What they found in the wall: Police department time capsule opened after 44 years

Mariah Timms, The Daily News Journal, September 22, 2017

This is the marker from the time capsule placed in the Murfreesboro Police Department by the RCHS, September 27, 1973

Buried for 44 years, a treasure frozen in time behind the walls of the Murfreesboro Police Department taunted, tantalized and teased those who walked through a stairwell on the first floor.

The department is only weeks away from moving into a new building, according to Sgt. Kyle Evans, so the time was finally right to break into the wall and uncover the mystery.

“Every time I come in to work, I’d look up and see the stone sitting right there and just always thought, you know, what’s in there,” Evans said. “For 15 years, it’s been a mystery to me, and it’s solved today.”

Evans spearheaded the project to crack into a wall in the police department building at 302 Church St. There was a stone set into the cinderblocks that bore the words “Behind this stone have been placed articles representative of our community’s past. Rutherford County Historical Society September 27, 1973.”

Evans expected the time capsule to be on a shelf behind the plaque, but even the uncovering of the box presented a surprise.

“We had to call the street department in and actually cut a hole for us, and one of those brave guys went in and actually got the time capsule out for us,” Evans explained.

In a dark alcove beneath a staircase, a sealed wooden box sat on top of two cinderblocks.

“This is old Murfreesboro,” Evans said. “Most of us (police officers) weren’t even born yet when these things were placed into this box. It’s neat just to see what Murfreesboro was, who we’re serving today and what the community was like before we got here.”

A self-described history nerd, Evans reached out to the president of the Rutherford County Historical Society, Frank Caperton.

“Words such as being honored … it just doesn’t describe it, it just doesn’t describe it,” Caperton said. “It’s so cool to be the president of a group of volunteers, dedicated local historians. I mean, our mission is to preserve and promote our local history. This is all our local history.”

In an unveiling ceremony Friday morning, Caperton pried open the box before a crowd of police officers, firefighters, city council members and Murfreesboro residents.

“The more you read about some of the things that are in the box, the cooler it becomes,” MPD Chief Karl Durr said. “When I get done right now, I’m going to go up to the architect and see if there’s a place that we can do something and what the dimensions would be (in the new building).”

In the box was a collection of official and personal submissions. Former Mayor William Hollis Westbrooks enclosed a letter to whoever opened the box. Also included were newspapers with headlines of note, copies of the 1973 preliminary budget, Middle Tennessee State University yearbooks and other memorabilia.

Also enclosed were a pair of shoes that Miss Mary Hall wore to a wedding in the 1960s, to show some common styles still being worn in 1974. Hall was the dean of women at MTSU in the 1940s. A campus dormitory is named in her honor.

“We were talking about it,” Durr said. “What will people in 40 years think about what we put in there?”

The items in the capsule will be digitized by the historical society and shared online. Physical items will eventually be sent to other locations for preservation and storage, including the Rutherford County Archives, the Gore Center and the Heritage Center, according to Caperton.

“This is a chance to end one story and start a new story,” Evans said.

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