MARK KIESLING: Fence foray finds backyard treasure

2012-10-28T00:00:00Z 2012-12-20T21:25:33Z MARK KIESLING: Fence foray finds backyard treasure nwitimes.com
October 28, 2012 12:00 am

As the old saying sort of goes, one man's buried trash is another man's buried treasure.

Now, when most people think of buried treasure, they think of pirates or sunken galleons in the Caribbean or South Seas, filled with gold, silver and jewels.

The first thing that comes to mind would likely not be a glass bottle from a Hegewisch pharmacy.

And yet.

About 20 years ago, Karl Seger had bought a golden retriever and needed to fence in his yard on Burley Avenue in the far southeast corner of Chicago.

Digging a hole for a fence post, about 18 inches down he felt his digger hit something.

"I found the bottles," said Seger, who now lives in St. John. "Two old bottles with raised lettering and that bubble glass. One of them was for a local pharmacy; the other was for Hires Extract.

"It's a miracle they didn't break. I washed them out, didn't use any chemicals or anything. I displayed them for a while, they're kind of antique."

But he moved to Villa Park, then to St. John about 10 years ago, and the bottles remained packed away. "I didn't think they really had any kind of value," Seger said.

I picked up one of the fragile containers and read the raised inscription. "A.C. Klucker, Druggist," it read, with an address of 13332 S. Erie.

The numbers fit Hegewisch all right, but not the name. This is where a little historical detective work came in.

As Chicago began to annex local towns, including Hyde Park, South Chicago and Hegewisch, it changed the names of streets that conflicted with existing streets in the city.

As Erie was one of those, somewhere in the early teens of the 20th century, Erie became Baltimore Avenue, which it remains today.

"So that address really dates the bottle," Seger said. He took a picture of the bottle, and displayed it on the Facebook site "You Know You're From Hegewisch When ..."

Also reading the site was June Klucker, the great-great-granddaughter of A.C. "That opened the door for her to get in touch with me," Seger said, and the two have communicated through Facebook. They are set to meet in Chicago on Dec. 7.

"She offered to buy it, but I said it was a family heirloom, a family artifact, and that she can have it," Seger said.

I'm going to try to be there when he gives her the bottle. More on that later.

"Still," Seger said, "it makes me wonder what else I could have found if I had dug more."

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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