By John KIlgore
Just when I thought I had dabbled in about every legal outdoor activity, my better half asked if I’d ever heard of Richard Carr, owner of Buried Treasure Antiques in downtown Fort Gibson.
My wife went on to say Carr had a wonderful shop with all sorts of interesting antiques but he really enjoyed “bottle digging” and collecting.
While visiting with him I became fascinated with his stories and the prospect of finding yet another outdoor activity to “to fill the gap” during what I call the “lull period” of winter. It’s the time when big game seasons have come to a close and turkey season and spring fishing’s still a least a month away.
Carr began digging bottles in the mid 70s in old farm or town dumps in and around the Muskogee area. “After digging lots of neat old bottles, I decided to specialize in collecting bottles from Tulsa, Wagoner, Fort Gibson, Tahlequah and, of course, Muskogee,” said Carr.
He really enjoys bottles that have I.T.(Indian Territory) on them. There are sodas, drug stores, milks, and other type bottles from these towns.
After 10 years of digging, he was asked to go outhouse digging for bottles and he became curious. His digging friends told him they used Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory to locate the outhouses.
His first dig was in Purcell and he dug a Purcell I.T. Drugstore bottle and Carr was hooked. He now does most of his digging in old towns in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma and has dug hundreds of sites and almost always finds bottles.
People, including myself, ask him why outhouses are such a magnet for bottles.
“Grandpa didn’t want Grandma to know he was drinking so he goes out to the outhouse, drinks his whiskey and throws the bottle down the outhouse. Also, it was a great place to bury trash,” informs Carr.
The most valuable bottle Carr has dug up was an amber-looking beer bottle labeled Muskogee Bottling Works, Muskogee, I.T. Its value: $1,500.
He is a member of the Tulsa Antiques & Bottle Club and sets up at several shows around the country and Tulsa. There are lots of different categories of bottle collecting including historical flasks, bitters, cures, remedies, perfumes, medicines, inks, and lots of others.
“Rarity and condition determines value. It’s a fun hobby and good exercise. Try it sometime,” urges Carr.
To brighten up some of the overcast winter days, travel to Fort Gibson, Tuesday through Saturday. From around 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can find Richard in his store at 111. S. Lee St. or call (918) 478-6119.
I bet you can dig a few good stories out of him concerning his outhouse adventures.
John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. You may contact him with news or other information at 918-348-9431 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.