Lebanon Uncorks Time Capsule

Thursday, November 05, 2015
Lebanon — Some 71 years ago, during World War II, former city surveyor Samuel Stevens hid a whiskey bottle full of newspaper clippings, a coin and a scroll under what are now the steps to Lebanon City Hall.

Few people knew about the time capsule until last month, when it was discovered during a renovation of the steps. On Wednesday night, surrounded by a group of about 30 onlookers, City Historian Ed Ashey extricated the scroll and read aloud from it, learning that it was Stevens — a popular figure around Lebanon back then — who had hidden the bottle.

“Whoever finds this bottle may keep it,” Ashey read from Stevens’ handwritten scroll, dated June 10, 1944. “Sorry there is no liquor in it, but I drank it all up.”

What’s more, the time capsule is apparently not the only one that Stevens, long deceased, left behind.

“I have many bottles buried all over town,” Stevens wrote. “There is one under the Catholic church.”

Stevens wrote that “the war is on” with “much hard fighting.”

“Everybody has friends or relatives in this war,” he said.

He wrote that he was placing the bottle there with the help of former Lebanon Selectman Joe Perley, another popular figure.

“Between the two of them, they ran this town,” Ashey said.

Ashey, 77, said he was about 6 or 7 years old when the bottle was hidden under the steps, which were also under renovation in the 1940s. He said he recalls people talking about Stevens and Perley fondly.

In the scroll, Stevens wrote of several other people in the city, who Ashey assumed were present when the bottle was placed. They included Alessandro Bettini, who was replacing the steps and doing a “better job than when Town Hall was built in 1923,” a taxi driver named Bill Clark, and Hartland resident Mildred Crawford.

When workers discovered the brown glass whiskey bottle in early October, they weren’t sure exactly what was inside or when it was from. City officials decided to postpone opening the capsule until a public gathering could be scheduled.

Ashey first used long tweezers to extricate the penny, but neither he nor Mayor Georgia Tuttle could make out the date on the coin, calling on some youngsters in the audience to help make out the date: 1941.

“The penny was sort of really rusted and really green,” said 12-year-old Madilyn Herring, of Lebanon, who watched the capsule opening with her sister Katherine Herring and friend Eva Roux, both 10.

“It took a couple tries to get it,” Roux said.

Ashey said the bottle will need to be cut open to remove the brittle newspaper clippings. He said the city has copies of most old newspapers, anyway.

“I love the scroll,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to get the scroll out.”

Katherine Herring said she hopes that officials can find the capsule under the church, and that that capsule might give clues about the other capsules.

“It’s like a mystery to figure out where else (they) could be,” she said. “It’s going to lead us somewhere else, then somewhere else, then somewhere else.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.


Samuel Stevens authored the scroll. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect last name for Stevens.

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