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Time Capsule Buried in 1998

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HISTORY MATTERS

Every day we send message to the future, but they cannot answer back. Once in a rare while we make it formal – with a time capsule. This one was buried in 1998 and is scheduled to be opened by the citizens of Portsmouth, NH inn 2123. Here’s how we did it, with original photos exclusively on SeacoastNH.com

 

 

Scheduled to be opened in 2123 A.D.

 

Ten years ago this month we planted a big plastic time capsule five feet under the front lawn at the Portsmouth Historical Society. Four of us lowered the thing with ropes into a grave-sized hole for the benefit of reporters. The photo ran on the front page of this very newspaper.

A time capsule is a strange machine. First you stuff it with goodies like a piñata. Then you bury it like a lost relative. Then you have a party and forget about it for a century. Hopefully your descendants – who may be a radioactive race of mutants, half-grasshopper, half-laptop computer -- dig it up and have another party.

Into the 22nd century

tc01a.jpgThe year 1998 was the 375th anniversary of the founding of Portsmouth, a fitting occasion to send a message to the future. The time capsule is scheduled to be opened on October 17, 2123 A.D. when the city is 500 years old. Technically, it all started in 1623 when ten English men and one English woman set up a fishing camp at what is now Odiorne Point in Rye. Undocumented Europeans were probably fishing here earlier, where Indians had lived for over 10,000 years. That original outpost faded quickly – but that is another story.

So to honor the arrival of New Hampshire’s first white settlers, we filled a four-foot long 15-inch wide section of green PVC pipe with stuff. Congressman John Sununu, state senator Burt Cohen, Mayor Evelyn Sirrell and other dignitaries tossed a few shovels’ full of dirt into the hole. Paul Peter Jesep, then president of the historical society gave a nice speech. Then we all went inside the John Paul Jones House for cake while a woman with a harp plucked ethereal music into the air.

A gift gone bad

Hopefully our descendants will unearth this time capsule more gracefully than one discovered in Portsmouth in 1912. That was the year that the members of Temple Israel purchased the old Methodist Church on State Street for $7,000. The Temple kept the pews, carpets and fixtures. The Methodists took the church bell, the organ and their hymnals.

The transition went smoothly until someone remembered that the cornerstone of the brick building held a time capsule of artifacts placed there during the building of the church in 1827. Technically the contents belonged to the synagogue, but the Methodists wanted their artifacts back. After heated discussion, Jewish leaders turned the time capsule over to Methodist leaders for a payment of $100, with the stipulation that any rare coins found inside remained the property of the synagogue. The coins were taken to Boston for analysis. When the old coins were valued at less than $10, the transfer was completed and tempers cooled.

CONTINUE TIME CAPSULE

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