The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Treasures from the Outhouse 2010.09.22

Written by David Green.

outhouse.diggers.jpg By DAVID GREEN

It often begins with a lilac bush in the back yard. That’s probably where the old outhouse once stood.

There’s a trio of “urban archeologists”  spending a lot of time in Morenci. They consult an 1857 map, they knock on doors, they ask permission to dig a hole in the back yard.

Most property owners become intrigued by the prospect of historical artifacts and they give permission to dig. Besides, the privy hunters take pride in leaving no trace of their visit. Sod is carefully removed, excavated soil is placed on plastic sheets. Once the prospecting ends, everything is put back in order.

In Morenci, the men had the old map to serve as a guide. In some communities, they operate strictly by architecture, looking for an old stone foundation, for example, that indicates a structure built in the 1800s.

But digging into what was once below an outhouse? This is their hobby?

It’s not what you might think. It’s all rich soil now, and it hold lots of treasures.

At one time the family outhouse was used as a dump, explained Dan Argentati of South Lyon—a 14-year veteran of privy prospecting.

“They’re like time capsules,” Argentati said. “What’s in the pit was once in the house a hundred years ago. You can tell a lot about the people who owned the home by what they threw into the pit.”

If permission to dig is given, the hunters begin probing with four-foot steel rods. They can feel the differences in soil structure and when they hit the spot, the rods come in contact with objects.outhouse.bucket.jpg

“It’s often straight out the back door,” Argentati said.

And it’s often near a lilac bush, added Todd Osborne of Onsted.

That was for odor control, explained Ernie Spaulding of Lyons, Ohio. A layer of ashes was also thrown into the pit occasionally for the same reason.

“I was out metal detecting in a park and Dan was probing,” Osborne said.

That was about four years ago. The two struck up a conversation and Osborne was invited over to take a look at Argentati’s extensive bottle collection.

That did it. Argentati had a new digging partner. Osborne told his friend, Spaulding, and then there were three diggers to while away weekends in back of strangers’ houses.

On Sept. 12, the trio knocked on the door of a brick house on LaGrange Street in Morenci and were soon probing around the back yard. No luck. They moved west one house to the Cottrell property and soon found what they were looking for.

“We’re going to cut a four-foot by four-foot hole and in about 30 minutes we’ll know how old it is,” Argentati said.

It didn’t take long to find a shard of pottery, but soon some rubber was encountered.

That’s not a good sign, Osborne said, but Argentati noted that rubber was used around the turn of the century.

“It’s probably a newer pit,” he said.

Every 20 years or so a new outhouse pit was dug, Spaulding said.

Out came a pocket watch, more pottery and a spoon.

 Osborne talked about a house in Tecumseh that resulted in a two-day dig, with more than 200 bottles found. Once they hit the jackpot, it was easy going.

“You didn’t even need a shovel,” Argentati said. “We were just pulling out bottles one after another.”

The men have so many bottles that most of what they find isn’t new to them. But when they find something unique, they ask the property owner if they can take it—after all, they spent the time in the hole digging. Most of what they find is left with the home owner.

Several bottles were found on LaGrange Street, plus a horsehead brooch, another spoon, a Bakelite button and more pottery shards.

“This is mostly from the late teens,” Argentati said. “We like them older.”

Pre-1890 bottles were all hand-made, he said

There’s probably an older pit, Osborne said, and it’s likely located underneath a metal building that was added on to the garage. That would place the outhouse in front of the lilac bush, the usual location.

No false teeth, eyeglasses or lanterns—objects that were probably accidentally lost while visiting the outhouse.

A week later Osborne and Spaulding were working a property on Locust Street and it was more to their liking. They were taking shifts in the hole and were sorry that Argentati couldn’t make it that day. This hole is getting deeper and wider.

“It looks like a bucket hole,” Osborne said, meaning that it’s going to be deep enough that a bucket will be filled and hauled up by rope.

“It looks like it’s under you,” Spaulding said to Osborne, sitting on the overturned bucket.

“It’s always where we place the dirt,” Osborne said, figuring they’ll soon have to shift the pile out of the way. “You never put the dirt far enough away.”

This is the eleventh dig in Morenci and they still haven’t found a bottle with the word “Morenci” on it. However, they’ve uncovered more than one bottle of Brant’s Pulmonary Balsam from Albion, Mich.

The hole is a good five feet deep when they encounter another cap—a layer of dirt or clay to cover over an older section.

The pit has turned up at least two dozen bottles so far, including Dr. Jayne’s Tonic Vermifuge, and other items such as the skull of a hummingbird.

“That would have been a pretty gin bottle,” Osborne said as he lifted up some brown glass.

Two pits at the Cowgill residence on the south side of Morenci produced 78 bottles and the hunters were not about to give up on this one, although they knew a lot of dirt would be bucketed up.

Unlike most hobbies, this weekend pastime requires a lot of heavy laboring.

“Why couldn’t we just collect stamps?” Spaulding wonders as he takes another turn in the hole.

• Anyone who thinks their property might produce a good find is welcome to call the hunters. Todd Osborne can be reached at 517/467-9101. Ernie Spaulding’s number is 419/902-6591.

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