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Time Capsule Opening Kicks Off Sesquicentennial

By Staff | Jun 10, 2008

IS IT IN THERE? - Steve Finer reaches down to brush dirt off the Centennial Time Capsule as Ron Mullen waits to dig more dirt Thursday evening in the Courthouse Square. The 50-year old time capsule, burined in1958, was unearthed and opened last Thursday to officially kick-off the Palo Alto County Sesquicentennial. More photos can be found on pages five and six of this issue of The Reporter.--Dan Voigt photo

After being postponed a week due to rain, the official start to the Palo Alto County Sesquicentennial came off without a hitch Thursday night, but once again with a threat of rain hanging over the event. Several members of the Sesquicentennial committee, Emmetsburg City Council members and area residents excavated the capsule from its 50-year residence under the lawn of the Palo Alto County Courthouse.

Mayor John Schad spearheaded the excavation of the capsule, which was buried at the conclusion of Palo Alto County’s Centennial Celebration in July of 1958. The capsule was buried along the sidewalk leading to the northwest corner of Courthouse Square, and a small cement slab and marker placed over its resting place.

“I’ve been told it’s between two and five feet deep,” Mayor Schad told the assemblage of people as he and city council members Steve Finer and Brian Campbell turned the first shovels of dirt. Others took turns digging, and within five minutes, a loud “thunk” was heard as a spade made contact with the capsule. More digging soon revealed the top of a box, about a foot wide and 18 inches long, with wire handles in the lid.

More digging ensued to uncover the sides of the box and a length of chain was hooked to the two handles. With the muscles of a half-dozen individuals, the box, a good two feet tall, was hoisted from the hole and placed on the courthouse lawn.

The lid had been sealed shut with tar, prompting a call for a hammer and pry bar. City council member Corey Gramowski produced the needed items and with just a couple of taps, the cover opened, unofficially, but was quickly shut, as the committee assembled.

The official opening of the lid revealed a black bowler hat and the remains of a bow tie, belonging to Mayor JC Nicholson that was worn during the 1958 Centennial, on top of a pile of newspapers and other documents. The newspapers and documents appeared to be in relatively good condition, however somewhat damp from the condensation from humidity in the box when it was sealed.

With the threat of rain becoming more real, the capsule and its contents were loaded into a pickup and transported to the Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce, where they were given a chance to dry out. They are on limited display at this time at the Chamber Community Room and will be put on a more public display prior to the Sesquicentennial.

“We are welcoming people to bring items that they would like to see placed in the new time capsule,” noted Cecelia Miller, Director of the Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce and member of he Sesquicentennial committee. “We would like to have some item from each of the nine communities in Palo Alto County to put in the new time capsule that would be representative of that community.”

The new time capsule will feature items from the current time, including newspapers and other memorabilia. The Sesquicentennial Time Capsule will be buried on Sunday, July 6, as the final official event of the Palo Alto County Sesquicentennial.