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Digging up historyPosted Saturday, March 27, 2010, at 7:29 PM
Toga resident Gary Davault examines a clay pot which was discovered in the excavation of the Cross Trails medical center in Advance. Paul Corbin confirmed that the pot is NOT of Native American origin - but what is it?
It seems as if we've been waiting twenty years for something to happen at the Cross Trails building site. Dozers are moving dirt, cement mixers are pouring the basement, big trucks are sucking up water - it's a veritable smorgasbord of sights and sounds!
In about six months, we'll have a new state-of-the-art medical/dental facility with real concrete sidewalks and new parking spaces all around. There'll be landscaping and trees and flowers - you name it! We are excited!!!
The metal detector enthusiasts have been making the rounds, ever since the old ratty buildings came down, so imagine our delight when one of the dozers came up with an intact clay pot in the bucket!
Our ever-inquisitive Maintenance Director, Danny Brewer, who always knows EVERYTHING that's going on ANYWHERE was Johnny-on-the spot. He snatched up that clay pot and hot-footed it down Sturdivant Street to Paul Corbin's house.
The good news: It's not of Native American origin! Breathe a gigantic sigh of relief!
However, the question is -- What IS it? What was it used for? When did it get buried about eight feet deep in the middle of town on the northeast corner behind the old Prather/Corbin/Ward building?
Charlie Prather had a hardware store in that location back in the early 1900's, and there was a telephone office, a dental office, and (rumor has it) a doctor's office in that location at one time or another. A photo of the building is marked 1910, and it shows a drugstore on the lower floor.
In the southwest part of the lot, there were several drug stores over the years -- Kinder's and Nickens -- and Eva Moore's family had a Purina feed store. Doc E.C. Masters built a medical clinic in 1952 and operated it until the early 80's, as I remember. My last blog was about Dr. Masters' experiences in Advance in the thirties and forties, when he was headquartered in the back of Kinder's Drug Store.
Charlie and Sis Hinkle had a drug store on the north side of the lot - and I think there was at least one tavern along that side of Sturdivant.
The pot is about eight inches across and about five inches deep. It's glazed and once had a handle, which looks as if it's been broken a long time.
Paul Corbin's first thought was that it was a spittoon, though most of the early examples of this practical appliance were metal. (thus the ringing sound when someone spit in them!)
We debated on whether this might be Belle Burks' chamber pot, which she carried down the stairs from the telephone office in the evenings, when she went to dinner at the Atwood Hotel (wherever THAT was!). Belle had a room at the back of the office on the top floor, overlooking the park/cemetery around which Advance was built. Advance writer Thomza Zimmerman labeled these events as having happened around 1911.
So what is it, folks? Did they spit in it? Pee in it? Plant flowers in it? Mix up a cake in it? Put pipe ashes in it?
In fact, the discovery of this pot has precipitated some additional interest in the history of the region. Paul Corbin and I, along with several others, have decided to begin a history project --- starting, of course, with this pile of dirt in the center of town. We're collecting old photos and doing research on Advance and the immediate surroundings. If you have old photos, let us know.
I've informed Paul Corbin that he must help me finish a book on this topic -- and I estimate that it might take as long as five years to do a really good job. We'll have a book signing at his 100th birthday!
From the moonlit hills of Tillman, MO., this is your rural reporter, Madeline, listening to the spring peepers and looking back through the ages to the way things used to be.
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.