UW Today

October 19, 2011

Century-old tool found in dirt near Hansee Hall

News and Information

UW maintenance mechanic Eric Martin seems to know his historical artifacts. It was Martin who figured out what his Maintenance and Alterations crew ran into while excavating outside Hansee Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

At first, with a clank of metal and glimpse of a rusty form, they thought they had struck an old oil tank. But Martin kept investigating, “because it might be an artifact somebody wanted.”

Eric Martin of Maintenance and Alterations shows how the old dirt scraping tool was used.

Eric Martin of Maintenance and Alterations shows how the old dirt scraping tool was used.Mary Levin

Standing over the rusted shape not unlike an overturned truck cab, Martin explained more. “I found the right-hand corner there and as I dug I began to recognize the shape,” he said. “I work with the Issaquah History Museums and we have one of these.

“I call them a drag bucket or a scraper. And it would have a yoke across the front,” he said. “You drag it along the ground and (the) corners would have handles, and as the horse pulled it you would put the edge into the dirt, scoop it up and drag it and then flip the handle, and that would dump the dirt out. Then the horse would come around again and youd just keep scraping the dirt away with this.”

The item was clearly worn out, and Martin guessed that whoever used it last — how many years ago? — just discarded it on the ground.

Maintenance Supervisor Ken Rogers found this photo online, of the same item in much better condition.

Maintenance Supervisor Ken Rogers found this photo online, of the same item in much better condition.

The horse-drawn bucket scoop does not appear to be of any particular historical value. Martin and crew took it with them when they left, perhaps to hang it awhile in their shop.

As for Martins expertise in identifying old landscaping implements, colleague Eric Brihagen said, “Erics our connection to the Old World.”