History mystery: Where is the Belleville 175th time capsule?

News-DemocratJune 18, 2013 

— The clock is ticking on the search for a time capsule -- and your help is desperately needed.

The thinking is that the people who staged Belleville's 175th birthday celebration in 1989 buried such a treasure as part of the festivities. So, just for fun, the folks planning the city's 200th anniversary bash next year would like to dig the thing up to see what was noteworthy 25 years ago.

Just one problem -- nobody involved with the previous fete remembers where they buried it. Or what objects were in it. Or even what they were buried in. As a result, organizers of the 200th are putting out an all-points bulletin to try to solve this local history mystery.

"We were thinking if we could find it and find out what's in it, it would be a great way to kickoff the 200th celebration," said Debbie Belleville, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "That really would be cool. I would love to be able to find it."

Logically, they thought, the container was buried at City Hall. Gary Hopfinger, a former Parks and Recreation director, remembered it being interred between two dogwood trees underneath a window on the side near the city clerk's office.

So, using a metal detector, they started shoveling where it went off. They found an old surveying marker -- perhaps from the previous City Hall -- but no time capsule.

"Seriously, we dug some big holes," Belleville said. "We thought, OK, there used to be two dogwoods. See what happened, too, was that the dogwoods that were in the front, there's four of them and they're no longer dogwoods. And there's one dogwood on the other side. But we can't dig up the whole yard."

Now, Belleville is thinking that the capsule wasn't even buried in a metal container. She thought she remembered hearing that the former Pete Gaerdner Funeral home donated a small casket, but that proved to be a dead end, too. The best guess is it was fashioned from PVC pipe, which would not set off a metal detector.

"Tom Schrag, Lois Stroh, Dwight Godsy, Bob Fritz, Bill Knapp -- I've asked them all," Belleville said. "Nobody remembers it at all. But it would be a great way of saying, OK, we've found the hidden treasure for the 175th and now we're set to start getting everything ready for the 200th."

So if you remember any clue where this booty was buried, please call Belleville pronto at 233-1416.

Contact reporter Roger Schlueter at 239-2465 or rschlueter@bnd.com.

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