Welcome back. In my last blog, I talked about pit privies as one of the two kinds of privies we found at Patterson Village. As you know, we find privies extremely valuable, especially given the insights they expose into how people lived during that time period.

The second kind of privy we examined was a box privy, a more elaborate structure under an outhouse. In this case, a square or rectangular hole was dug in the ground and was lined with wood. When the wooden box was full, the outhouse was moved, the contents of the box were removed, and the outhouse was replaced over the box for continued use, and so on.

During our dig, we found 16 box privies associated with the houses at Patterson Village. Pictures of one of these during excavation are shown in Plates 1 to 3.

Plate 1

Plate 2

Plate 3


Similar to pit privies, box privies also contained a variety of artifacts including liquor bottles and patent medicine bottles. To our delight, we recovered a total of 19,171 artifacts from box privies.

One of the most interesting discoveries we made was that both types of privies were used to dispose of the small sharp fragments of broken chimney glass from coal oil lanterns. We were left to wonder why they chose to discard here? We counted 7,845 pieces of chimney glass in the box privies and an additional 7,503 pieces in the pit privies. That’s a lot of glass! In comparison, only 121 pieces of this glass were found in the middens (garbage dumps) we excavated on the site. Clearly, the residents of the village were disposing of these “sharps” to ensure that they did not injure those who occupied the village. The recovery of this large number of fragments of chimney glass at Patterson Village is also indicative of the widespread use of coal oil lanterns for lighting. Without the excavation of these privies we would not have gained this knowledge.

So again, you can see, the exploration of privies has been quite revealing. I hope you found it as thought-provoking as we did.

Stay tuned for my next two blogs as I will deepen my discussions surrounding pit privies and one particular box privy associated with the boarding house at Patterson Village. The box privy is especially interesting because it produced almost 12,000 artifacts. I’ll reveal those findings next week including actual whole dishes and more.

Remember, you can also pick a copy of The Archaeology of Patterson Village right here, available in both digital and print versions.

If you are part of a community group or historical society that may be interested in learning more about 19th Century Ontario, please feel free to reach out to me for more information on topics and such.

Best regards,

Bill Finlayson


William D. Finlayson, Midland, Ontario

Ontario’s Leading and Senior-Most Archaeologist and Author