was to be cleaned out when the contents reached within eleven inches of the top This service was contracted in 1885 to the Brosmore Company, which dumped the waste into the River from barges. Prior to that time, the city licensed scavengers to clean out the privies. Ordinances required the contents to be dumped into the river thirty feet or more from shore, although complaints were frequently heard from residents about the odors from waste dumped on the banks. Cleaning was to be done only between the hours of 11 P.M. and 4 A.M. this practice gave rise to the name "night soil" for the contents removed. With the construction of a city sewer system, the familiar outhouse "too far in the winter and too close in the summer" began slowly to disappear
After our expensive lesson it was decided that we should rent a track hoe and operator to finish the last few lots. The weekend before demolition was to begin we opened up 17 privies and half a dozen cisterns on the remaining lots.
We made arrangements to gather all of the artifacts for the big split. There were more than 1000 bottles and many other artifacts We met the next weekend. The top floor of a local restaurant served as a place where we could display the finds while we haggled. For several hours we unpacked box after box of bottles and set them out on tables. There was a table for medicines, one for sodas beers and ales, one for flasks, marbles, pipes and the like, another for inks and stoneware, a table for pontiled utilitarian wares, one for foods and a couple for drugstore and miscellaneous bottles. It looked like a bottle show. For about five hours we took turns picking bottles. Everyone got something they really wanted and we celebrated afterwards with a dinner with the wives and girlfriends This incredible dig had lasted more than six months. It was a sad day to be finally finished. We had all taken great pleasure as we dug into the rich past of this four block area.
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