YOUNGSTOWN — One can only guess why those responsible for the June 11, 1908, cornerstone laying ceremony and placement of a time capsule in the cornerstone of the Mahoning County Courthouse chose the objects inside.
Bill Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, said they left no record of what was in the time capsule or indicated why the items were chosen.
The time capsule was removed from the cornerstone on March 4, 2011, the 100th anniversary of the courthouse dedication ceremony, which took place on March 6, 1911. The contents of the first time capsule will be exposed during a ceremony to place a new capsule. in the cornerstone at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the courthouse.
Tuesday’s ceremony will also celebrate a $6 million renovation of the courthouse, which was completed about two years ago. The ceremony was delayed by COVID-19 and other issues.
“I think it will be interesting. We hope everyone can come and enjoy it with us,” Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said Thursday of the free event, which will include a historical presentation by Lawson. Spectators can also tour the building.
“People can walk through it, see the history – the paintings that have been there since day one,” she said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
Lawson said he didn’t know why a single photograph was in the old time capsule. This is a photo of the children at Glenwood Children’s Home on Millet Avenue. The only information known in the photo are the names of the children and adults in the photo, which are written on the back.
The Children’s Home was the forerunner of today’s County Board of Children’s Services. In 1908 it was a child care institution for dependent and neglected children and the county’s first public children’s home. It operated until 1934, when the home’s administrators became the Mahoning County Child Welfare Board, according to the Children’s Services website.
Another mystery regarding the contents of the first capsule, which few have seen, is the existence of numerous documents drawing attention to community and fraternal organizations such as the MW Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Brotherhood of Masons. Free and Accepted and the Ancient Scottish Rite accepted of Freemasonry.
Inside the time capsule is a Free and Accepted Masons book and a Scottish Rite booklet. Freemasonry is the teaching and practices of the order of free and accepted Masons, a society often dedicated to brotherhood, moral discipline and mutual aid which conceals some of its rituals from the public.
Indiana’s Christopher Hodapp, author of the book “Freemasons for Dummies,” wrote in 2016 that Freemasonry grew in Youngstown as Steel grew its population to 170,000. He said Freemasonry “also sank with the economy.” He was referring to Youngstown’s loss of population, which is now about 60,000.
He wrote his message as the six-story Masonic Temple on Wick Avenue, which was built in 1910, closed. The building was too expensive to operate for the dwindling number of members, so the remaining masons moved out, according to a local report.
Pamela Speis, archivist for the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, said last week that she thinks fraternal organizations such as the Masons are well represented in the time capsule because these groups have far more members and are much more active during of the construction of the courthouse than now. She said she also believed that many of the people on the committee who collected the articles included in the capsule were involved in such organizations.
LETTERS AND BOOKLETS
There are also letters or pamphlets from fraternal organizations such as the Knights of Pythias, Logan Lodge No. 4 West Federal Street in Youngstown; the Knights of the Golden Eagle, Commanderie Coeur De Lion No. 8 KGE; and Knights of the Golden Eagle, Governor Tod Castle No. 7.
The website www.pythias.org states that the Knights of Pythia follow three principles – friendship, charity and benevolence – and exist in many cities and towns across the United States, Canada and Europe. . The Knights of the Golden Eagle is a charitable society that peaked in 1900 and was active in 20 states, according to the National Heritage Museum website.
The time capsule also contains a Mahoning County Masonic Directory, listing six lodges and a “list of fire alarm boxes in Youngstown, Ohio.” There is also a typed list of members and officers of Miriam Chapter 278 of the Order of the Eastern Star, which is a Masonic fraternal organization of women and men “dedicated to charity, truth and loving kindness,” according to the website for the Bangor, Maine, Eastern Star group.
National Public Radio reported in 2020 that membership in Masons had fallen about 75% from a peak of more than 4.1 million in 1959, when about 4.5% of all American men were members.
The time capsule also contains a handwritten manuscript that gives the history of the International Union of Bricklayers and Masons of America No. 8, which was founded in 1886 and tells what wages were like at that time. The organization had an address at 220 N. Phelps St. in Youngstown.
Today the organization is known as the International Union of Masons and Allied Craftsmen.
MANY MORE ITEMS
The time capsule also includes the history of several local churches, including the First Christian Church; First Church of Christ, Scientist; and the First Presbyterian Church.
An envelope in the capsule is labeled ‘History of the Jewish People of Youngstown’, signed by CJ Strouss of Strouss-Hirschberg, Dry Goods, Rugs, Cloaks, Furs and Headwear, Youngstown.
There was a company represented in the capsule, Guess and McNab, Tailors, Clothiers, Hatters and Furnishers of 245 W.Federal St. A Republican candidate for the board of education, Louis E. Guess, is on a publicity card in the capsule.
Many elements of the capsule are associated with the construction of the new courthouse, such as a “drill program during the laying of the cornerstone of the New Mahoning County Courthouse” which was printed by The Vindicator Press. The cover of the program states that the laying of the cornerstone was “under the auspices of Western Star Lodge, No. 21 Free and Accepted Masons.
The Youngstown Vindicator and Youngstown Telegram newspapers are well represented in the capsule with sections of both newspapers included in the capsule for the days leading up to the laying of the cornerstone on June 11, 1908.
In June 6, 1908, Vindicator is an article about a woman who was burned to death when her clothes caught fire while cooking in her Pine Street home.
A curiosity of the time capsule is that there is also a copy of the June 4, 1908, 16-page edition of the Youngstown Rundschau newspaper. It was a German-language newspaper published from 1874 to 1916 in Youngstown by William F. Maag, owner of The Youngstown Vindicator.
There is also a booklet that names the members of the Youngstown Board of Education and a handwritten history of Haselton School in Youngstown with a list of teachers.
There are also pamphlets for the Junior Order United American Mechanics, Youngstown Council No. 51; and Junior Order United American Mechanics, Samuel J. Randall Council No. 96; Youngstown Council No. 51; and Idora Council No. 126 Daughters of America.
The Junior Order of Mechanics is “composed of American citizens of good moral character who believe in a Supreme Being as creator and preserver of the universe”, according to a webpage of the order, which is non-sectarian, that is- that is, having no religious preference.
Audrey Tillis, Mahoning County Administrator, said the new time capsule will contain material that “shows what the Mahoning Valley is doing in 2022 with new developments, things happening in schools, some effects of the pandemic of COVID-19”.