Thursday, April 16, 2015

From Blake Peterson

This is a revised copy of the post that Blake Peterson sent to me a few days ago. I jumped the gun and posted the rough draft instead of the finished product. My apologies to Blake. He has added additional text and several pictures that I left out of the rough draft. Enjoy!

Lost In a Time Capsule for Over One Hundred & Forty Years

By Blake Peterson


In the early 1870’s, Eureka Nevada was growing towards what it was to become, another of Nevada’s great mining towns. The first smelting plant built in 1869, was a failure. But another, built in the 1870’s, was far more successful and the very forerunner of even more advanced methods. Soon, the nearby hillsides of Eureka ranked as Nevada's second-richest mineral producer (behind the Comstock Lode), particularly for lead, with small amounts of silver. By 1874, the population of Eureka was nearly 6,000 people.
On the morning of July 24th 1874, came a cloud burst that covered the entire canyons and mountains surrounding the town of Eureka. By mid afternoon, a tragic flood came down the canyon, destroying and carrying with it most all of the town’s buildings in the canyon bottom. Two years later on July 24th 1876, a second flood hit. Luckily, the town didn’t receive the extent of damage caused by the first flood.   https:// Eureka, Nevada: A Tragic Flood
 Eureka and the surrounding mining communities have seen more than their shares of bottle diggers. Both local residents and collectors from the surrounding western states have dug it hard since the 1950’s. Today, after all the years of digging, there is very little left that’s un-dug.

Some opportunities in life may present themselves but only once. This dig is possibly one of those. The property was temporarily vacant. The owner is a very close friend, and gave us permission to dig. And last, the fact that John, Phil, Dan and I were able to take time away from work to dig.
We spent nearly eight hours every day for a period of two weeks digging this lot. We were getting close to completing a thorough search of the property when, on a cold and windy April fool’s day, a cellar or possibly a basement was discovered. The room had been filled in level many decades ago and was discovered on the back corner of the lot near the creek channel. It was approximately ten feet wide, twelve feet long, and over eight feet deep. On the bottom was a hard silt layer over eighteen inches thick, which had washed in from the first flood. (Through-out the lower properties of town, It’s common to find a silt layer in all holes that were dug before the 1874 flood.) Above that was a sand and gravel layer from possibly the second flood, then rocks and filled material to the surface.
 There was very little trash in the fill to the surface of this cellar, just a few bottles and some trash from the mid-1870’s in the sand and gravel layer. But under the silt layer on the bottom contained the real treasure. Along the wall from a doorway that exited toward the creek to the North wall and across the floor toward the center, were full bottles and demijohns of wine and bitters laying on their sides. Many were side by side touching each other; others were up into the silt as if moved around by the turbulence of the flood waters.
 After being preserved in the silt of a cool cellar for over 140 years, we recovered six embossed Dr HENLEY’S WILD GRAPE ROOT IXL BITTERS bottles (variant 2 & 3), all with contents. Three IXL bottles are full up into the neck; the other four appear to have been opened with some contents removed, or possibly the cork failed and some contents escaped. . Four additional IXL’s weren’t so lucky and were broken under the weight of big rocks.
 Theirs was a lime green very crude un-embossed bottle with the same shape and size as an embossed IXL in the cellar, also corked with full contents up into the neck. I say was, because we cleaned & removed the cork, poured a few shots, and had a taste while dividing the bottles. It is very pleasant and flavorful. This bottle with contents has gotten a new cork and is being stored for future tasting, along with the wines and IXL bitters in a nice cool wine cellar.
There were a half dozen bottles of wine with full contents buried in the silt. The demijohns weren’t quite so fortunate—they were still corked but empty, and were cracked and broken in place. The silt which was set up hard as stiff clay, held the demijohn bottle together.
We recovered over five hundred intact bottles on this dig, with about two thirds of them being collectable bottles. Besides the bitters, there are whiskies, sodas, inks, patent medicines, pharmacy bottles, and food containers. Its fun to complete a dig and have enough quality bottles to see everyone involved walk away happy and content with their selection from the pick.
The green & empty IXL bottles on the left were dug separate from the cellar. In the next roe are the six from the cellar. From the left, between first & second IXL bottles with contents, in the third roe is the green un-embossed IXL shaped bottle with contents, along with the full wine bottles
Two IXL’s from the picture above after washing, picture taken in natural sunlight.

Thanks Blake for this fantastic post!


  1. A very exciting story and dig. Congratulations on your successful find.

  2. Whoa...! Amazing dig, congratulations! Could we please see more pictures?