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Surprise in 1956 county time capsule

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By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

History is always full of surprises. That was true on Monday when the 1956 Stevens County Courthouse time capsule was opened at the county History Museum in Morris.

To be historically accurate, the 1956 time capsule is actually the 1957 time capsule.

History Museum Director Randee Hokanson and museum staff emptied a single brown envelope from the roughly three-foot by two-foot copper box and spoke to about 40 people gathered for the opening.

County Commissioner Don Munsterman, who serves on a committee putting together a capsule for the new building under construction, said the contents of the old and new capsules would be on display for public viewing before they are set in the new building on Sept. 27.

Although newspaper information when the 1956 capsule was set indicated what was in the box, the audience and museum officials seemed a bit surprised that the envelope was the only item in the box.

The envelope contained newspapers - the Morris Sun and Morris Tribune, two issues of the Hancock record and a copy of the Chokio Review - three photographs, a District Court calendar and a copy of the county's 1956 financial statement.

The mild surprise came when Hokanson discovered that the newspapers in the capsule were dated either March or April 1957.

"How'd that get in here?" Hokanson said when seeing that the Chokio Review was dated April 4, 1957. "The mystery begins."

Hokanson said museum researchers would take a closer look at the contents in coming days, but she ventured a guess that since the capsule was encased behind a granite cornerstone in an outdoor wall, the county delayed actually setting it until the weather warmed in the spring of 1957.

The Hancock Record issue was dated March 28, 1957, and also included was a 50th anniversary Record reprint of its first issue in February 24, 1899. The Morris papers were dated April 2 and April 5, 1957.

One photograph showed the 1956 courthouse building under construction with the peak of the original courthouse visible behind the newer building. Another photograph showed a gathering of people at First District Commissioner Anton Ettesvold's retirement in January 1955, and a third photograph pictured Howard Mumbleau, a deputy county auditor who, according to information on the back of the photo, died in 1956 from cancer.

"It's interesting," Munsterman said. "What do these photos mean? Why did they include a certain photo? Those are things we'll try and find out."

The court calendar was a small booklet, as was the financial statement, which was prepared by Elmer F. Anderson, who was county auditor at the time.

"That's it," Hokanson said after the contents had been briefly reviewed. "We have a much more exciting time capsule planned for the new one."

Tami Plank, a museum researcher, said information about the times would become clear after closer examination of the newspapers. She noted that, many times, some events that have a great impact on people today - such as the hiring of the first county agent -- weren't seen as important at the time.

"Fifty years later, we're looking at this going, 'Who?' " Plank said. "That's how history works. Sometimes the biggest news isn't what was front page news."