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Historians celebrate time capsule artifacts

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Relics and treasures from 101 years ago are on display at the Christian County Historic Courthouse. Materials taken from a time capsule placed in a cornerstone in 1920 were the subject of a dedication ceremony in Ozark on Oct. 23. On the same day, the Christian County Commission, Christian County Historical Society and Museum, Christian County Library, the 43rd Masonic District and other participating organizations dedicated items for a new capsule that will be placed in the courthouse to commemorate 2021.

A time capsule committee of about 20 history experts from Christian County held virtual meetings on Zoom for about a year. They discussed how to locate and extract the time capsule, what to do once they had found and removed it from the wall, what to do with the items found inside, and what to do about placing a new time capsule to commemorate 2021.

In July, Christian County Building Maintenance Supervisor Richard Teague and his staff removed a time capsule from 1921 from the cornerstone of the Christian County Historic Courthouse. There was a lot more too it than simply bashing a hole in a wall and finding the copper box with 100-year-old contents inside.

Initially, the Christian County Building and Maintenance Department, members of the Friends Lodge No. 352 Masonic organization and construction workers doing a project at the courthouse identified three different places where the old time capsule could be.

It was either somewhere near the cornerstone on the northeast corner, under the original base of a flag pole that is no longer present, or in the crawlspace under the building.

A search of the crawlspace ruled it out as the capsule's location, though Teague reported several construction workers inadvertently ingested some spider webs.

The original flag pole is long gone, but its concrete base was still in the ground on the courthouse lawn.

"A bunch of us got excited and we got picks and shovels out, and we started digging," Teague said. "We dug out a 300-400-pound piece of concrete and confirmed that it wasn't in there."

After they fixed the hole in the ground, Hambey Construction donated the use of a concrete scanner, which a technician used to find a void in an exterior wall in the Christian County Recorder of Deeds' Office.

That meant workers needed to tear up part of the wall inside Recorder of Deeds Kelly Hall's office. A structural engineer supervised as construction workers spent a total of nine hours carefully working to remove just enough material to pull the time capsule, a copper box, from a cavity in the wall.

Teague found a small hole in one corner of the box. Using a pair of tin snips, he cut away the top part of the container. The county commissioners and some elected officials looked on as Teague cut into the box.

"Then no one was allowed to touch it," Teague said.

Teague said he was careful not to shake the box or touch any of the contents as he worked. He put the whole thing into a refrigerator, which prevented any mold or mildew from growing in the box or on any of the materials.

A team from the Missouri State Archives came to Ozark and took inventory of everything that was inside the time capsule.

The Missouri State Archives are based out of the Missouri Secretary of State's Office. The Archives have a team of conservators who specialize in preserving old documents and artifacts, and the team works specifically with time capsules. Three conservators came to Ozark to assist in preserving the materials from the Christian County time capsule, and identifying and documenting each item in an inventory list.

Metal items stand a better chance of living through the passage of a century, but a good deal of paper inside the Ozark time capsule lived through the 100 years' time.

"We found quite a few coins and medallions so far, and they have a reference on who donated them. We did have a Bible that they're working on, and a Masonic manual," Field Archivist Leslie James said.

The Masonic book's presence makes sense, as the cornerstone under which the time capsule was placed bears the insignia of the Masonic Square and Compass.

Coins, medallions, documents and books were stored inside special housings that the conservators constructed on the spot in order to protect the items.

Historian and author Wayne Glenn has researched the background of Christian County arguably more than any other living person. While history is often the commemoration of a series of failures, Glenn said that success is also part of the reason why it's important to learn about history in order to understand its impact on a better future.

"A lot of things that have happened in the past are historically important, not only because they were in some cases big failures, but there were also great successes. History is a way to honor ancestors," Glenn said.

Glenn said he has learned good and not-so-good stories about his own ancestors, and while he isn't proud of everything they did, he is proud of his ancestors, because they are part of who he is today.

"That's one of the problems with history, is finding out what the real truth is, so hard to do," Glenn said.

Courthouses are a particular piece of interest for Glenn. The Historic Courthouse, as it is known, on Ozark's downtown square, is actually the third courthouse since Ozark's founding in 1859. Christian County functioned without a courthouse from 1914-1920. Nixa attempted to wrestle away Ozark's status as "the courthouse town," but could not drum up the public votes or the finances to build a courthouse in Nixa.

"It took them six years to build this," Glenn said from the second floor courtroom inside the Historic Courthouse. "Between 1914 and 1920, very little happened except World War I, and so finally in 1920, they had the laying of the cornerstone on the northeast corner of the square."

A list of items for the new time capsule along with an account of its assembly from the stakeholders involved will appear in the next edition of the Headliner News on Nov. 3.

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