Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club News

Written by Allan C. Holden

Volume 15 No. 1 , January 2015


Happy New Year Friends!

    I hope you're having a good year so far! It is January 6th as I am writing this. I have been following a day-by-day privy dig by some new diggers. The two fellows who are doing the digging are in the local metal detecting club. It sounds to me like they are having a blast, even in the below freezing temps!

    They have only dug about 3 feet deep as of now, and have already started finding early glass! The interesting part is, to hear their observations to this point. "The house was built in 1836 and it looks like there were multiple privies side-by- side. Unfortunately, there is a huge tree with big roots over the best part of the hole. We are now digging under the tree and all the bottles seem to be corkers."

    Don't you love it? Yes guys, that is how it often works! It sounds like they have started digging the hardest pit first! You just never forget those first privy digs . . . ever!

    That brings me to our last meeting. Our meeting theme was sharing with the group how each of us got started in digging and collecting. Before I try to tackle that, here are the names from last month's sign-up-sheet.

    When I do this I always think of the host of the 50's TV show Romper Room, where she looked through her magic mirror and would say, "Romper bomper stomper boo, tell me, tell me, tell me do, magic mirror tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?" Oh, I see Kevin Siegfried, and little Mary Hamilton, Bill Drake, and oh! I see little Chucky Parker and yes there is Vincent Grossi! I see John Winkler, Ron Smith and little Eddie Nickerson. Oh yes! I also see Katie Osborn and Kelsey Ennis, and there is that darling little Scotty Hendrichson and Allan Holden!

    If you are too young to remember Romper Room, you can very likely catch-up some on YouTube. If you take nothing else away from the show, please remember to be a "Do-Bee, not a Don't Bee!"

    The "How I got started" stories were fun to listen to! I wish I could take notes better! Tamara Skidmore contacted me from the Kalamazoo Library, requesting information for the 2015 Community Events booklet that they do each year. She mainly needed to get information about the Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Show held on Saturday, April 11th this year. She wanted to update the information she already has on the club, so she sent me the information. Lo-and-behold Allan Holden is listed as "Secretary!" That is like saying Barack Obama is a President!

I actually did make some crude notes which were intended to jog my memory . . . which will only work if . . . . oh shucks, I can't remember why it won't work???

John Winkler and Ron Smith both credited the newsletter for peaking their interest. I never thought about that happening, but putting a crude little website and this little fly-by-night newsletter does seem to attract attention.

I get questions from all walks of life because someone found a bottle somewhere, then they searched the name of the product on one of the Internet search engines, which will then hit on one of the newsletters!

That is really not because of me, it is because of you! You bring in a bottle of Dr. So & So's Indian Hub-Cap Rattle Eradicator, I list it in the newsletter, the webcrawler finds it and presto!

Ed Nickerson went on a treasure hunt where Duane Nickerson, his father, had buried a potato sack full of old bottles somewhere out in the Allegan Forest. Duane was a good old friend to many of us and he was truly one of a kind! I could go on for a long time with my Duane Nickerson stories but that will have to wait for another time.

But in this case, Duane was digging bottles nearly every waking minute and even if a bottle was only worth a quarter, it was never discarded! However, Duane didn't have the space to keep all of his excess bottles at home so he buried caches of bottles out in the State Forest! Now many of you diggers know, they will not allow you to dig bottles in the Allegan Forest . . . but maybe you can bury them!

The difference between Duane squirreling away bottles, and a squirrel burying nuts, is the squirrel has post-it-notes! Yes, Duane forgot where he buried several potato sacks full of bottles! So, that was how Ed got his start, looking for one of his dad's lost bottle cache! Ed told me that, in the one he found the bottles were worth 25 cents each when they were buried, and $5.00 each when he dug them! Not so crazy after all!

Kevin Siegfried also credits Duane for getting him started in antique bottles, which I think is neat! I remember the last bottle digging truck that Duane had was a Datsun powered Micro-Mini Motorhome. He took some red paint and lettered on the back "I buy old bottles!"

Today, Kevin has gone full-time into antique sales and is one of my go-to guys for antique values and advice!

