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A team of firefighters from the Marion, Ohio, fire department uncovered a 118-year-old time capsule as they were attempting to retrieve a cornerstone from one of the city’s old fire stations.
On May 25, seven firefighters were tasked with retrieving the cornerstone in an effort to help preserve the department’s history. When it became clear the job wasn’t going to be as easy as they thought, they decided to call in an engineer to get the cornerstone out. That’s when they found a piece of the department’s history no one knew existed.
“Honestly, we were at the point where we were about to stop (trying to remove the cornerstone) because we were concerned about the stability of the building. We didn’t want to risk there being a collapse,” Marion Fire Department Captain Ryan Redmon told the Marion Star. “As we were finishing up, we happened to look inside and there was a gap in the cornerstone. I slid my hand in there and felt upwards and realized there was definitely something in there.”
“It was just sitting in there. We were beside ourselves,” Redmon added. “We had no idea that was in there. To find something that pertinent to our history, it’s just very exciting for our guys.”
The station where the capsule was found had been bought by a local entrepreneur, who informed the department that it would be demolished, the Marion Star notes. With permission, the department proceeded with removing the cornerstone in their preservation efforts.
The capsule is a copper box that was soldered shut. The department invited city residents to attend the opening on May 31, where documents and other memorabilia from the late 19th and early 20th century were unveiled.
Inside the capsule were nine Marion Fire Department badges from the early 1900s, an invitation dating to 1878 for the “Northwestern Ohio Volunteer Fireman’s Association Fireman’s Games,” copies of July 1905 editions of the Marion Daily Star newspaper, and a letter with a list of all the firemen from when the cornerstone was laid on July 20, 1905, among other items.
“Honestly, I felt like a kid at Christmas when (firefighter Andrew Niles) got that box open,” Redmon said. “We had no idea what was in there. It wasn’t even completely open yet and we had those badges staring out at us. … You can’t put a dollar value on that.”
The badges and documents were in “extremely good condition” for being locked away for such a long period, according to the Marion Star.
Before the discovery, the department had been on a mission to gather the history of the department, according to Fox News. Throughout their research, no record of a time capsule was ever discovered, Redmon told the outlet.
Everything contained in the capsule will be kept at the local historical society as the firemen wait for a new station to be constructed, where the contents will eventually go on display.
“We’ll help them get everything preserved as it should be so that it’s safe for the next generations to be able look at and enjoy,” Brandi Wilson, director of the Marion County Historical Society, told the local paper. “Maybe they can even do a time capsule to place in the new building.”