South River opens time capsule from 1970 to celebrate the borough’s 300th anniversary


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SOUTH RIVER – In 1970, South River celebrated its 250th anniversary. To commemorate that milestone, a time capsule was filled and buried with more than 50 items that represented the people of South River.

The goal was that in 50 years, the capsule would be reopened in April of 2020 for the 300th anniversary of South River.

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However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed those plans, resulting in a new date: Sept. 26, 2021.

At 1 p.m. Sept. 26, in front of the South River Museum, the people of South River gathered to witness a glimpse of the past generation.

Stephanie Bartz, chair of the Artifacts Committee, explained that the capsule not only documented the facts and history of South River, but humanized it through personal items and photographs.

“The opening of the time capsule was a long-awaited and much-anticipated event that we were hoping would give us a picture of South River in 1970. Since it included more than 75 photographs of anniversary events, municipal buildings, schools and churches, it definitely did that,” Bartz said.

As items were pulled from the capsule, onlookers glared in anticipation to see what would be revealed next. Numerous toys, pins, notes and papers were recovered, in addition to one interesting and relevant item, a mask from the 1918 influenza epidemic. According to Bartz, it was worn by a South River historian named Paul Schack.

“Among the many other items recovered from the capsule, the one that seemed to resonate most with the crowd was the cloth mask worn by Paul Schack during the 1918 influenza epidemic,” she said. “Paul Schack was a South River historian. He co-chaired the committee that organized the anniversary celebration in 1970. He also wrote a brief ‘History of South River’ for the occasion. It was published as a booklet under the auspices of the South River Woman’s Club.”

Although many items were retrieved, not all items were legible or in good condition.

Bartz said, “Although we recovered a treasure trove of items, the damage done by the water that had seeped into the capsule led to the disposal of others. We learned some lessons that we’ll try to apply when we prepare the next time capsule later this year.”

At the culmination of the event, items were displayed across various tables for residents to observe. However, an official exhibit of all the items recovered will be available eventually, although a date has not been specified.

“The items are currently being documented, catalogued and readied for display. Once that work is completed, an exhibit will be put in place at the South River Public Library. There is no set date for the opening of the exhibit. The items will ultimately be added to the collections at the South River Museum and a digital exhibit will also be created,” Bartz said.

In addition, the South River Museum is planning on burying a new time capsule with items that signify the places, people and culture of South River today. Residents interested in suggesting items are encouraged to do so by filling out a short survey.

“Plans are being made to bury a new time capsule later this year to be opened for South River’s 350th anniversary. Suggestions for what should be included in the time capsule are being collected. Anyone who would like to share their ideas can complete an online survey at Forms are also being made available at the library,” Bartz said.

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