Minburn reunites generations with sesquicentennial time capsule

Sean Cordy -
Patti Webster Christiansen is handed one of the items from the 1969 Minburn time capsule. PHOTO BY SEAN CORDY/DALLAS COUNTY NEWS

While Fourth of July events made news around the nation, that was just the warm-up for Minburn on Thursday. Standing strong at 150 years old, the town celebrated its sesquicentennial, bringing back family from all over the country for a monumental reunion. Headlining the afternoon was the unearthing of 1969 time capsule, a moment that took more than just waiting fifty years to crack the seal.

Reuniting Minburn family

The Fourth of July parade always brings a crowd, one that would have brought a large portion of Minburn to see the unveiling of the time capsule. But that’s not all that the councilmen wanted when they buried the copper box five decades ago. They wanted their kids and grandchildren to see history re-opened.

Before last year, that was just an idea passed down the generations. But Margie Kenyon, whose family traces back generations in Minburn, said she looked through years worth of Minburn Boosters a year ago to prove their wishes and found that in 1969, Mayor Harold Hunter and the council officially requested that their future generations of families help open the box.

The search began.

Families have slowly moved away from Minburn since then, putting Kenyon on a nationwide search to reunite them with their mementos and memories.

As a former collections worker, Kenyon said she loves to skip trace and track down leads to find people. Once she found one piece, the rest kept falling into place.

“It’s amazing what you can find on Facebook or Google,” Kenyon said. “Like the Cody Family. I found a grandson and I did a private message on Facebook and I asked if he was related to the councilman and he couldn’t believe it. And he got hold of his dad and then his dad and his uncle and his aunt.”

Over the past year, she continued the search and on Thursday over 70 Minburn family members returned for the weekend, coming in from as far as California and New York.

“That’s the thing about Minburn. Once you’re connected and you know one person, you get that in your blood and you’re family,” Kenyon said, words echoed by Mayor Travis Connick who said he ended up in the area because “it’s home.”

Keeping the history alive

When the time capsule was closed up all those years ago, patience wasn’t the only factor in keeping the history ready for Thursday’s unveiling. In 2003, the millstone that Carl Gottschalk helped build for the capsule in 1969 had to be reconstructed. His son Dave Gottschalk was a part of a pair with Steve Hicks to refurbish it with sponsorship from the Iowa Federation Minburn Woman’s Club. During the reconstruction, the box was kept in the bank across the street and was kept sealed.

Hicks and Gottschalk were also on hand to open up the capsule.

Gottschalk will also help continue the town’s lineage as Minburn prepares to build a new unit for the next capsule. Community members can buy personalized bricks that will be used for construction. Gottschalk said they will also incorporate ways to honor the area’s veterans.

What’s in the box?

After an introduction from Connick to mark the “historic occasion” to celebrate Minburn’s 150th birth and the Fourth of July, Patti Webster Christiansen, daughter of 1969 councilman Mike Webster, was on hand to help present the capsule opening.

Before opening the town’s history, she welcomed back the returning Minburn family to recognize the generations of lineage present.

“There’s no truer statement than the fact that it takes a village and Minburn is a village, and Minburn helped raise each and every one of us,” Christiansen said.

With the aroma of 1969 in the air after breaking the seal, the first item brought out was a copy of the Des Moines Register announcing the news of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The next items were left on top of the box, polaroids of the 2003 reconstruction and suffered only slight discoloration. Those were followed by another paper, the Perry Daily Chief which ran from 1919-1983. Like the Register, still in perfect reading condition.

Christiansen noted that there were a number of other Dallas County area time capsules opened up this year with unfortunately destroyed relics. Everything in the Minburn vault stayed intact.

“This looks like our spirit and personality,” she said. “I think you can all be proud of what’s coming out here.”

As she continued pulling out new items, 1969 councilman Richard Reist was having fun looking through the paper and announcing the sales of the day, delighted that bacon was just 79 cents among other deals.

There was more to be revealed, highlighted by a Minburn centennial commemorative coin for the Old Millstone first used in 1883 (which was used to hold the capsule), a community member military dog tag, coins and stamps minted in 1969, and more commemorative material.