TIFFIN — A copper box enclosed in the cornerstone of Seneca County’s historic courthouse since 1884 was opened Thursday morning, battered but intact.
County commissioners had planned to open the time capsule at a future date when the public could attend but that became a moot point when the excavator pulling the cornerstone from the front of the building dropped it, causing the lid to come off.
“We don’t have to decide now,” said Jeff Wagner, the only one of the three commissioners who watched the cornerstone removal.
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The rather crushed copper box was taken to the county maintenance garage where Jim Barth, maintenance supervisor, pried it open with adjustable pliers. A business card for George Ernest, “tin copper and sheet iron ware” maker, was the first item to be removed.
Mr. Ernest fabricated the copper box back in 1884 when the cornerstone was laid.
Inside the box was a packet of local newspapers from the day, letters from community organizations and churches, and well-preserved coins — most from the 1880s, though there also was a Spanish coin dated 1784.
“Have you seen the Titanic stuff they brought up?” commented Mark Steinmetz, a trustee with the Seneca County Historical Society. “This is like the Titanic stuff.”
Most of the contents were surprisingly well-preserved with the exception of a Seneca County history book, which was badly bent.
“Lucky that’s not a rare book,” said John Huss, a local historian watching.
Mr. Wagner said the cornerstone, the copper box, and all of its contents will be preserved at the Seneca County Museum.
Mr. Steinmetz said the historical society, which took over operations of the museum Jan. 1, intends to create a permanent display of the items along with items that were taken from the courthouse before demolition began.