A Dirty Job


One of the most ancient piping materials is clay, with its use dating back to 4000 BC.  From the late 1800s thru early part of 1900s, vitrified clay pipe (with a salt glazing applied to both the pipe’s interior and exterior surfaces, a “carry-over” process from Europe), was the most common pipe used for sewers in the United States.  


Vitrified clay pipe excavated at Hannah’s Hill.

With the installation of a new septic system here at Hannah’s Hill last week, first step was to dig and find the century-old clay sewage pipe near the house.  

Being such a dirty job, we were happy to contract-out this little project. 

We weren’t sure how deep or exactly where it’d be… definitely deeper than the basement floor, and somewhere in the direction going out towards the front pasture. 

After a couple hours of careful digging, we found the clay pipe about 10 ft below surface.  With the old charcoal water filter and cistern nearby, the crew was careful not to disturb these things.  (We may use the cistern one day for landscape-garden irrigation.)

Original clay sewage pipe found! (Eeew.)

New PVC was run from the clay tie-in near the house, under the driveway, out to the pasture and down the hill where we placed the new tank.

Getting ready to tie-in with new PVC.

Can you image having to dig this trench by hand?!  That’s most likely how it was done in the early 1900s when Mr. Kane‘s clay pipes were installed. 

A trenching operation in 1915 used manual labor.

Once the PVC line was roughed in, the septic tank was moved into place.

Then, PVC pipe and electrical wire were attached to the tank.

Additionally, we installed some leach drains, which are the black plastic chambers in the photo below. Most of the processed (clean) water will flow thru these lines and out into the soil.

Leach drains in the front pasture. Hi dobie dogs!

Just beyond the green septic tank, we buried another small tank which holds chlorine. This extra step ensures any water exiting the system beyond the leach drains will have absolutely no bacteria in it.

Once everything tested good, we filled the trenches back in and covered the tanks.

Blaine filling in the driveway trench.

Today, all that can be seen above surface is the aeration pump and a few clean-out caps. We’ll have to put up a little fence around this before putting cattle in the pasture. 

In case you’re wondering, I pilfered thru some of the soil as we dug up the old pipe.  My finds were a rusty cast iron skillet and an old glass pharmacy bottle.  Unfortunately no buried treasure!  🙂  The bottle is from the Illinois Glass Company, incorporated in Alton, IL, and it dates from 1911-1929 according the the marking found on its bottom.  

A found medicine bottle.

While we’re on the topic of bathroom-plumbing-type-stuff, my mom recalls that the house used to have a high tank toilet, like the one shown below.  I would love to put a high-tank water closet back into the house, but I’m struggling to find one at a reasonable price.  Please message me or comment below if you know a good source!


High tank toilet as seen in a Max Rollitt designed English vicarage.

In other news, Blaine and I are officially on the hunt for kitchen countertops. Yesterday was our first day out looking. The countertops will dictate many other decisions such as tile color, kitchen cabinet color, wall and trim color.  The search is on!

Hi babe! 😉

Hope you’re having a nice summer. The recent cooler weather here in southern Illinois has been amazing.  By the way, follow me on Instagram for a glimpse of life and happenings between posts. 


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