Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church opened the cornerstone that had been sealed since 1909, placed there before the church was formally organized during its construction. The contents were more than 100 years old.
The company that was contracted to remove the stone began work earlier during the week of June 10. The solid marble inscribed block was huge and very heavy. After careful removal of bricks, the workers freed the stone on all four sides, and the members present had quite a surprise.
We expected to find a cavity on one of the inside walls of the stone. The stone was solid on the top and all four sides. A platform was built by Charles Hinely for the stone to be shifted to the side and when the workers slid it over to the platform, the underside held the cornerstone box. It was made of copper and had been soldered closed. The exterior was tarnished and green. It was about 10 by 12 by 5 inches.
The box and contents were actually removed on Friday so that the items could be prepared for viewing on Sunday.
When the box was opened, I was fortunate to be present and had the privilege of getting to touch 100-year-old items and a lot of dust. The first observations revealed a lot of damp, mildewed, crumbled paper. We removed fragile items very carefully with cotton gloves and salvaged what we could.
The hairs on my arm stood up as we placed each item in the shadow box that will be on permanent display. One hundred years of history sitting in my hand had a profound effect on me.
After a few days of drying, some of the items look a bit better, although curled somewhat and too fragile to touch. The newspapers that survived had been folded in half, then into thirds. We could detect dates. The four coins are different from any we had seen and the largest, dated 1858, had a drill hole as if it may have been worn as jewelry.
The following items were in the cornerstone: a small hardback Holy Bible; a small hardback Book of Worship (the same size as the Bible, which is about 4 by 6 inches and fairly thick); what appears to be a few hinges from the edge of the Bible; possibly a lapel-type pin; four coins of ascending sizes; pieces of solder; a folded document which was about 1/2-inch thick in an envelope with "Lutheran Church of the Ascension" written on it (too fragile to open); Japan for Christ booklet, which may be a children’s Sunday School book; a Lutheran Almanac and Yearbook from 1909 (this was in the best condition of all paper items as it had a slick coated cover like our magazines do today); a Savannah Morning newspaper from Aug. 11, 1909; a Savannah Evening Press newspaper from Aug. 10, 1909; minutes of the 11th Convention of the United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the South, dated Oct. 6-10, 1908; a small square item that appeared to be a possible photograph or book cover; small legible fragments of the Springfield Herald, dated Aug. 6, 1909; a copy of the Effingham County News, dated Aug. 6, 1909; a corner fragment of a letter envelope with mechanically printed return address of Rev. T.W. Shealy (unable to read anything except the return address corner of this fragment, as the rest was shattered); and a lot of shattered paper and dust.
The box is being replaced in the cornerstone and current items from the 2012 will be placed inside for future generations. Items being placed in the cornerstone include: our church history booklet 2012, a 2011 church pictorial directory, coins, letters, a small American flag, photos and letters from different families, the bulletin from the June 10 anniversary worship service, along with a copy of the June 8 Effingham Herald with an article about the church.
Will future generations find our items? Only time will tell this story.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. She is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.