Original Published on Jun 27, 2022 at 14:49
By Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Repairs on the Kerrobert courthouse staircase, which began this spring, will make it easier for people to step up into the historic local building. They’ve also been a step into the past.
When masonry workers removed the date stone, which had been in place since the building was completed in 1920, they found a small, sealed copper box inside.
The find was a “total surprise,” said town administrator Tara Neumeier.
“We had workers carefully taking it apart for us, and that’s when they discovered that there was this,” she said. “When they had loosened it and flipped it over, they discovered the time capsule.”
The temptation to open the box then and there was intense, but Kerrobert town officials decided to wait — until this Thursday night when more than 100 people gathered in the courthouse to see this little bit of local history come back to life.
“It’s been an exciting few months of waiting, with everybody guessing as to what could be inside,” said Mayor Wayne Mock.
Those guesses took on a new fervour in the hours before the time capsule’s opening, as the crowd was abuzz with rumours and speculation.
“I think there’s going to be a newspaper and maybe some currency in there,” said Neumeier. “But we’ve heard lots. We’ve heard that it could be empty, we’ve heard that there was evidence from a trial in there, we’ve heard that the Spanish Flu could be in there.”
Dozens of local children took their best guesses at the box’s contents — hoping to see anything from coins and papers to a human skull or a working time machine.
Thirteen-year-old Avery Snell, a fifth-generation Kerrobert resident, was even hoping there might be a personal connection to her family.
“One of my great-great-grandpas was one of the founders of the town, so I think there’s going to be something from him in there,” said Snell. “Maybe a letter or pictures or something.”
After letters and speeches from members of the Kerrobert Courthouse Restoration Society and local dignitaries including MP Rosemarie Falk, Mayor Mock was eager to get down to business.
“This building and its rich history is meant to be shared and enjoyed by all,” he said. “This time capsule opening will no doubt add to the building’s rich history. Whether it be empty, or full of mementos from 1920, this will be an event to remember. …
“Now, let’s get this thing open.”
As Mock pried up the lid with his crowbar, all fears of a potentially empty box were immediately put aside. It was full to the brim with artifacts from 1920.
Kerrobert’s summer museum curator Breena Hebron was responsible for the next part of the process — carefully removing the fliers, pamphlets and newspapers from the box.
“My hands are shaking,” she said, as she showed each object to the crowd.
There was a heavy bundle of newspapers, an invitation to a banquet celebrating the completion of the courthouse, and a few more bits of paper that can’t be opened yet.
To preserve historic papers like these, Hebron says it’s important to wait for some time before handling them.
“I can’t wait until everything gets unraveled and we can actually take a really good look at it and display it up in our museum,” said Mock.
And even though there is still a lot to learn about the time capsule, Kerrobert residents were moved and delighted by what they found.
Jean Norris, who was born the same year the time capsule was filled, said she looks forward to seeing what was written in the newspaper back then.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I was a baby!”
For some, the capsule was also a connection to more recent history.
Mary Ann Chartis’s sister, Helen McGinnis, who previously worked as deputy sheriff at the Kerrobert courthouse, died last July, less than a year before workers would find the box in the staircase.
“She knew it was here,” Chartis said. “And for sure, she wondered what was in it. But she had no clue what there was.”
This item reprinted with permission from The StarPhoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan