Downtown development digs up history
While digging for Rosemount's future, construction crews working on the redevelopment of downtown found relics of the past. During the excavation of Core Block East crews found debris from an old outhouse pit that once served a foundry located on the property.
After finding various items Rosemount Historical Society president Gerald Mattson asked Stonebridge Companies, the developer for the project, if he could look at the debris and if crews could help him look deeper down for more.
Stonebridge president Wally Johnson agreed to let crews dig out the hole and allowed the historical society member to root around because he was curious what they would find.
"This was totally unique to this site," said Johnson. "I've never encountered anything like it."
Mattson and other members of the Rosemount Historical Society had dug into the old outhouse pit once before a few years ago. At that time they didn't find much and had to stop because the pit goes down further than they had the man power for. The debris goes down 18 feet, which is quite deep for such a hole, Mattson said.
"We were surprised it went down so far," he said. "It's one of several really deep pits we've found in Rosemount."
A foundry owned by J. Nehley occupied the land until it burned down along with a mill that was across the street in 1887.
In the hole Mattson said they found items consistent with such a business. Items taken out of the hole included large metal pieces that Mattson believes were horse carriage springs, old glassware, a small shoe and crock shards that date back to the 1880s.
"There wasn't anything significant in there but it backs up the history of the property," said Mattson.
After the foundry burned down, the land was purchased by Margaret and Frank Gollon, who built a house there. The house was torn down a few years ago when the city took ownership of the property for redevelopment.
With permission from the city, historical society members have dug up outhouse pits on downtown lots marked for redevelopment in search of relics since 2005. Most of the lots were located on the Core Block East property which is east of Robert Trail. They also received permission to dig one hole on the old St. Joseph's church lot.
Thousands of artifacts have been found in the 20-some sites historical society members have dug up, Mattson said. In addition to using outhouses as bathroom receptacles, early residents used the privies as a place to get rid of trash.
Residents can view some of the more interesting items that have been found in the Rosemount Historical Society's display case at the Rosemount Community Center. Although none of the items on display now are from the Stonebridge hole Mattson said they may put some up at a later date.