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Contractors in Simpsonville dig up a storm

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Simpsonville church members in uproar about unearthed time capsule

By Lisa King

The recent disappearance of a small, unremarkable little monument in front of a Simpsonville church has some residents there raising eyebrows – and cain.

When workers constructing the eastern end of the city’s downtown sidewalk project removed a 3-foot-tall monument that has stood for years in front of Simpsonville Christian Church, phones began to ring around town, particularly that of longtime church member Jake Smith.

“I’ve had a whole flock of people call me, saying, ‘Do you know they’ve dug up our time capsule?’” he said. “I didn’t know they were going to do that. I just had a fit. I went right over there and said a thing or two.”

Simpsonville City Administrator David Eaton said that nobody realized what the marker signified until they dug it up.

“We thought it was just some kind of marker or something,” he said. “We had to move it because of the sidewalk project. We just thought it was something sitting on top of the ground, and the guy started to move it, and he said, ‘Gosh, this goes underground.’ And he had to dig into the ground to lift the concrete up.”

Eaton said he wanted to assure everyone that the capsule is neither damaged, nor has it been opened.

“We’re going to put it back after the sidewalk is built,” he said. “We have it stored in our maintenance shed. When the sidewalk is done, we will put it back just like it was like it was never moved.”

 

Lot of history

Even thought most church members know about the existence of the capsule, most don’t much about it except that it was put in place in 1975 to mark the church’s 100th anniversary and that it is slated to be opened in 2075, on the church’s bicentennial celebration.

Smith, however, said he knows all about what’s in the capsule – and he should, because he’s the one who put most of the items in it.

“Fulton, my dad, and I put a lot of stuff in it; I was stuffing stuff in it as fast as I could,” he said.

Some of the “stuff” includes historical documents and photos of the church’s beginnings, stretching back as far as the early 1800s, Smith said.

“It’s got a lot of info about the old church, how it was built, the people then, pictures of some of the old families. Also, it’s got trinkets out of the old church,” he said, referring to a portion of the church was torn down to make a new educational center.

Although he won’t be around in 2075 when the capsule is opened, Smith said he can’t reveal all the contents – some surprises should still be in store, he said, chuckling.

“In 2075, when they open that thing up, they’ll say, ‘What in the world is this? Those people must have been crazy!’” he said.

Eaton said he can’t imagine how they’ll get the capsule open because it is so tightly sealed in concrete. “They’ll probably have lasers or something by then,” he said.

Joey Pusateri, pastor of Simpsonville Christian, said that even though he has been pastor only since January and knows nothing of what was buried in the capsule, he is extremely impressed by the church’s long history in Shelby County.

“This church has a lot of history; it’s a really incredible,” he said. “It was built in 1875, but the congregation goes back to 1839 under a different name, Antioch Christian Church or Antioch Church of Christ, I think.”

Former pastor of 12 years, Jim Robinson, now living in Lexington, said he never did know what was in the capsule, either.

“It was always a mystery to me,” he said.

Smith said he is proud to be considered the unofficial keeper of the capsule.

“A lot of people watch out after it, but I’m kind of a caretaker, you could say,” he said.

He said he is sorry he was so gruff with the contractors, but hearing that the capsule was in danger of being damaged hit him pretty hard.

“I’m seventy-six years old, and I’ve been a member of this church since I was baby, and, you know, when you get old, you don’t want anybody upsetting anything,” he said. “This is a time capsule, and we need to take good care of it.”

Pusateri said he wants to reassure the church members that city officials have told him they will not permit the capsule to be damaged.

“We are told by the city that it will be returned when the construction is completed,” he said.

Smith said that news was a big relief to him.

“The mayor [Steve Eden] aid they will put concrete around it and make it look real nice,” he said.

Smith said he is not worried about the future of the capsule, even though it must remain undisturbed for 62 more years before being opened.

“I know I won’t be here, but the people at church, my children, too, they will know about it, and they won’t let anything happen to it,” he said. “It will sit right there until 2075.”