Kelsey Ennis tells us that she got started digging bottles out of a river bank in Pennsylvania! That sounds like fun! I don't understand why our ancestors were drawn to the rivers and lakes to dispose of their trash, but they were! I have done some muck raking myself . . and it is fun!

Katie Osborn told us that she basically followed Kelsey to a meeting, where she was surprised to learn that garbage collectors are real!

Mary Hamilton started becoming interested in antique bottles at yard sales. That does happen some times! I'm thinking of that yard sale shopper who brought a puce-colored flask to the bottle show. It was an open-pontiled historic flask from 1840. The flask is the Washington - Taylor variety that says, under Washington's bust, "The Father of our Country."

On the Taylor side it says, "Taylor Never Surrenders." The feature that put this flask over-the-top was the pinkish "Puce" color. This bottle was estimated to be worth between $10,000 and $20,000!

Bill Drake was at the Southwest Michigan Seek & Search Club, when Chuck Parker and Scott Hendrichson put on their traveling Medicine Show! That was a fun presentation!

Chuck Parker was on break from his job at Hercules, (I'm going to be nice), when he wandered over to the west side of the Kalamazoo River and discovered diggers tunneling under the abandoned railroad tracks! Jack & Ernie used to tell me stories about digging over there . . . good times for sure!

Vincent Grossi was caught up in the hobby over in historic New Jersey! I have been reading bottle digging stories for many years, and the east coast diggers do find good stuff! Vince fell in love with his first bottle find, a Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound bottle! I think the Lydia Pinkham bottles are classic antique bottles and Vince brought in his with a beautiful full label!

Scott Hendrichson, our favorite U.P.S. driver, was a little late for the meeting but we were glad to see him. He missed out on the 'How did you get started' story time. Frankly a U.P.S. delivery driver making it to a December meeting is almost as rare as the bottle he recently unearthed!

Scott and Bill Riley have been doing some digging near a place that is currently being used as a funeral home. Can you imagine how that looked!

One of the bottles they dug was a beautiful Dr. Wishart's Pine Tree Tar Cordial. That is one of my favorite bottles, one I don't have, but I haven't given up! But wait, there's more! The guys dug a MOON'S INDIAN SCROFULA ERADICATOR! You never head of that one? Neither had I! The only example to be found on the World Wide Web is a broken example . . . they dug a whole one! A number like $8,000 to $10,000 is being tossed around . . . wait and see!

This month we are doing a Warner's Safe Remedies and Cures! That should be fun! I think I have a green one somewhere! Don't forget to bring in your latest finds and any treasures you found under the Christmas tree!

The photos below are:
1. A group of bottles Scott brought in from a recent dig
2. Some nice marbles Kevin found
3. A clay smoking pipe bowl that Scott dug . . . I need to get a profile photo of this one! The nose is amazing . . . .that it didn't break off!
4. A nice Butter Churn with original lid and churn Kevin found!
5. A photo from an east coast nightclub. (some believe the guy with his hand on his hip is me before I was put into the witness protection program.)

On my personal web site I have about 3 decades worth of short stories. They are all treasure hunting stories that I posted in different newsletters I have written. They are somewhat crude, but popular. I have had several readers ask me, "When are you going to post some more stories?" Here is one I just penned over the holiday. I hope you enjoy it.


        Despite having wrapped myself in every article of clothing I own, the icy wind cut into any exposed skin that it could find, feeling like sharp knives. Without any doubt, it was a very bad time of year to be traveling to upstate New York. It had been nearly five years since I had seen my parents and two sisters, and this was perhaps my only chance to do so. I was in my early teens when my parents left Silkstone, Yorkshire, for America in 1820. I wanted so badly to take the trip with them to the new world, but I had, at the age of 12, gone to work full time, indentured in an apprenticeship until I turned 21 in my uncle's glass gactory.

        The training was really about much more than simply blowing glass, or working as a gatherer, or even becoming a glass-wright, I was being trained to help, one day, assemble a new glasshouse with my uncle in Green Briar, New York. Now that goal was realized. That work had been the very thing which I had devoted myself to these last few years, both day and night.

        The new Green Briar glass factory was a work of beauty, one of which we were all very proud. It was state-of-the-art with special newly designed coal-fired furnaces with underground flues and chimneys with adjustable air holes to provide proper draft and controlled heat.

