Madi­son County: Time cap­sule from 1909 un­earthed from court­house

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Charles Pritchard cpritchard@onei­dadis­patch.com

WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. » Fi­nally un­earthed af­ter more than 100 years, the Madi­son County Court­house time cap­sule was opened Mon­day and gave a glimpse into the past.

Madi­son County of­fi­cials re­moved the time cap­sule while the court­house un­der­goes con- struc­tion. Orig­i­nally placed on Jan. 7, 1909, the cap­sule con­tained an ar­ray of doc­u­ments and items, in­clud­ing coins, pho­tographs, county news­pa­pers, lists of county of­fi­cials, the county char­ter, lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion mem­ber­ship rolls and more.

In the cen­tury since the cap­sule was first placed be­neath the court­house cor­ner­stone, much has changed, said Madi­son County Chair­man of the Board John Becker. Re­frig­er­a­tion, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of au­to­mo­biles, jet planes, rock­ets, atomic en­ergy and tele­vi­sion are a hand­ful of things that ei­ther didn’t ex­ist or were in their in­fancy in 1909. The world has also seen two World Wars that re­drew maps on a

“It’s very im­por­tant for Ma­sons be­cause we get to see­what we did be­fore our grand­fa­thers were here.”

—Ron McDer­mott, a lo­cal Ma­son

global scale, as well as wars in Viet­nam, the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Pres­i­dent Kennedy was as­sas­si­nated. The moon land­ing hap­pened. New Mex­ico and Ari­zona be­came states in 1912. Hawaii and Alaska be­came states in 1959. 9/11 hap­pened,” Becker said. “Peo­ple would never be able to dream what the world would be like to­day. And when we put this back to­gether, we can only guess what the next 100 years will be like.”

De­spite be­ing sealed within a cop­per box, time was not the kind­est to the con­tents of the cap­sule. “We were afraid of this pos­si­bil­ity,” said Madi­son County His­to­rian Matthew Urtz as he gen­tly sifted through wa­ter­logged doc­u­ments. Some of the doc­u­ments were still leg­i­ble, but most were in what Urtz de­scribed as “poor” con­di­tion - though he stressed they were sal­vage­able. Wear­ing gloves so as not to dam­age the items fur­ther, Urtz care­fully re­moved and pre­sented each item to a gath­ered crowd at the county of­fice build­ing, ex­plain­ing the im­por­tance of each as he went.

Of in­ter­est to present­day Ma­sons were the reg­istries from lo­cal Ma­sonic Lodges stored within the cap­sule. Becker noted that, in 1909, there were more than 3,000 Ma­sonic mem­bers in Madi­son County alone. Though their num­bers aren’t that high now, lo­cal Ma­sons were still in at­ten­dance to see the his­toric event.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity be­cause of the his­tory,” said Ron McDer­mott, a lo­cal Ma­son. “I think the Ma­sons play a small part, but an im­por­tant part.”

Richard Mor­ley, the se­nior grand war­den of the Grand Lodge of the state of New York, noted that the cor­ner­stone of the court­house was laid in the north­east cor­ner, a trade­mark of Ma­son con­struc­tion. The in­scrip­tion on the cor­ner­stone also notes that it was placed on Jan. 7, 1909, by the “Grand Lodge of free and ac­cepted Ma­sons of the state of New York.”

“It’s very im­por­tant for Ma­sons be­cause we get to see what we did be­fore our grand­fa­thers were here,” Mor­ley said.

Other Ma­sons in at­ten­dance in­cluded Ralph Haney, master of the TriVal­ley Ma­sonic Lodge; Jim Wight­man, master of the Cazen­ovia lodge; and Wal­ter Boronow, sec­re­tary of the Tri-Val­ley Lodge.

Other items of in­ter­est in­cluded gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments with their red tape still in­tact, a prac­tice from which orig­i­nated the term “red tape,” Urtz said.

County pa­pers, in­clud­ing an edi­tion of The Dis­patch, were also bun­dled among county reg­istries, though the wa­ter dam­age made them dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate. Urtz said af­ter they dry, he’s hop­ing to be able to look through them.

“It was an un­for­tu­nate oc- cur­rence; we weren’t ex­pect­ing the dam­age,” Records Man­age­ment Co­or­di­na­tor Kevin Orr said. “Be­ing that the build­ing is over 100 years old, wa­ter dam­age and seep­age was un­de­tected.”

“We’ve got staff here who know how to take care of records and I’m cer­tain they’ll be able to pre­serve them,” Town of Madi­son Su­per­vi­sor and Chair­man of the Build­ing and Grounds Com­mit­tee Ron­ald Bono said.

Urtz said the county will also look to work with lo­cal col­leges to help pre­serve and cat­a­logue the items.

Bono said the time cap­sule was opened now to give the pub­lic a chance to see ev­ery­thing.

“Thirty days from now, the new time cap­sule will be cov­ered up,” Bono said.

Un­til then, mem­bers of the board of su­per­vi­sors and Madi­son County of­fi­cials are reach­ing out on so­cial me­dia to get ideas from the pub­lic about what should go back into the time cap­sule.

“We need some­thing that tells peo­ple where we live now,” Bono said. “Some­thing that tells about our life­style.”

“I thought the coins are a good idea, be­cause those last,” Vil­lage of Cazen­ovia Su­per­vi­sor Wil­liam Zu­pan said.

“I’d like to see sim­i­lar items we had in this one go into the new time cap­sule,” Orr said. “Events that hap­pened since this cap­sule was put in place, coins, and the county cel­e­brated its bi­cen­ten­nial so we can add pins and other items to that ef­fect.

“We have the tech­nol­ogy andwe can pre­serve pho­tos and news­pa­pers, so I’d like to see them pre­serve news­pa­pers and show what the gov­ern­ment is like to­day,” Town of Lin­coln Su­per­vi­sor Yvonne Nirelli said.

Zu­pan said it would be in­ter­est­ing to dig­i­tize the con­tents on a flash drive when it came to pho­tos and pa­pers, but Urtz wasn’t too keen on the idea.

“It doesn’t re­ally make sense be­cause one, the odds of that tech­nol­ogy be- ing avail­able in 110 years is pretty low, and the odds it sur­viv­ing 110 years is low,” Urtz said. “I want to make sure that we have stuff that tells the story, whether it’s the 2016 bi­cen­ten­nial or things that cel­e­brate the new his­tory. We’ll reach out to lo­cal in­sti­tu­tions and see what we can come up with. We­want to make sure who­ever opens this has our story.”


Madi­son County of­fi­cials un­earth a time cap­sule from the county court­house on Mon­day, April 16, 2018. The time cap­sule was sealed be­hind the cor­ner­stone of the build­ing on Jan. 7, 1909, and was re­moved while the court­house un­der­goes ren­o­va­tion.


Res­i­dents look through a time cap­sule un­earthed from the county court­house on Mon­day, April 16, 2018. The time cap­sule was sealed be­hind the cor­ner­stone of the build­ing on Jan. 7, 1909, and was re­moved while the court­house un­der­goes ren­o­va­tion.

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