Pay attention to chance encounters. Gary Roberts and Mayor Dave Wood did. As a result, a time capsule has been unearthed from the base of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Battell Park, now waiting for its historic contents to be revealed — some of which could be more than a century old.
Wood says city officials weren’t aware of a time capsule before contractors recently started to demolish the monument’s base — all part of the city’s $800,000 project to rehab the Civil War monument, which was built in 1884. It wasn’t until Wood ran into Roberts at Kamm Island Fest on July 17 that Roberts mentioned there might be a capsule.
The city alerted contractors, and sure enough, a backhoe knocked into the capsule.
The metal box is sodered and sealed shut, now protected in the mayor’s office, though Wood said, “We shook it and it sounded like there was moisture in it.”
Heard rumors that a time capsule existed in the base of Soldiers & Sailors monument at Battell Park decades ago. We let crews know to be on the lookout & sure enough, a time capsule was discovered. It’s battered but in one piece. Now to figure out a cool way to open it. pic.twitter.com/6ZUuymNWMO
— Dave Wood, Mayor (@MishawakaMayor) August 13, 2019
“We’re trying to find a way to open it in public and have the public involved,” he said.
Neither he nor Roberts knew the contents, but a South Bend Tribune clip from 1967 states that, in that year, a time capsule was discovered in the statue’s base while the base was being rebuilt.
While the newspaper clip doesn’t say how old the original capsule was, it states that the box contained “various historic papers, old coins, a clay pipe and a euchre card deck.”
It goes on to state: “The articles which survived the march of time were re-cemented into the new base, along with city records from the current year and a 1967 almanac.”
Roberts is a local electrician and brother of a Mishawaka police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2003, Cpl. Thomas Roberts.
As it turns out, Gary Roberts had heard about the capsule from his father-in-law, John Baker, of Mishawaka. Baker told the Tribune on Wednesday that his father, the late Ward Baker, had been involved with the capsule.
Ward Baker helped with the capsule since he’d been active in the Mishawaka Historical Society, having done a lot of research on the Civil War and having donated several historical materials to the Mishawaka library, John Baker said. But he didn’t think Mishawaka High School, where his dad had taught for several years, was involved in the project.
As part of the city’s current restoration project, McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, of Oberlin, Ohio, removed the statue of a Civil War soldier in mid-July to restore it. A quote on the monument states, “The war for the Union was right.” When it returns next spring, the statue will stand on a new base that is already built at Battell Park, 100 feet to the west, where it will be more visible, lighted at night and part of a new Veterans Plaza, featuring an array of flags for each branch of the service.
As for the time capsule, that 1967 article had been a tad optimistic about the newly rebuilt base, stating: “If the new concrete foundation should prove effective, it may be another hundred years before Mishawaka residents may get a glimpse into the time box.”
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