What Was a Honey Wagon?- The Job of a Night Soil Scavenger

What Was a Honey Wagon?-  The Job of a Night Soil Scavenger

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Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum– Photo-Founded on a rock this town. Think back to no indoor plumbing. Outhouses needed to be emptied. Where did all the poo go? Behold the Honey Wagon dumping ground! #poop#honeywagon#outhouses#carletonplace#rowonrow#greatsoil#historyisfun


Somewhere behind the old Carambeck School/Community Centre in Carleton Place there lies what appears to be rows of earth that maybe once was created by agriculture. In fact if you look around closely on the outskirts of any village, town or city you might come across the very same thing.

“You smell that Jimmy?” 
“Hey I know that smell from somewhere! “
“That’s right Jimmy that smell is from the local honey wagon!”





A honey wagon was a large sacred vehicle which carried a tank filled with human feces, which was found inside of the “honey holes”, and was transported to a secluded location where sometimes it was dried and then scraped up to be disposed of elsewhere. Sometimes it was just left there to ferment.

In the good old days there was no such thing as proper sewer drains. Most town and city streets had open sewers running down them in to which all kinds of waste was thrown. There was in theory at least a system of refuge collection to clean up the streets that were littered with rotting food, dung, animal corpses, human feces and other waste products. But the cleaning up system was sporadic and not carried out effectively enough. In fact I have read local town  newspaper notices advising people that Spring was just around the corner and to stop throwing their garbage out the windows to the streets below. Yes, that would be you Carleton Place!

In addition people had to make do with burying much of their waste material in a cesspit either in their cellar or in the garden. Technically these were supposed to be emptied regularly, but many were not. The stench was overwhelming not only in summer but in winter as well.




The Honey Wagon From the Lethbridge Historical Society


When you ask about the worst, most dirty/horrible jobs many people immediately respond with coal mining.

In 1907 the Lethbridge City Council decided that a scavenger should be hired. The duties of the scavenger would be to clean the privies (outhouses) and pick up garbage but also to remove the dead animals from the coulees. The winter of 1906-07 was a legendary one for the cold and snow. Come spring there was said to be 40 head of cattle found dead around the coulees and community of Lethbridge (many, many more out across the country). It was the scavenger’s responsibility to collect and remove the dead animals. They then had to be buried or burned. The said would dispose of the hides of the animals.

Eventually the job of dead animal scavenger would be separated from the job of “Night Soil Scavenger”. This rather intriguing job title belonged to the person who cleaned the outhouses around town. In September 1909 E.P. Mee was contracted at $25/week. The city would supply the lime. Then, of course, all of those lucky people who had to clean out the bed pans and other indoor toilets. Lucky, lucky people.– Lethbridge Historical Society


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)



Penny Trafford– All along the houses on McArthur and Napoleon to Lake Avenue there is an 8 foot allowance that separates properties owned by the town which was the Honey Wagon lane.


Headbangers Arrested in Calgary Sewer – Canadian Insanity Needs to Go Viral!

Beware of Germ Ridden Phantom Limbo Dancers – Public Bathrooms

Outhouses Need to Be Cleaned– Conditions of Our Rural School– 1897

Cisterns I Have Known

Hats Off Carleton Place! — A Hard Wood Makeover-Before and After

The Outhouse is Trending Again!

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. Have often wondered what those furrows beyond Carambeck were. Skied over them many times. Thanks for the info. Your articles are great.
    Bob Giles, Beckwith

    Liked by 1 person

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