The streets in downtown Jefferson were packed in front of the historic Marion County Courthouse on Friday as residents sought a peek of the 106-year-old contents from a recently unearthed time capsule within the building’s walls.
“We had a lot of people come out to see the time capsule from 1913 opened,” Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur said. “Unfortunately, the major flood we had here in 1945 got to it, so we’re going to send the contents over to the Jefferson Historical Museum and see if they can find someone that might can restore some of the contents.”
The most readily recognizable of the water-logged contents included coins, some silver pieces from the 1800s, dimes from the early 19th century and more — easily identified and likely the easiest to restore.
“We had a Bible that was in pretty good shape,” LaFleur said. “Jefferson had three published newspapers at the time the capsule was enclosed inside the cornerstone of the courthouse, so there were articles from each of those.
“There were some letters from residents and there were three newspapers someone had saved from the 1800s.”
LaFleur said knowledge of the time capsule and its whereabouts have been passed down from county judge to county judge, and this year’s $5.7 million restoration was the perfect time to unearth the capsule and replace it with contents from the present for later generations to one day unearth.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research into what kind of capsule or box we could use,” LaFleur said. “Thanks to our technology nowadays, we can make sure that our capsule is air tight so hopefully the contents will be well preserved for 100 or even 200 years.”
LaFleur said, just as with the capsule from June of 1913, the new time capsule will be filled with contents decided from community input and later recorded in the county commissioners’ court meeting minutes.
“The county commissioners in 1913 ordered the time capsule to be encased and recorded it in the meeting minutes,” he said. “Over the next month, I’d like to hold two or three public meetings to get the people’s input on what can go inside this capsule. It’s the people’s courthouse so the people should have input.”
The contents of the new time capsule will have to be decided quickly, as demolition and construction are well underway at the historic courthouse.
Eventually, LaFleur plans to display the contents of the 1913 time capsule at the courthouse in a case for everyone to view.
“It’s part of our history,” he said.