DANSVILLE — A local bottle and Native American artifacts collector came to share his treasure with the community.
Terry York worked as a contractor in the Dansville area for many decades, and he had access to people’s backyards. It was there he found all sorts of interesting things deep in the ground under a coat of ash.
Dansville Area Historical Society hosted York at the North Dansville Town Hall where eager collectors gathered for some advice.
Every house that was built long ago has a secret about 30 paces from the backdoor, and that is the area the Outhouses once stood. In these Outhouses people would dump their glass bottles and other things that couldn’t be burned.
“We will find Outhouses at every house in town that predates the 1900s,”York said. “We start looking about 30 paces from the backdoor for a depression in the ground. Some things you find in the dirt can be very valuable.”
When you hit a pit with ash in it you know there will be something worth digging up. Back in the day they used coal for everything.
“When you hit a layer of ash that is about 150 years old that will tell you the whole story about that house,” York said. “We find lots of whole (glass) bottles from the late 1800s.”
York said that if anyone wants to let him dig in their backyard he is very careful about the site, and lays a tarp down to protect the property. He is also willing to share with the owners whatever he unearths.
York has been collecting bottles for 25 years and Native American Artifacts for about 30 years.
Some of the most valuable things you will find are glass flasks, according to York.
“The flasks are so valuable, because they were hand blown and always had a political statement,” he said. “They are my favorite.”
When the town was putting on the addition at the North Dansville Town Hall they found a treasure trove of buckets upon buckets worth of bottles.
“I explained to them when they were digging what I was looking for,” York said. “They had a whole truck full of bottles. I went down 14 feet, and realised this must have been a community Outhouse at some point. There were buckets upon buckets of bottles being pulled out of the ground.”
“They didn’t have trash pick-up in those days,” York explained. “The Outhouse was the place to get rid of glass. If you couldn’t burn it it would go in the Outhouse.”
York said this hobby is all about the thrill of the hunt.
As far as the Native American artifacts are concerned York has found much of it by the water. Many local tribes would keep close to the water, so you will find arrowheads and other neat things at the waterbanks.
“You go by a major body of water, and find the highest point that doesn’t flood,” York said. “They lived in the area, and didn’t go too far away from the water. After a hard rain we get permission from the local farmers to go on their land and find them. If you see broken stone that tells you you have a site.”
York said the tribe would move away from the site about every 15 years, and another tribe would move in. Over the course of thousands of years you will see many different tribes were in the area.
“We also get permission from the farmers to walk the fields, and we find all kinds of cool things,” he said. “You look for something on the ground that doesn't belong there.”