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Local couple keep family tradition alive, make important find

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- John and Donna Huntsberger dug up a new interest a few years ago.

Already pottery collectors on a smaller scale -- after all, John Huntsberger's great-grandfather, Theodore Fleet, was a potter -- the couple truly became hooked on it after discovering more than 130 crocks, bowls, jugs and various other clay containers under a rental property they owned in town, which has a rich history of pottery dating back to the Civil War.

The pieces appeared to make a drain line that was about 31/2 feet deep and ran for more than 165 feet, including through the home's foundation, Mrs. Huntsberger said.

The discovery came as Huntsberger worked to find the root of a problem the couple had with the foundation. The issue, it turned out, was that it sat on top of the drain made of pottery.

The pieces of pottery, which had their bottoms busted out, were highly decorative, Mrs. Huntsberger said. They range in size, with a 6-gallon jug being the largest.

The couple guesses that somebody tried laying the groundwork for a form of indoor plumbing, which didn't exist at the time the pottery was made. Instead of having to repeatedly move a filled-up outhouse around the yard and dig a new hole, the pottery drain was constructed, Mrs. Huntsberger said. Her husband, who has documented the story of the pottery discovery, thinks a "flusher" was on the property.

"With a flusher, a drain line was installed at a certain depth in the outhouse pit so that the refuse could drain off to a form of a septic tank or the town's own sewer system," he states in his summary. "So I am leaning towards this explanation as to the drain line's purpose, but will continue to try to find out definitely who laid it and why."

Some of the pottery the Huntsbergers have collected will be part of a new exhibit celebrating Strasburg's history with pottery at Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown. The display opens today and runs through the end of the month.

The Huntsbergers, who estimate the drain to be from around 1885, now seek pottery that was made in Strasburg as they travel. They even have a man in Maryland who repairs pieces they own.

This is all the result of some well-timed soil searching.

"It really got us into it," Mrs. Huntsberger said.


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