        Fritting glass could also be accomplished with pre-heating pots and annealing processes done in different sections of the new furnace. These oven openings were all elevated above the heat source. We had a goal for the plant of high volume production, yet maintaining a very high quality glass product. The work on the plant was far from over, but, it was up and running and new orders were rolling in and being filled.

        My trip from England aboard the Brigantine, Caroline took 9 weeks, including time to secure new iron equipment which was forged for us in London. All that seemed like a lifetime ago, but I shall never forget how much I hated my time at sea, much of it spent waiting for wind to fill the ship's sails. Now, with my employer's blessing I had taken a leave of absence for three months. Most of this would doubtless be hard travel time.

        My trip North to Sackets Harbor located on the east end of Lake Ontario, would require some travel west. The first leg of my journey would be made on a new highway inland on a modern Wells Fargo Stagecoach Line. Next, I traveled north by horse back, and not without a good deal of walking in between.

        I arrived at the Oswego dock on November 10, 1832. The last leg of my voyage which would take me from Oswego, east to Sacket's Harbor, was to be the easy part. I had booked passage aboard, the very latest modern passenger steamship, the Martha Ogden.

        The wind was out of the northwest and painfully cold, but before going aboard I stopped for a moment to take in the splendor of this magnificent, mechanical marvel. The ship carried two masts for conventional sails, one fore and one aft, but it was the tall smoke stack and the giant paddle wheels that really set this sturdy ship apart! The Martha Ogden had already served on this route since 1825 and she had a very trusted following.

        I arrived two days early and stayed at a small Inn near Hope Harbor where I would wait for the Ogden's arrival. When she did arrive, I was one of the first to board her, and I toured the vessel. The found the crew and Captain William Vaughan to be very friendly and a confident team. Once inside the passenger lounge it was warm, comfortable and beautifully furnished. For the first three hours, just before departure, refueling meant wagon loads of cord wood were loaded and stacked below deck along with large wooden crates of cargo.

        Soon, I was joined by other passengers from all walks of life, and in due-time on November 12th 1832 the Captain sounded the departure whistle and we were underway. Before we were far from shore, I braved the cold to watch the giant side-wheels, as the ship moved away from the sight of land.

        Behind the smokestack, I watched the giant walking-beam, rocking back-and-forth in time with the sound of the chugging steam engine. Soon the cold was a little much, so I wandered back inside and visited with folks as I warmed up with a mug of hot tea.

        When we were well into our trip, I could feel the wind picking up in a frightful manner. Captain Vaughan shaped his course north, first traveling north-by-east, then north-by-west as the sea would allow. Within the first hour the sea was high and already breaking across the deck as water rushed below. It had become a battle keeping the fires-up and in a short amount of time the Captain ordered the crew to raise all the sail that the ship could stand.

        It would require power to keep the ship under control and out of the clutches of the angry sea! At this point the fire for the steam engine seemed to be in peril. In short order, the fire could no longer be maintained and the problem of choked-up pumps was the next issue to be faced. And faced head-on it was, by the entire crew and every able bodied passenger. We all started passing buckets of water, doing our best to fend off the onrushing sea . . . but it simply wasn't going well. Then, to make everything far worse, the steering rope parted! This happened at 6:00 pm and we were drifting considerably leeward as I worked with the engineer to attempt a repair.

        With control of the rudder restored, Captain Vaughan made the Galloo Island Light at right about 7:00 pm., He was bearing north, fully expecting to make Stony Island passage. But the wind hauled hard from the northwest and it blew us very hard off course. Suddenly the giant ship felt as if it was a tiny cork, as she was rolled with each new wave. It was almost as if the waves were challenging each-other to be the first to climb over the Ogden's deck . . . very soon they did. After the sea swept the main deck both fore and aft, for the better part of an hour, it carried away the promenade deck and the ladies cabin.

        When the Captain discovered he could not clear Stony Point, and believing the boat would founder if he kept to the lake, the Captain ran the water- logged steamer into 8-1/2 fathoms of water and let-go both anchors . . . that was about 9:00 pm.

