School time capsule has 1915 letter, newspaper; ex-student, 104, shares memories

The Greene County Archives opened a time capsule from the former Greeneview South Elementary School on Friday dating back 109 years, with dozens of members of the community in attendance.

The capsule contained several letters, a directory of the Masons who built the school, a photograph of the architect, and what appear to be two medicine bottles.

While many of the papers inside the time capsule were moisture-damaged, two items that remained mostly intact are a June 7, 1915 copy of the Greene County Journal, a newspaper in circulation at the time, and a letter from Joseph William Mormon, the general contractor for the building.

The corks that were in the two medicine bottles had severely deteriorated, leading archivists to believe the liquid inside had leaked out and damaged the papers.

Mormon wrote that he acquired most of his education in Bowersville, and the rest in Xenia. He had a wife and four children, two boys and two girls, “who I trust will grow up,” he wrote.

“And if they or their children, or their children’s children have the opportunity to ever see this letter ... I trust that this building may be a great blessing to the future generation, and that it may stand as a monument to my memory of my name, and that I may live to see many great men and women made in the building for which it is being built,” Mormon wrote.

The Jefferson Twp. Centralized School opened in 1915 on Hussey Road near Bowersville, 15 miles southeast of downtown Xenia. In 1959, the school was combined with two other township schools to become part of what is now the Greeneview Local School District. The building was renamed Greeneview South elementary, until it closed in 2005.

Forgotten for nearly 110 years, the time capsule was rediscovered in November 2023. Jefferson Twp. was in the process of demolishing the old Greeneview South elementary building, and Trustee Richard Zehring, who owned the building, suspected there might be a time capsule in the cornerstone, as two dates marked on the stone were 1858 (the township’s founding) and 1915 (the date the school was built).

Bowersville native and local historian Iola Creamer, who is 104 years old, began school there in 1925, and spoke Friday of her experiences attending the school. She graduated as salutatorian of her class in 1937.

“There was a center aisle and thin seats on the sides. In cold weather months, they burned a small kerosene heater who helped keep us warm,” Creamer said.

“I’m delighted to be here today to view the contents of this time capsule. This school holds a special place in my heart, and I’m sure the hearts of many others,” she added. “I close by saluting the Jefferson Twp. Bowersville school by saying ‘Go Tigers!’”

The cornerstone of the school building was laid on June 7, 1915, the anniversary of the township’s founding, and at the time, during the first World War.

The same year, the German navy torpedoed the Lusitania, a British ocean liner, killing nearly 1,200 people, and Babe Ruth hit his first major-league home run.

The headlines of the Greene County Journal found in the capsule included a front page article about the cornerstone laying ceremony, and an ad for fashionable ladies’ shoes. The article hailed the Jefferson Twp. school as “one of the finest schools in this area of the state.”

In Xenia, on special, you could purchase sugar-cured bacon at 15 cents a pound. The average annual income was $700.

The Jefferson Twp. Centralized School started as the combined school building for the entire township, and the first of its kind in Greene County. It opened with 275 students in 12 rooms. The school even had public transportation, in the form of seven horse-drawn wagons, or “horse hacks” that drove children to school.

The Jefferson Twp. time capsule is the third to be opened in Greene County in recent years, the others being at the Greene County Courthouse, and at the Greene County Jail. Unfortunately, the Jefferson Twp. time capsule is much more damaged than the other two, and will require additional conservation and research, records manager and archivist Robin Heise said.

The Greene County Archives team will keep the documents in the Greene County Media Room for a few days to ensure they are free of mold, and will then flatten and scan each of the documents under different kinds of light to see if anything can be read.

“If we can start to see names, then we’ll be starting to do research with the library and newspaper archive to see if we can find out who these individuals were, and get some more information about who they were, why they were here, why they put what they put in the time capsule,” she said. “I’m sure there are stories being told there, but we can’t see them yet.”

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