A Masonic time capsule was recently unearthed as Athens’ Confederate monument was being moved from its former location on Broad Street in August.
The time capsule is now in the possession of Athens-Clarke County Central Services, the local government department that moved the monument. Andrew Saunders, director of Central Services, said that he originally considered keeping the time capsule with the monument at its future site off Macon Highway. However, he decided against this plan out of fear that it may give extra motivation for some to vandalize the monument. Also, after nearly 150 years, the time capsule is now a true historic artifact, which he said should be preserved and made available to the public.
The time capsule was placed inside the cornerstone of the Confederate monument in 1872 by William King, a member of the Freemasons and former master of Mount Vernon Lodge in Athens. While being interviewed by the Athens Banner back in 1891, he recounted the capsule’s contents for the newspaper. In addition to assorted Confederate memorabilia, the capsule should contain a list of officers and members of Mount Vernon Lodge No. 22 and Williams Lodge No. 151.
The Mount Vernon Lodge still exists today. Local members reached out to Central Services asking that they be included in the conversation regarding when and how to open the capsule and safeguard its contents. According to Saunders, they seemed to believe that additional documents or items may be present in the capsule that were not listed in the original 1891 Athens Banner article.
The ACC government chose instead to keep the time capsule unopened, under lock and key, as they try to find it a permanent home. They first planned to hand it off to the UGA Special Collections Library or to the ACC Library’s Heritage Room. However, when they reached out in an attempt to transfer ownership of the capule, they were refused. Steven Armour, an archivist at UGA Special Collections, explained that they could not accept the capsule as-is without having an archeologist on staff. Such an expert would be required to ensure the integrity of a potentially fragile artifact like this one, which has been buried for over a century.
Either UGA or the ACC Library could eventually end up housing the contents of the capsule once they have been extracted and preserved by an archeologist. Saunders is trying to contact such an expert.
This article originally appeared at Athens Politics Nerd.
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