Nova Scotia

Sewer work in Amherst unearths collection of antique bottles

Glass bottles from the 1800s and early 1900s that were found buried near a sewer line will be added to an exhibit at the Cumberland County Museum and Archives.

Unique bottles set to be exhibited at Cumberland County Museum

These are just a few of bottles that Nancy Allen found buried in her yard. The brown bottle on the far right has been positively identified as a malt/beer bottle that was used from the 1880s into the 1920s. (Natasha Richard )

Nancy Allen was struck by a wave a curiosity when she looked into a freshly dug hole in her lawn. Down near her sewer line were dozens of objects covered in years worth of muck and dirt — she wasn't sure what they were, but she wanted a closer look. 

"When you live in a relatively older area you never know what you're going to come up with," she said. 

Work crews dug up Allen's yard in October 2015 to fix her sewer line. Her house was built on Victoria Street East in Amherst, N.S., in 1904 and Allen has lived there for most of her 70-plus years. 

After hauling the objects out of the hole, she realized it was a collection of glass bottles. It wasn't clear exactly what kind of bottles they were because there was so much dirt encrusted on them. Allen soaked them in water and was able to scrub the dirt off. 

Richard believes that some of these bottles may have been used for medication, ink or holding cooking and baking extracts. (Natasha Richard)

She was hunting for any kind of name or date on the bottles that could tell her how they ended up in her yard. 

"We love history... We're not young people anymore but my husband and I both love antiques. When you become one you [have] quite a different look at antiques yourself." 

Allen discovered names on a few of the bottles and based on their shape believes they may have been medicine bottles from the 1800s. 

Because the bottles were so unusual, Allen donated them to the Cumberland County Museum in the hopes they would be able to identify them. 

'Some are quite unique'

So far the museum has been able to positively identify one of the bottles. The large brown bottle inscribed with name Johann Hoff was a malt or beer bottle that was used from 1880 to the 1920s, said Natasha Richard of the Cumberland County Museum and Archives.

Some of the other bottles may have indeed been used for medications. Others appear to have been used for ink while the smaller bottles may have held cooking and baking extracts.

Most of the bottles appear to have been made in the 1800s or the early to mid-1900s, said Richard.

"Some are quite unique," said Richard, "We'd like to exhibit them at some point, add them into the existing exhibit of bottles we have." 

Allen is happy the bottles have been given a good home but hopes her sewer line stays intact so there's no reason to dig up any more of her yard's buried history.