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21Country: See inside Van Wert’s time capsule, opened after 50 years

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VAN WERT, Oh. (WPTA21) - Buried beneath the ground of the Victorian Clark House in Van Wert, was a vault full of historical treasure, nearly forgotten about through time.

“It was buried on November 28, 1971,” Van Wert Historical Society president Theresa Mengerink said. “Nobody that is on the trustees currently was aware that this time capsule was there.”

One of those trustees, Jeanne Zeigler added, “I knew that there was a brick out there that was kind of in the ground that said historical marker, never knew what it was.”

But in there preparations to celebrate the county’s bicentennial, they stumbled across newspaper clippings detailing a grand event.

According to the historical society, the sesquicentennial (150 year anniversary of Van Wert County’s founding), was widely celebrated by the community.

They soon learned the capsule, was supposed to be opened in 2020, so organizers could use the information inside, to prepare for the bicentennial.

However, with plans for 200th anniversary underway, organizers decided it would be fitting to open up the capsule in front of the public, at the Van Wert County Fair.

Tuesday, the airtight seal on the time capsule was broken for the first time in half a century.

Zeigler began to pull out well preserved documents, sharing a description of what she found, with those in attendance.

“Newspapers, and I was so pleased that they were intact!” She said, “They were all packaged in good plastic bags. At that time the newspaper was our only means of communication. They were thorough and they had pictures of a lot of the different activities and I can’t wait to sit down and be able to read them!”

Most items were related to the sesquicentennial celebration at that time.

Documents included letters from former county leaders, pageant scripts and programs, pictures and tickets to events.

Zeigler even found a bank book from People Bank with $100 balance.

“But People’s Savings Bank is no longer… what do we do about that!?” She joked.

There were also fashion magazines, and fliers from local car dealers (a time where a ’71 Dodge cost $2343.56), farming magazines, and artifacts like coins, ribbons, ties, and buttons.

“I think one of the neat things about the capsule is we found that there was a coin that was buried - the 150th anniversary coin,” Mengerink told us. “They apparently sold out of them, so a young man, who was a junior assistant treasurer says ‘Hey, I’ll lend you mine - but if I’m still alive in 50 years, I think I’d want it back!’”

That man, Ken Dasher, did attend the time capsule opening.

He was reunited with his coin, decades later, but he donated it back to the historical society so generations could enjoy it for years to come.

As the 165th Van Wert County Fair continues, pieces of the past will be appreciated in the present, while history buffs carry on their preservation, for the future.

“We’re very interested in keeping our history, and preserving our history, for future generations,” Mengerink said.

“We’ve got a very supportive community and that’s what keeps us going,” Zeigler shared.

The contents of that time capsule will remain on display at the fair, in the Ag building, through Monday.

You can learn more about the Van Wert County Historical society on their Facebook page and website.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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