It’s Hard to Find a Good Outhouse, and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say


I drove over to this abandoned church yesterday afternoon, the Princess in tow, due to two completely separate emails that sent me on an intrepid quest to dig deeper into its place in outhouse history. Or, you know, traipse around on other people’s property and take pictures.

I had gotten an email recently from Lisa Carper Stott with the local historical society who is working to document various little known and almost lost sites in Roane County. She’s been trying to find out the name of the church pictured in this outhouse post. The name of the church is worn off the sign. I figured I’d mosey over and see if I could find anything on closer inspection. Plus, I’d gotten an email from a reporter working on an article about abandoned outhouses and the people (like me) who (weirdly) photograph and write about them. He was looking for a few quotes from me about my interest in photographing and writing about old outhouses. He also wanted a picture of me with an outhouse. (If my quotes and photo make it into the article, I’ll post all the info about it when it’s published.)

So I went over to my cousin’s house to pick up Morgan, who’d gone to church with Georgia yesterday. (Yes, I was too lazy to go!) I asked my cousin if he knew the name of that old church. He didn’t know but he had a couple lines to give me on who might. The Princess wanted to go straight home, but I told her we had to drive over to the old church with the outhouses so she could take my picture there. (It’s only a few miles away.) Having accompanied me on various other intrepid quests, she didn’t even question this plan.

I made her model for me first. She looks excited, doesn’t she?

She took a few pictures of me looking into the women’s outhouse.

Remember that giant seat for the women’s giant bottoms? That still seems so wrong.

Then she wouldn’t give me the camera back and I had to chase her down and beg for it.

I took a few extra pics of the inside of the outhouse and the giant potty seat.

Because I’m weird.

Then, in a case of serendipity that can only occur when you are as intrepid as I am, the son of the man who owns the church property came by and I was able to find out that the church was called Red Knob Union Church. Actually, he came by because he lives up the road and he thought I was there to vandalize it. Luckily, he didn’t shoot first and ask questions later.

I haven’t done an outhouse post in a while–though not for lack of interest. I had mentioned to the reporter that it’s hard to find a good outhouse. A lot of outhouses are either revamped into something else or falling part or somewhat modernized, so I’m often disappointed when I (lawlessly) creep into one.

Then it occurred to me what a weird thing that was to say at all. It’s hard to find a good outhouse has to rank right up there with various other statements I’ve made in the past year that I would never have predicted would come out of my mouth, including but not limited to, I’m sorry, I’m in a hurry, I have to go home and milk my goat, and I make my own laundry detergent.

Or, you know, and I must say uttered very appropriately a couple weeks ago while selling hot dogs at the middle school girls’ basketball game concession stand, Can I have your horse poop?


  1. beekudzu says:

    I’ve seen that same look on my daughter’s face a few times. Thank Goodness, that’s not her permanent look or I’d have to sell her.

    I love the church. I love the outhouse. I love that you love outhouses. But I really love the excuse, “I’m sorry, I’m in a hurry. I have to go home and milk my goat.” Even though I don’t have a goat, I think I’m going to use that one!

  2. Heidi says:

    I LOVE old buildings!! anyway to get into it and take a couple of pictures??? I can give you a leg up through the window!!!

  3. jane says:

    Me too. Did the son let you in the old church? Now theres a story and a picture. Red Knob Union Church – what denomination is that? When I was in High School my friends and Iwould go on Saturdays and take pictures at old cemeteries, old small towns, houses, old schools – I still have them. One time we went to Bell Plains, Texas – abandoned after around 1900. there was a rock fence around the old town and you could see where the hitching posts were for the horses, the jail, saloon, hotel. the houses were dug underground too and you could see their wells. there was an old one room school and abandoned music college. loved it.

    One time we went to a midget house so to speak and took pictures. we dressed in 1900 clothing too. the front of the hosue had a large window in the door and on each side that was etched glass. there was a well on the back porch. the stairway was so narrow and the door frams only 5 feet. then the ownere was checking on his blind cow – drove up, slammed on his brakes in his pickup, got his shot gun out and ran toward us. we had to do some fast thinking, story planning and talking to get out of it too. we told him we were in college and doing project for english class – he let us go.

    Hope they do a story you can post for us. so fascinating too.

  4. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Jane, at least around here, a “union” church means that it’s several denominations coming together in one church building (because the population isn’t enough to warrant separate buildings). They pool resources for the building and each week a different preacher comes–one Sunday the Baptist one comes, the next the Methodist one comes, etc. The little church in town we go to is like that. And for the most part everyone comes every Sunday even if it isn’t “their” preacher’s Sunday. There are preachers who just do this, go around once a month on their rotation to the different union churches in tiny towns.

