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Royalton Opens Time Capsules After More Than 100 Years (Video)

  • Larry Trottier, the chairman of the Royalton Selectboard, holds up the first item to come out of the time capsule, a poster from the 1915 Royalton Old Home Week, in Royalton, Vt., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. "It's kind of like the people 103 years ago reaching out and saying 'Hey, this is what's important,'" Selectboard member Chris Noble said. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • President of the Royalton Historical Society John Dumville assists in holding the time capsules in place while chairman of the Royalton Selectboard Larry Trottier cuts the lid off the first capsule. The items pulled from the time capsules will be put on display at the Royalton Historical Society. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A copy of the "History of Royalton, Vermont" by Mary Evelyn Wood Lovejoy that is over 1,000 pages long is pulled from the time capsule and placed on a table in Royalton, Vt., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The crowd gathers around a table displaying the various contents of the two time capsules in Royalton, Vt., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Items retrieved included a copy of the front page of the White River Herald from Thursday, Aug. 12, 1915, the book "History of Royalton, Vermont," a Bible, scripts for a reenactment, town records, and a poster for the 1915 Old Home Days Celebration. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, August 09, 2018

South Royalton — When Selectboard Chairman Larry Trottier stood at the top of the gazebo steps and went at the copper time capsules with a power saw and a pair of pliers, no one knew what he would find inside.

But the 140 or so people gathered on the village green had their guesses — and hopes — about the contents of the pair of metal boxes that historian Evelyn Lovejoy had stowed in the base of the horseshoe-shaped Hannah Handy monument 103 years ago, in 1915.

“Maybe gold,” ventured Vinny Calcagni, one of the men who was working on the monument restoration project that brought the time capsules to light last month.

“I’m guessing maybe some part of a car, some old car,” said Colin Lewis, 9.

Lewis’ father, Jeff Lewis, thought it was more likely to be letters. But then again, he ventured, it could be some little toys that would demonstrate what the children of Royalton had played with back in 1915.

“Or maybe a bullet,” said his son. “From a really old gun.”

But Pauline Morinn, who was sitting on a bench with her husband, Arthur Morinn, gave a reply that was most often repeated, in so many words, by others in the assembled crowd.

“I hope there’s something in there about my grandparents,” she said. The Morinns have deep roots in the community. Arthur Morinn, who is now of retirement age, got his first job at the age of 15 in Royalton, working for Pauline Morrin’s father, a farmer.

Not far away, Gracia Demar, a hospice nurse, was sitting on the grass next to her mother and sister, who brought lawn chairs.

“Our great-grandparents lived here their whole life,” she said.

“The Rogers, the Spauldings, the Waldos,” said her mother, Barbara Rogers. “There might be something about them.”

John Dumville, a Royalton historian, kicked off the proceedings by giving the crowd a few brief details about Handy, a young mother who, during the town’s infamous Royalton Raid, chased after a party of Mohawks under the command of a British lieutenant and convinced them to release her son and other boys who had been captured.

“I see people here who are descended from people who were captured during the Indian raid in 1780, some of the 34 men who were taken to Canada and the nine boys who were rescued by Hannah Handy,” Dumville said.

After a few more brief remarks, Trottier got to work, sawing off the end of the first time capsule like the end slice of a loaf of bread, then using the pliers to peel back the end.

While he worked, Dumville took the microphone again and explained the reasoning of the historians who had chosen to spell the heroine’s last name Handy, rather than sometimes-used Hendee.

“Neither Hannah or her husband knew how to write,” he said. “So we don’t have their handwriting. They signed their documents with an X.”

The inside of the capsule was smooth and shiny. When Dumville and Trottier unfolded the first document they withdrew, a spontaneous cheer went up from the crowd — a yellowed poster that advertised the Old Home Week from August of 1915.

“I remember that,” someone called, to chuckles.

The poster schedule included an address from Frank Lester Greene, who by 1915 had served in the Spanish-American War, worked as a correspondent for The Boston Globe, and been president of the Vermont Press Association, but who had not yet been elected to represent Vermont in the U.S. Senate. (In 1924, Greene suffered a head wound from a stray bullet out of the gun of Prohibition agents firing on fleeing bootleggers.)

The Old Home Week poster also promoted a Chelsea vs. Royalton baseball game, a performance by Dewey’s Band and Orchestra, and at 8 p.m. on Aug. 16, 1915, “free moving pictures and dance in square.”

The second time capsule had been exposed to water, and the documents inside had suffered, but still were largely intact.

In all, the historical haul included an unbound copy of Lovejoy’s book, a history of Royalton; a letter and envelope sent out to promote Old Home Week, a Bible and a 1915 typed script of a play that re-enacted the Royalton Raid.

“Act 1 — Springtime,” it reads. “Robert Haven’s sugar camp. While Joseph and Daniel are boiling down syrup ... ”

The time capsules also contained an Aug. 12, 1915, edition of the White River Herald, which, alongside a headline that noted “Warsaw Captured, But Few Russians,” contained front-page advertisements for fruit jars and 25-cent tickets to a rendition of the orchestral score Sweet Clover, by the Nellie Cill Players.

Dumville said that the documents would be given to the Royalton Historical Society for safekeeping and conservation, and that it might be possible to determine whether the sodden Bible was a family Bible of the sort that often contains genealogical information.

But perhaps the most important legacy of what Lovejoy sealed into the dark chamber of the monument in 1915 was intangible — an opportunity, 103 years in the future, for civic-minded Royalton residents to gather and once again reflect on their shared heritage.

“I don’t have a clue what’s inside,” Scott Farnsworth, a former Tunbridge principal who was in the crowd, said moments before the opening. “But it’s nice that it has everyone out. That’s nice.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.