Crews searching for Confederate statue's 1887 time capsule

Searching for time capsule

Work crews are still searching for a time capsule they believe is buried inside the pedestal under a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that towered over Richmond, Virginia, for more than a century until it was taken down Wednesday.

State officials were scheduled to remove the 134-year-old time capsule Thursday morning from a cornerstone where they believe it is located. But after removing a 2,500-pound capstone and a 500-pound lid, crews were unable to pinpoint the precise location of the capsule.

Workers have been using ground-penetrating radar devices to try to find the capsule in a third piece of the cornerstone. Clark Mercer, Gov. Ralph Northam’s chief of staff, said crews will continue to look for it in the cornerstone and adjoining stones. They have also decided to dig into the lid of the cornerstone to insert a new time capsule.

A newspaper article from 1887 suggests that the copper time capsule contains mostly memorabilia, including a U.S. silver dollar and a collection of Confederate buttons. But one line from that article has piqued the interest of historians. Listed among the artifacts is a “picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin.”

It is unclear what kind of a picture it is, but the article says it was donated by “Miss Pattie Leake,” who was a school principal from a prominent local family.

The bronze equestrian statue of Lee was one of five enormous Confederate tributes along Richmond's Monument Avenue and the only one that belonged to the state. The four city-owned statues were taken down last summer, but the Lee statue removal was blocked by two lawsuits until a ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia last week cleared the way for it to be taken down on Wednesday.

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