  5. MARY says:

    :treehugger: That’s interesting about the Union Churches; I have never heard of that. I like the pic of you running after Princess! Running from the outhouse! LOL!! They would definitely love that! Beautiful church. Good luck!! :butterfly:

  6. mim says:

    Suzanne or anybody out there interested in alpaca poop?? Alpaca poop can be used immediately.. No waiting..The guy who has been taking it is going to move from my area in March.

  7. heidiannie says:

    That’s a beautiful old building- I hope he did let you in to take pictures inside! That didn’t look like a functioning outhouse anymore! I think the big seats were to give the ladies some reassurance that they wouldn’t fall in ( and the little children, as well- I remember using an outhouse as a small child and I was so worried about falling in that I couldn’t “go”!).

  8. Mel says:

    I love abandoned buildings such as old churches, old school houses, old barns, and yes, outhouses. Growing up my Uncle Tom had an outhouse, well, he had updated to a flushable toilet, however, the outhouse was still up and operating. As kids we used to use the outhouse rather than going all the way inside to go potty (makes you wonder, how on earth did they go outside in the middle of the night, below zero, sit on a frozen seat that alone would keep me from being able to function properly, if you know what I mean…) I must say, that has to be the hugest seat I’ve ever laid eyes on!

    I love going into old abandoned houses in search of treasures. Would love to convert an old school or church like the one you shared with us, into a house. (Love the old stained glass windows, the thought of pews as furniture etc. Now, that we have converted a dairy barn into a home and horse stables time for a new project.

  9. Kathryn says:

    Good morning from Key West! I have been kidnapped for a long weekend away by my Himself, and am loving it. I can take you to several great outhouses in my county in Illinois. Three in my town that have been preserved!

  10. wammy says:

    You aren’t the only one that loves a good outhouse. One year for our anniversary, my husband pulls up in his truck with an old outhouse. It took four neighbors, shaking their heads and uttering unkind comments, to unload it. We put it out in the back of our backyard and used it to store all the gardening equipment. When we moved the movers and the company my husband works for refused to move it. So it still sits in a yard in WI.

  11. Jodie says:

    I personally OWN an outhouse. It’s slowly decaying in Bandera County Texas. I pay school and county taxes on a little bit of property there at Medina Lake. It’s kept for sentimental reasons. The old “cabin” is a WWII quansit hut that my parents got for $25. I think the land cost $75 in the ’50s. The roof is falling in on the cabin. I think someone tipped the outhouse or it’s just falling over. And the big tragedy is someone took a sledge hammer to my Dad’s brick BBQ pit!!! I started crying when I saw it on my last visit to soak up a little cedar allergy and remind myself of family times past in the 60s and 70s with my family. SO Yes a good outhouse is hard to find, but I know where I used to use one! Daddy Long Leg spiders, wasps and all. Eek, I really was a scaredy cat about the spiders and wasps so my Dad had to get them all out before I could use the facilties. Ack ack… going back to WORK today. 🙁

  12. Angie says:

    I’m a big fan of old outhouses too! The outhouse was one of the things that really drew me to our home here in the country. Ours is a three-seater! Two adult height holes and one lower hole for little ones. I want to dig a new pit for it and move it closer to my barn where it might actually prove useful at times. Dh just keeps *poo-pooing* my idea though. I know I have a blog entry about it stored away waiting for just the right time to post it… Now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I just might have to go searching for it!

  13. Nancy in Atlanta says:

    I love the old, nostalgic buildings, too, but I found my favorite outhouse on a portion of the Appalachian Trail many years ago. I think it was near the shelter on Blood Mountain in Georgia – down on the slope stood a 3-sided outhouse built by the Ga ATC. Inside was an actual porcelain toilet over the hole, and the front was wide open so you could sit there and admire the view. You could also see the tiny cars on the highway below! :catmeow:

  14. SuzieQ says:

    First time I ever saw an outhouse was when, as a child, we went to visit my uncle and his family in Va. When I had to go my mom walked me down the path to the outhouse…she waited and waited and waited some more…finally she knocked on the door and asked what was taking me SO LONG…I was so embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t figure out where the handle was to FLUSH…

  15. Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife says:

    I stand next to you in the task of photographing and chronicling the old buildings before they crumble into the ground. The old folks who knew the history of the area are all dying off. The same is true of my family’s land in rural Tennessee. The outhouses in northern Illinois are long, long gone. The farm houses and barns are now falling at an alarming rate. The tobacco barns in Tennessee are becoming as scarce as hen’s teeth.

    Thank goodness for the historical societies for preserving a record of what’s gone before.

    I’m sure that outhouse was quite the beauty in it’s day. My grandmother had one behind her little retirement house in Palmyra, Tennessee until they finally finished her indoor bathroom in 1975.