        We rode the waves for about an hour with all hands bailing, then, both anchor chains parted! The Captain ordered the jib sail loosed hoping to clear the point under our lee, then he veered her around. We raised the fore-sail up and cleared the point, yet we were by that time frightfully deep in the water. The Captain had figured we had taken on ten hogsheads of water (about 1,400 gallons) in the last half hour. The sea continued to breach over her and soon the ship was completely unmanageable. Had it not been for the stabilizing effect of the therwise useless paddle-wheels any lesser vessel would have rolled over early-on.

        The ship continued to drift until she struck the rocks in the second bay south of Stony Point at about 11:00. Shortly after she struck, the Martha Ogden started to fill with water. Just moments earlier the Captain stopped the passenger's fire-line brigade of bailing, and everyone was called up on deck. The screams of the women and children made the scene truly distressing and you could hear some praying aloud.

        One of the brave passengers, William Miller, of Canada, succeeded in getting ashore for help. A crowd soon gathered on the beach to render assistance. With the assistance of those ashore, we somehow got a rope from the ship, to a tree on shore, which seemed to be the most amazing miracle! Wasting no time, soon we had outfitted a basket to send the first child ashore along with a recovery line and a block pulley. Each adult was transferred to shore in a sling, with the Captain being last.

        The Captain entered in his report, "My passengers rendered all the assistance in their power, and to their exertions, together with my own and my crew, and the help of a Divine Providence, we were all saved."

        Within the hour the vessel was driven by the waves off the rocks, foundered and sank in Nutting's Bay south of Stony Point. I cannot say enough in favor of the inhabitants near the wreck site. Every family rendered us all the assistance and comfort in their power.

Newspaper Comment on the wreck from  1833
"The risk of Lake Ontario, during the months of navigation, I am persuaded is not greater than of Long Island Sound. The best proof is, that since steam-boats have been introduced on the lake, (and there are now between thirty and forty, large and small, on Lake Ontario), there have been but two boats lost, viz: - the MARTHA OGDEN, in the summer of 1832 - a miserable old boat of about 30 horsepower, belonging to the port of Oswego - and the JOHN BY, belonging to Upper Canada, during this summer. The JOHN BY was a botched concern from the beginning, and neither she nor the MARTHA OGDEN would in fact have been looked upon as seaworthy, or as ensurable vessels, at the time they were lost."
      Oswego Free Press

      December 4, 1833

From the Sackets Harbor Courier.

December 4, 1833


On the night of the 12th inst., as the MARTHA OGDEN was on her way from Oswego to this port, she sprang a leak, and the pump failing, the men took to bailing out the water with buckets. She however continued to fill despite the utmost exertions of all on board, and was so soon flooded that her fires were completely extinguished, which of course prevented her engine from working. The wind at the time was blowing very severely from N.W., and the Master, Capt. Vaughn, endeavored to make sail; but she was notwithstanding, driven and foundered on the rocks near the Stoney Point, about 14 miles from this place, and yesterday went to pieces. There were a number of passengers on board - and among them three women and eight children - all compelled to stand in the open air from about 11 o'clock at night (the time she struck) until about 9 o'clock yesterday morning, when they were taken on shore by means of a basket and Dutch harness, rigged upon a line leading from the wreck to the shore, and every individual thus saved.

The kindness and attention of the inhabitants in the vicinity where these sufferers landed, completely drenched as they were, with water, which had congealed upon them, cannot be too gratefully remembered by this community; and to the deliberation, skill and unremitting exertions of Captain Vaughan and his crew, the passengers are indebted for their lives. No blame can possibly be attached to Capt. V., as it was altogether owing to fortuitous circumstances that the boat was thrown off her course and driven upon the rocks.

The Martha Ogden was owned by Messrs. L. & S. Denison of this place. We understand there was no insurance upon her.

The Martha Ogden remains to this day under the surface of the lake at Nutting's Bay and is one of lake popular diving attractions now for 183 years.

The Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club meets at the main downtown Kalamazoo Library, located at 315 South Rose Street. We meet on the third floor in the conference room. This meeting is Tuesday, January 13th Meeting starts at 7:00 pm.

For questions . . .

e-mail: prostock@net-link.net

Or call 269-685-1776
Return to: HOME
Return to: The Many Faces Of Treasure Hunting