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Digging up history

Posted 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?
Yessir, folks, Advance is just buzzing this month, in between the rains and the fear of flooding. Everybody who's mobile has circled around the block in the center of town, watching the goings-on taking place on that pile of dirt that used to be the biggest eye sore in town.

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.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Madeline, - - In my mind I have a very beautiful and clear picture of the center of our town Advance as it was in 1920, but I have not been able to download in my computer. However I believe we will be able to gather enough pictures and information to paint a pretty good word picture for our book. I can't believe that it will take us five years to do this job, but however long it takes I am going to try to be around for the book signing.

-- Posted by paulcorbin on Sat, Mar 27, 2010, at 9:00 PM

Looking forward to a book signing and I'll purchase a copy as I know it will be interesting. The bowl I am sure has a fascinating story, good luck to you all in that venture.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sun, Mar 28, 2010, at 7:30 AM

It's just too bad that people are so busy LIVING to stop and look around them at the common, everyday objects & places that make their lives meaningful. We forget that the things around us won't last -- We think they'll be there forever.

For example, I've looked back over the pictures I've taken over the years and noticed that I have very few of my mother-in-law. I took so many pictures FOR her - but I neglected to take pictures OF her.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Mar 28, 2010, at 9:20 AM

Well, y'all, let's try ruminating on the pot for a moment.......that's plenty, eight feet down it was, hmmmmmm, handle was broken?????, hmmmm, seems to me that the chamber pot was lost down the privy, when in the process of dumping it, the handle snapped off, and woop!!, down it went, in the privy at the northeast corner of the building that used to sit at that location. Seems quite logical, although the handle may or may not be in the site, and old privy holes were sometimes filled in with trash, old bottles, etc., plus whatever else may have fallen from errant breeches pockets into the depths. I saw a pot like that(similar) in an old privy hole in the old Arizona ghost town of Swansea years back on a bottle dig, handle was broken off that one two, but it was recovered in the dig along with several pumpkin-seed whiskey bottles, coins, a pistol, and various other detritus of that long past era. Just my two centavos worth, regards to SEMO from Johnson County, KS. kk

-- Posted by kkcaver47 on Mon, Mar 29, 2010, at 11:47 AM

Very interesting and plausible theory, kk! We can always count on you!

The only thing I've ever lost down an outhouse hole was my cousin Elaine's doll. Boy, I never lived that one down! I stood there and looked down the hole, trying to consider every possible way to get the doll back. You guessed it! We left her there, and I doubt that she was EVER recovered!

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Mar 29, 2010, at 10:11 PM

One of my older brothers was almost lost down the hole. He was very small for his age,about five, [still the shortest in the family]. An older brother heard him hollaring and when he got there, he was hanging on by his arms. I'm glad he survived. He's been the BUTT of many jokes.

-- Posted by theoldwomansoldman on Tue, Mar 30, 2010, at 9:21 AM

Oh, that's cruel! I always had a deathly fear of falling down an outhouse hole!! Can't imagine a worse way to go!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Mar 30, 2010, at 9:47 PM

Ewwwww. Me either. I can see why they left the doll in there.

-- Posted by mokath52 on Wed, Mar 31, 2010, at 11:51 AM

I'd guess it can be dated from the artwork. The photo isn't very clear as to what the artwork is. Something doesn't have to be old to have the handle broken off. I received a coffee cup in the mail today and its handle was broken off while in transit! Instant artifact!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Wed, Mar 31, 2010, at 4:38 PM

FJ, it may not be an ANCIENT artifact, but it HAS to be at least 30 years old, because nothing's been on that site in almost that long. It was found at least 8 feet down. THAT'S the basis for declaring it some sort of artifact -- not the fact that the handle was broken.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Apr 4, 2010, at 9:14 PM

I've been digging things out of the ground half of my life and have found that you never know what you will uncover next. As to your pot, without seeing it, it is impossible to date it. The method of glaze applied, along with any hallmarks would fairly easily date the pot. I agree with the above, the only reason it would be that deep would be that it was once a trash dump, or more likely a privy. We have found all sorts of things in turn of the century and before privies. Sounds cool!

-- Posted by mobrigade on Mon, Apr 5, 2010, at 11:09 AM

If it had fallen into a privy the inside of it would have been filled with "stuff" as hard as a rock and its outside would have been caked. Since there is no description of that I'm doubtful it came from a privy. Ace Reporter Madeline can track down the backhoe operator and ask what type of "soil" was around the Ancient Artifact. Egyptian artifacts have been found in Illinois, Arizona and in Grand Canyon caves, so it is reasonable that Egyptians could have traveled through ancient Advance on their way to the Grand Canyon from Illinois.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Mon, Apr 5, 2010, at 12:26 PM

Egyptians in ADVANCE???!! Wash your mouth out with soap! Might as well say there were dinosaur bones in the middle of town!!

However, now that I think of it, there WERE dinosaur bones discoverd not far north in Glenn Allen, which is just north of Marble Hill. The artifacts are at the Bollinger County Museum of Natural Science!

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Apr 5, 2010, at 6:59 PM

Check the Sanborn insurance maps from the University of Missouri to find out what maps they have on the types of buildings and construction.

-- Posted by mobrigade on Tue, Apr 6, 2010, at 11:35 AM

Mobrigade, I'm not sure the Egyptians hung around Advance long enough to erect anything other than temporary structures. I wouldn't expect those to be on any archeological maps.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Apr 6, 2010, at 4:40 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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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 advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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