December 16, 2022
By: Dwayne Page
A hidden courthouse historical treasure discovered!
More than 50 years after being placed within a cornerstone of the present-day DeKalb County Courthouse after its construction and dedication in 1971, a time capsule was found this week by County Mayor Matt Adcock. But instead of being in its original place, the historic cache of memorabilia contained within a 14” x 10” x 3” copper box was discovered in a closet at the mayor’s courthouse office. No one seems to know for sure why the time capsule was moved from inside the cornerstone or how long it had been in the closet. The cornerstone on the bottom of the southwest end of the courthouse has a removable concrete cover dated 1970 on its exterior with a hollowed-out space inside the cover in the exact dimensions of the time capsule. Speculation is the time capsule may have been moved at some point after its original placement to prevent it from being stolen.
After making the discovery, Adcock showed the box to his staff, Kristie Nokes and Ronda Butler and asked if they knew what it was. Butler said she had heard about a courthouse time capsule and suggested to Adcock that he contact Chamber Director Suzanne Williams who might know more. Sure enough, Adcock said when he mentioned it to Williams, her response was “you found it”. As a young girl Williams had learned about the time capsule from her father, Hobson Reynolds, who was Circuit Court Clerk and an active community leader at the time but he had not told her its specific location.
On Friday afternoon, Adcock and Williams and members of their families met at the County Mayor’s Office and decided to open the box, which had been soldered shut, to see what was inside. Among the memorabilia were several editions of the Smithville Review, a Model City publication called DeKalb Citizen along with photographs of the courthouse in various stages of construction, the dedication ceremony after the courthouse was completed attended by local, state, and federal dignitaries, and even a reel-to-reel tape recording by Mickey Driver and played at the time on WJLE containing an account of the DeKalb County Courthouse history, among other treasures.
An actual list of the Time Capsule’s Contents signed by Mickey Driver were included within as follows:
- DeKalb Citizens, Volume 1, No. 1 through Volume 2 no 8
- Smithville Review, seven editions
- The program of the first annual Chamber of Commerce Prayer Breakfast
- Over 100 pictures (Polaroid) of various scenes in DeKalb County.
- A copy of the County Court Act establishing the Model Cities Program in DeKalb County.
- The tape recording of the History of DeKalb County Courthouse by Mickey Driver; tape was played several times over WJLE Radio prior to the courthouse dedication.
- One edition of the Nashville Tennessean, December 27, 1971
Pictures stamped with Smithville-DeKalb County Model City Administration on the back are photos taken by Mickey Driver. This time capsule has been prepared and sealed December 1971 and plans call for its installation in the southwest cornerstone of the courthouse during the first two weeks of January, 1972. This capsule has been prepared by Mickey Adair Driver of the Smithville-DeKalb County Model City Administration. Newspapers in this capsule will offer an insight of the time and thoughts of our age”.
A published article in a 1971 edition of the DeKalb Citizen describes the time capsule. The actual story is as follows with the headline “Time Capsule to be Put in Cornerstone”
“The new DeKalb County Courthouse has an unfinished corner stone in the southwest corner awaiting the placement of a time capsule”.
“Included in the capsule are copies of the County Court’s resolution establishing the City Demonstration Agency to carry out the Model Cities Program, and the first administrative grant for the Model Cities Program.”
“Also contained in the capsule are pictures of DeKalb County’s earlier courthouses and other local buildings. Various selected copies of the Smithville Review and DeKalb Citizen are also in the capsule”.
“WJLE Radio is making a tape recording of the dedication ceremony and it will also be placed in the time capsule. A roster of past and present court members, directions on finding where various documents will be, and other selected county documents are also included.”
“The time capsule is in the form of a copper box measuring 14” x 10” x 3”. The box has been sealed with solder on all joints and is supposedly airtight. It will be put in place at the corner stone marked “1970” located on the southwest corner of the new courthouse.”
Future DeKalb Countians will open the time capsule at their discretion, probably when another courthouse is constructed, maybe on the 100th anniversary of the dedication. It is hoped that the capsule will provide historical data and insight as to today’s DeKalb County”, the story concluded.
County Mayor Adcock said the contents of the time capsule will be preserved possibly for a county historical display and a new time capsule may also be created with artifacts of today for future generations.
The present-day courthouse, which replaced the previous 1925 built structure, along with several other existing public facilities in Smithville were funded through the 1960’s-70s federal model cities program thanks largely to Congressman Joe L. Evins, a native and resident of Smithville, who served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.