THE CHARLES HOTEL PRIVY

BY DIGGER ODELL

©2002 Digger Odell Publications

 

“For the train today to Morrow, if the schedule is right, today it goes to Morrow and returns tomorrow night.” (From a song by the Kingston Trio)

 

April 16, 1836

The Little Miami Company was organized in 1836 to construct a railroad from Cincinnati to Springfield, Ohio, there to connect to the Mad River and Lake Erie Road. Ex-Governor Jeremiah Morrow was made president to the company. Like most early enterprises money troubles began shortly after work was under way in 1837.

 

 

May 25, 1844

It took four years to lay the track fifteen miles and it was not until 1844 that they arrived thirty-six miles north of Cincinnati, in Morrow, a town created by the railroad that same year. Morrow, situated at the mouth of Todd's Fork of the Little Miami River, had a modest beginning with only 49 lots in the original plat. The new town was named after Jeremiah Morrow. By 1850 the census showed 458 people and it was growing rapidly. In 1851, a second line was begun in Morrow for the Cincinnati, Wilmington, Zanesville Railroad to be about 250 miles in length, with connections to Baltimore and Philadelphia. Morrow had a bright future and was expected to soon become a much larger place. It became known across the nation in the gay 1890's for the song "I want to go to Morrow and I want to go today."

Morrow was truly a railroad town. All of the main business district was on Railroad St. The saloons, dry goods, and hotels depended upon the flow of travelers. Most who lived in town were dependent upon the railroad for their livelihoods. The big roundhouse, now long since torn down, was the hub of activity for the engineers, brakeman, conductors, baggage masters and yard clerks. Just across from the train depot sat the Charles Hotel. It was here that many of the railroaders and travelers stayed. Rooms could be had for $1.00 a day and meals were .25 cents. The hotel was small by modern standards but comfortable.

November 12, 1858:

Mary Perkins was one of the more that 150,000 passengers that had ridden the Little Miami Railroad this year. She was on her way to see her mother in Covington, Kentucky. She had missed the early morning train because of making connections from Columbus at Xenia, Ohio.

She took "the Express" which didn't run on Sunday so she would be in Morrow at the Charles Hotel until Monday to catch the early train "the Flier" at five o'clock and twenty minutes a.m. Mary was in her late forties and not married. She dreaded meeting her mother's incessant questioning about her marital prospects. She had brought along a bottle of hair dye to hide the gray that was beginning to show.

April 5, 1859:

Louis Melbourne had paid his $17.50 for his journey from New York to Cincinnati where he would seek his fortune. The forty-eight hour journey had begun by boat from New York City to Albany where he caught the express. There was no charge on the boat for meals and sleeping quarters were provided. The train was another story, as sleeping cars were an unheard of luxury. The train went to Buffalo where he again transferred to boat arriving in Cleveland which was still another twelve hours from his destination. From Cleveland he took the train to Columbus, from there to Xenia where he rode on the Little Miami Railroad for the final 59 mile leg of his journey. As it was late when the train pulled into Morrow, when  he decided to spend the night. The long journey had played havoc with his digestive system. He purchased a bottle of Hoof land's German Bitters which he knew to be a remedy for dyspepsia and afflictions arising from a disordered stomach.

 March 3, 1860:

 Johnny Butterworth was only 13 but was proud of the new job he had. His parents were field hands on the Hanover Farm just on the edge of town. He walked to the Charles Hotel every afternoon to work at his job of kitchen helper. One of his daily duties was to take the garbage, trash and chamber pots out and dump them into the outhouse. Today he had quite a load of jars, broken plates, and an old cracked handless cup along with the kitchen debris. Though the task was somewhat unpleasant, he didn't mind, he was earning fifty cents a week.

February 11, 1861:

 Jacob Pearson had ridden the twenty-seven miles to Morrow to see the President. He checked into the crowded Charles Hotel. Hardly a room was left anywhere within ten miles. President Lincoln was in Cincinnati this evening and tomorrow would be riding the Little Miami from Cincinnati to Columbus. Stops were planned in Milford, Miamiville, Morrow, Corwin, Xenia and London. Talk that evening centered around the controversy surrounding this trip and an alleged assassination attempt. Jacob had purchased two pints of the best whiskey he could find at the local saloon and spent the night celebrating.

May 25, 1868:

David Hicks was a railroader. His job was to help load and unload freight. He had been in Zanesville this morning and purchased a pint of whiskey from a local merchant. Zanesville was a glass making town he remembered as he noticed the wording on the flask "Zanesville Glass Works". Tonight in Morrow, he would check into a local hotel and celebrate in his usual fashion.

July 14, 1868:

Mick Morgan got off the train after a brief ride from Springfield and checked into the Charles Hotel. His doctor had recommended he see a specialist in Cincinnati and thought a few nights in the country would be a helpful part of his treatment. His debilitating illness was of a personal nature, contracted in his youth during a forgotten period of indiscretion. He had been experiencing symptoms of anemia, fever and weight loss and was feeling particularly poor as of late. He carried with him hope in a bottle.

May 1, 1870:

Mr. Paul Emmons was a hardware salesman from Pittsburgh specializing in farm equipment. He was traveling throughout the Midwest hawking his latest plowing and harvesting equipment. He was tired after his journey. He crossed Railroad Street from the train depot and checked into the Charles Hotel. Mr. Emmons was tired of his job and had of late taken up drinking. In his brief case, beside the catalogs and contracts, he always carried a half pint or so of his favorite spirit.

September 15, 1989.

Ted and I had permission to look for the privy to the Charles Hotel. The hotel was gone and only a comer lot remained with the outline of the foundation which spanned what is now two separate lots. In our first attempt to locate the privies we probed for hours finding only a very shallow and very new pit up against a small barn at the back of the lot. We post holed another spot and gotten aqua glass and other good signs on the half of the lot on which we didn't have permission.