    The local historical inn and farm gives tours where costumed volunteers explain the purpose of the potty jar as if it was ancient history. We used them when visiting the relatives in the 1960’s. HA.

    Thanks for the photos of the outhouses. I love them and they bring up many memories. HA HA HA.

    – Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

  16. Amy says:

    Isn’t it funny, the turns life takes?

  17. Cathy J says:

    I think many people used a “Thunder Mug” on cold, dark nights… I have my grandma’s.

  18. Magdalena Scott says:


    When I was about ten years old and my cousin was nine, her dad bought a new camera and wanted to take artsy pictures. I remember at the time wishing he’d leave us alone, but now I’m glad he made us stand around by my grandparents’ outhouse, and down by the board fence, etc., in the brisk breeze. Those things aren’t there anymore, but he chronicled a bit of our family’s past (including two unsmiling girls with tangled hair–oh well).

    If you wonder again about the name of an old church, you might get help from a local funeral home. I know our local funeral directors know the names and locations of every church and grave yard in the county, and there are hundreds! Just a thought…

  19. Melanie says:

    Until just 2 or 3 years ago, we finally managed to get my great-aunt to move out of her house in the country, the house she grew up in and never moved out of. There was no indoor plumbing. She is probably in her 50’s or 60’s, so until just recently, she has been using an outhouse her entire life. Unbelievable!
    The house had to be burned down. It wasn’t fit to live in. I wish now that I had taken a picture of it, though. My parents keep a camper parked on the spot now, and spend weekends there.

  20. Ellen says:

    OK, I have a never-would-have-thought-it-could-come-out-of-my mouth statement for you. I grew up on a farm in Missouri but found myself working in a remote village in the northern part of our continent. A family had a feast one day that I was graciously invited to. On my way home, I looked at my friend, and commented that I had “beaver stuck in my teeth”. Not something I could have anticipated me ever saying but I love that about new experiences. Love your blog! Thank you.

  21. Jo Lynn says:

    This may be a dumb idea but none the less…was the women’s seat so big in order to assist with skirts and keeping them from getting dirty? Just a random thought.

  22. Leah says:

    Back in the old days…they had an old saying…Well, s*** and fall back in it! Guess there was’nt an abundance of out house either.

  23. Leah says:

    I must comment on the picture of Clover’s sister. She is so pretty! If I remember right, does’nt she have a white crescent marking on both sides, and Clover just on one side?

  24. catslady says:

    Ugh outhouses lol. Spiders and creepy crawlies in the summer and you freeze your @ss off in the winter. I lost a shoe in knee deep snow once trying to get to one.

  25. Estella says:

    There’s nothing wrong with asking for someones horse poop. I’ve asked my BF’s dad for his horse poop several times.

  26. Brandy says:

    That old Church makes me wonder who married there, was babtized there, died there. *G* Thanks for sharing your pictures and the words you never thought you’d utter. *G*

  27. Tori Lennox says:

    We’re outhouse fans at our house, too. Fun times!

  28. Susan says:

    I can’t decide which photo I am enjoying most… Princess looking oh so happy or you trying to get the camera back! :flying:

  29. Terry says:

    Oh, outhouses. My sister related an outhouse story to me awhile back. She was the youngest and a bit scared of the dark, so she would try and try to wake me up to go with her and finally when we got out there, she said I kept yelling at her to hurry up. She got so nervous and upset at my yelling she couldn’t go, so back to bed we went. Poor kid, she should have just used the “slop jar” we had in a closet. LOL. Every house we moved to out in the country, Daddy had to build an indoor bathroom. Gotta love the good ole days. Terry

  30. mmHoney says:


  31. Cranberry says:

    Had my share of outhouses when vacationing at the cabin, any pics of the inside of that sweet old church? It’s adorable! :sheepjump:

  32. Donna says:

    What a scream!!! LOL I think that is hilarious about those large bottomed potty seats. LOL LOL LOL

  33. Bev Sansom says:

    When I was a child in the 50’s, one of our family friends lived in a victorian house in the country and had an outhouse. I wasn’t raised with an outhouse, but I frequented them many times. These folks were much older than my parents and kept their property in perfect shape. Every Saturday morning Mr. B would open up the back flap of the outhouse, place contents in a bucket and throughly scrub out the base and lime the concrete slab. (This was as far as I went.) He would go and bury the contents. Voila, a beautiful outhouse. Inside was just as clean. Freshly painted and wallpapered. Thanks, Suzanne.

  34. Donna says:

    :snoopy: Love your website ~

  35. Angela says:

    Where is that church located please?
    [email protected]


Add Your Thoughts