Before septic systems were put into use, rural homeowners had small buildings in the backyard known by various names “outhouse”, “privy”, “latrine”, and names that were not necessarily polite.
Built by the property owners, they could be one or two holer. The crescent moon cutout and the star cutout on the door of some outhouses goes back to Colonial times. In a time when few people could read, the crescent moon was the symbol for women while the star cutout was for men. The cutout also let light into the outhouse as there were usually no windows. They often had bushes or tall flowers planted along the path for privacy.
Outhouses were usually placed near the back door of residences for convenience. A trip to the privy could mean wading through mud or snow during cold, wet weather. Maybe convenient, but not a pleasant experience. Most people kept a chamber pot under the bed so they didn’t have to make the trip at night. Then emptied the pot in the morning.
Magazines or the Sears catalog was used as paper and even shelled corncobs for cleanup. It was not uncommon to dodge wasps and flies while occupying the outhouse. Wood/coal ashes or lime sprinkled periodically kept odors down.
To reduce the waste buildup, they had to be dug out and the waste hauled away.
Works Progress Administration was created in 1939 during the Depression. Workers built outhouses for residences to provide jobs for the unemployed. They were well built and were used in many rural communities for many years until septic systems replaced them.
To learn more about this topic, watch for Part 2 and Part 3 posting soon. For more information about buying or selling a home, contact Liz Allen, Realtor at (740) 704-9095