October 5, 1993:

We got permission to dig a couple of privies behind a house dating to 1867 which sat on the property adjacent to where the Charles Hotel had been. We found a number of squat sodas and several pontiled McLean's Vermifuge bottles in a stone liner. The oldest hole was a wood liner with nothing whole and only a broken Roback's Bitters. We probed a third very large hole which sat at the back comer of the lot right behind what used to be part of the Charles Hotel. Several weekends later when we opened it up it turned out to be an impressive four by eight by fifteen feet deep privy. Sadly, it was the turn of the century privy which had a mixture of machine made and late bimal bottles, but was certainly the newest hole for the Charles Hotel. Shortly before leaving we probed another hole that sat along the Charles Hotel property line perpendicular to the new hole. It was probably the hole we had post holed five years earlier. Our faulty recollection was that it had been a round stone hole but this privy was rectangular and appeared fairly large.

July 23, 1994: Mike had called from Pennsylvania saying he would be in town and wanted to dig. Ted and I felt that if this privy was a mate to the big one at the back of the lot it would be a two day job and we'd be thankful for the help. We went to the lot on Friday evening to get a start on the hole, hoping we could finish by Saturday night, but we reserved Sunday just in case. The hole, a stone lined rectangular pit 4'x 6'x 8' deep, was mercifully smaller and shallower than we were expecting. In fact we had finished digging it by two o'clock Saturday and had time to split up the finds:

Whole bottles:

1) Two Dr. Jas. Kerr's Great System Renovator - Cincinnati, 0, (advertised Cincinnati 1867 Dr. James C. Kerr Will cure all diseases resulting from bad blood.)

2) 1/2 pint double eagle flask, aqua (GII-28)

3) 1/2 pint Pike's Peak Ceredo, light green (GXI-36)

4) 1/2 pint Union Clasped Hands, aqua (GXII-31)

5) Pint Zanesville City Glass Works (1864-1876 - GXV-28)

6) Hoofland's German Bitters  aqua, pontiled

7) three pontil puffs

8) 0. Crook M.D. Vegetable Syphilitic Remedy Dayton, 0. (advertised Buffalo Daily Courier 1865 as "Dr. Crook's Vegetable S-ph-I-s Remedy". Dr. Oliver Crook & Company Dayton also made Crook's Wine of Tar (Baldwin) Established 1868 Oliver Crook and Company when he was already dispensing his Wine of Tar. The business lasted only to 1875 when the company changed hands (Fike)

9) Scoville's Blood and Liver Syrup Cincinnati, 0. (Produced by Amon L. Scovill a druggist in Cincinnati beginning in 1842. He was dealing in patent medicines in the 1850s. The Blood Syrup was a good seller and dates around the mid 1860s.)

10) Two Ayer's Ague Cure, James C. Ayer was in the medicine business in Lowell, Mass as early as 1841, The Ague Cure was introduced in 1858 (Fike). Early specimens were pontiled this bottle appears to be mid- I 1860s.

11) pontiled Black Glass Ale

12) Sided Ink, hinge mold

13) painted china marble

14) miniature porcelain double doll

15) clear cologne

16) strap sided aqua flask

17) 10-12 unembossed round and oval miscellaneous bottles

18) large round hinge mold

19) handless cup early hand painted decoration

The items found in this privy, like other privies, were not deposited there in a single dumping episode, but rather over a span of up to twenty years. This pit was probably cleaned out from time to time. The average age of the bottles seemed to be the mid 1860's. Evidence of earlier use is suggested by the few pontiled bottles and shards such as the Fenimore's which was found up against the wall at the bottom.

Broken items:

1) small amber shard with embossed anchor - identified as "Dr. Dunlap's Anchor Bitters" - label only bottle with embossed anchors, Minneapolis Minn., 1884 Mason Med. Co.

2) Redware pot with 12 on bottom 

3) 3-4 types of crocks and jugs

4) canning jars - one Hemmingray, several cork wax sealers, one Patent Sept. 1860.

5) miscellaneous dishes 

6) pudding mold bowl

7) shell decorated spittoon Rockingham glaze

8) 4-5 broken Crook's Syphilitic Remedy

9) Christidoro's / Hair dye No 1, square, aqua, open pontil

10) Hostetter's Stomach Bitters - dark olive green

11) Fenimore's / Liniment or / Pain Extractor / Price 50 cts., square, five inches, aqua, pontil.

12) two deep purple amethyst almost black, strap side flasks with ground threaded lip

13) several chamber pots - yellow ware and white ware

 

The interstate highway bypassed Morrow and the railroad tracks have been torn out. Morrow is just one of the many forgotten railroad towns scattered across the country. I never saw the Charles Hotel which was torn down years ago or Morrow in its glory, but I do have a sense of what happened there. The many stories connected with these bottles give us diggers the opportunity to dream about how things might have been and a look at how they really were as we dig into the secrets of the past.

Sources:

Baldwin, Joseph K. A Collector's Guide to Patent and Proprietary Medicine Bottles of the Nineteenth Century. Nashville, New York: Thomas Nelson Inc.

Bogan Dallas R. Early Transportation in Warren County. Warren County Historical Society Lebanon, Ohio: UN Printing Co. Middletown, Ohio. 1992.

Fike, Richard E. The Bottle Book a Comprehensive Guide to Historic, Embossed Medicine Bottles. Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs M. Smith Inc. 1987.

The Ohio Railroad Guide. Ohio State Journal Company, Columbus: 1854.

 

The characters in this story are entirely fictional.