Two Lincoln artifacts return to the soil at the Lincoln Depot

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[September 17, 2017]   LINCOLN - This week two time capsules, one from 1953 and another from 2003, that had been excavated from the soil during the Depot reconstruction project were returned to their designated spot for safe keeping until the dates upon which they are to be opened.

Lincoln’s Building and Safety Officer Wes Woodhall explained that he had been charged with the task of returning the time capsules to their location when former City Administrator Clay Johnson left his position.

Woodhall, because he is new to his position, didn’t know all the finite details, but said that the city of Lincoln when negotiating with Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation for the reconstruction project had asked that the capsules be taken out of harm’s way during construction, and at the appropriate time returned to the depot site.

Many folks will recall there was a large stone marker on the south end of the property, near the railroad tracks. That stone marked the spot where the capsules were buried, and had been in place since the placement of the first capsule in 1953.

According to information found on the Finding Lincoln Illinois website maintained by historian Leigh Henson. The capsule was buried during the city of Lincoln Centennial celebration. That 100-year-anniversary of the city had been celebrated with a week of activities in August of 1953.

Among those activities had been the collection of various historical items and items of interest, and information about the centennial celebration. Those items were then placed in the capsule and sealed with a proclamation that the capsule would be retrieved and opened in 2053, 100 years after the burial.

The capsule was buried with a “Letter to posterity,” which read:

"Dear Posterity:

As a sentimental gesture, or perhaps you will interpret it as a measure of ego, this generation of Lincolnians is here burying what we choose to call a time capsule. It is a sealed record of the activities that occurred during the time of the celebration of Lincoln's first 100 years. We are preserving the record as a reverent thanksgiving to the generations of the past and a humble tribute to the generations of the future.

Every man has his own time to be born, to live and to die. This generation like all past and previous, has had its moments of glory, its moments of defeat and many hours in between. The contents of this box have been selected as means of interpreting to future historians some of the activities, the ambitions and the culture of our time.”

The following list is a summary of what the 'Letter to posterity' describes as the contents of the capsule:

  • a copy of the New Testament ("as a symbol of the enduring faith of this community")

  • a copy of the historical booklet [The Namesake Town: A Centennial History of Lincoln, Illinois, edited by Raymond Dooley with Ethel Welch as the chairperson in charge of the Booklet Committee]

  • a copy of the 144-page special Centennial Edition of the Lincoln Evening Courier of August 27, 1953

  • a scrapbook of news clippings from the months preceding the Centennial Celebration and during the celebration

  • an account of the special events of the 8-day Centennial Celebration

  • a "great miscellany of Centennial items," including accounts of the Brothers of the Brush and the Sisters of the Swish and the wooden nickel " issued for the first time by the city of Lincoln

    • a tape recording provided by WPRC that "preserves our voices for future generations"

    • a history of agriculture

    • a souvenir plate

    • an entire script of the centennial pageant titled Lincoln, 'Tis of Thee.' Pictures of the pageant were not available when the capsule was buried.

    • an authentic signature of Abraham Lincoln

    • "a beautiful souvenir volume containing the greatest of his writings, for it is the spirit of Mr. Lincoln that has been the most notable influence on the history of this community"

The letter concludes, "Lovingly we do now commit these items to the hazards of fate and to the charitable understanding of a future generation."

Respectfully submitted,
Raymond Dooley, President
Centennial Corporation
Alois Feldman, Mayor
City of Lincoln

The second time capsule was buried at the city’s Sesquicentennial in 2003. At this 150 year anniversary, the city also held a large celebration that lasted 10 days. Again items were collected for the time capsule, but it was not actually laid into the soil until 2004.

The original plan had been to place the capsule in the ground with its predecessor on the birth date of Abraham Lincoln on February 12th in 2004. However, on that particular day, there was snow on the ground, and the earth was frozen. It was decided that there would be a mock burial ceremony and dedication, and that the capsule would be buried at a later date.

On that date, a small group gathered at the depot for a formal ceremony led by Lincoln historian Ron Keller and Mayor Beth Davis. The proclamation was given that the capsule would be retrieved from the earth in 2153, 150 years after its burial.

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Items placed inside the new time capsule, according to information found in the LDN archives included:

Sesquicentennial time capsule list

  1. Christening scene souvenir afghan

  2. Souvenir stove pipe hat

  3. Souvenir sesquicentennial history book

  4. Lincoln Courier, daily editions, Aug. 20-Sept. 2, 2003

  5. Lincoln Daily News, daily editions, (same as above)

  6. Sesquicentennial stationary, advertisements, brochures, thank-you from mayor

  7. Various Logan County tourism brochures, coloring book

  8. Lincoln College handbook

  9. Logan County Civil War record

  10. Sesquicentennial "Staff" and "Security" T-shirts

  11. Christening scene ornament, sesquicentennial pin

  12. Several editions of current national newspapers

  13. Numerous pictures of the sesquicentennial week

  14. Copy of signed letter from President George W. Bush

  15. Lyrics for song composed and sung by Carroll Catholic School students

  16. Several restaurant menus, several organization and business brochures and pamphlets (many more yet to come in)

  17. Postville well brick (No. 11 of 1150)

The capsules have been in safe keeping with the city since being retrieved.


This week, crews came in and excavated the burial spot and carefully placed the capsules back in the ground about 10 feet from one another. Concrete was poured, and the capsules are now prepared to wait out their term as prescribed in the two proclamations by the city.

[Nila Smith]

Related articles and links:

From Finding Lincoln Illinois:
Eighth Day: Saturday, September 5, 1953 -- Progress Day
4:00 p.m.: Time capsule burial and dedication of Centennial Park located near the train station

From Lincoln Daily News
February 13, 2004 - City celebrates Abraham
Lincoln's birthday

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